Growing up in India, chances are you have experience with playing some sort of game that involved marbles. Brainvita or marble solitaire was a popular childhood puzzle that many of us have had the chance of playing. Then there are the many outdoor events using marbles on the bare ground.

However, it’s possible you have never seen anything like the sport of marble racing, an event that has gained international recognition at a time when sporting events across the world have been badly hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event featured on American television show host and comedian John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in May but even before that, its popularity was steadily rising.

Gary Lineker, former football star and current Twitter superstar, tweeted in mid-March about one of the marble races that he found captivating (the tweet with race video has since been deleted). “The lack of live sport is clearly getting to me,” Lineker had said.

From there on, it has been one major stop after another for the world of marble racing.

In March, Sports Illustrated ran a feature titled ‘Marble Racing Is the Sport That Can Save Us From Losing Our Marbles’. Then in April, New York Times covered the fast-rising event, titled: ‘Competitive Marble Racing Finds Fans in a World Missing Sports’. And now in June, The Guardian covered the event in a feature with the headline: ‘On the run: lack of sport drives fans to madcap world of marble racing.’

Madcap is a word that perfectly describes the world of marble racing that features events like Marblelympics, Marbula One and Marbula E. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, it appears even crazier.


The most popular video of the channel has over 12 million views.


“It sucks us into another world, another dimension without war, misery and negativity,” Netherlands’ Dion Bakker, a founder of the YouTube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs (and brother of Jelle Bakker), is quoted as saying by the New York Times. It is 27-year-old Jelle who started marble runs as a four-year-old autistic child, helped by his brother, and he continues to build the stands and elaborate routines for events.


The most recent shot in the arm for marble racing has come from John Oliver, who could not stop gushing over the brilliance of the sport. He loved it so much that his show is now the sponsor for the league season that is starting on June 21.

The Youtube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs has more than a million subscribers (1.13 million as June 8, 2020). At the start of March, the channel had fewer than 600,000 subscribers, according to The Guardian report.

The craze around the sport is evident from the fan following enjoyed by various marbles. “Every marble has a name, like Bumblebee or Ghost Pearl, based on color and size. The marbles have personas and backstories, too. Fans follow along, picking teams and cheering on their favorite competitors [via the comment section], just as they would in any other sport,” reported Sports Illustrated.

There is also the Jelle’s Marble Runs Committee which looks after the promotions of the events as well as the organisation. The JMRC’s goal “is to maintain the quality of marble sports established by JMR and to extend its popularity throughout the world. With our resources, we help JMR wherever we can: We debate the design of videos, events, and rules, establish official canon, maintain the wiki, run social media promotion, and much more.”

The marble sports website has a blog that has features written about what they call “marble athletes” too. The blogs feature elaborate backstories for the teams.

Some team names involved in marble sports:

Minty Maniacs 



Team Galactic 

Mellow Yellow 


Shining Swarm

Photo by Anton Weber | Courtesy: Jelle’s Marble Runs
Photo by Anton Weber | Courtesy: Jelle’s Marble Runs

The man who’s voice you hear on these videos is Greg Woods and he told the magazine that marble racing matches up to the passion that sports fans have, “whether it is rooting for an underdog or a great comeback or an unexpected performance.”

According to Gamespot, “Oliver announced that the winner or each event will have $5,000 donated to a food bank in their name. Additionally, the overall season winner will get a $20,000 donation in their team’s name to the International Rescue Committee – a group that aids people going through crisis, around the world.”

It’s hard to disagree with what Oliver said in the bit that has brought marble racing to the forefront of thousands of sports fans’ attention: “Nobody, to whom we have shown this, including non-sports fans, has not ended up wanting to watch more.”

As Woods said in the video below, if you get past the suspension of disbelief, the world of marble racing is as incredible as any live sport you have seen in your life.