You may have noticed from our various extended coverage that most of the FG team have been at a certain heavy metal festival this weekend, whilst I’ve been left here to hold the fort. And also climb over, crawl under, squeeze through and wade into several other forts at the same team. For whilst the rest of the team have been throwing themselves around in front of a number of metal bands, I’ve been throwing myself across the Mudnificent Seven Obstacle Course Run at the Heart of England Centre in Coventry. For training at circuit classes has been my mosh pit, protein shakes have been my pints of Hobgoblin and collapsing contently into a warm bed has been my waking up hungover in a sauna tent (no matter what you think of the rest of this article, I think we can agree I’ve won that last one).
You may have heard of Obstacle Course Racing (or OCR) before. Or you may have heard people referring to some of the main players in the industry, specifically Tough Mudder. For the uninitiated, an OCR is a run where participants face a series of challenges across the course such as vaulting fences, climbing cargo nets, scrambling through tunnels, crossing lakes and so on and so forth. Obstacle design is only limited by the creative deviousness of the race designers (that, and the resources available…) and there’s usually mud. Lots of mud.
The industry has been increasing over the past few years though, with a number of different courses across the country. And so to highlight a number of different courses, a showcase event was created. Seven different race organisations were given one km each to highlight some of their best work. So how did they do?
Sadly, the seven dropped to five. Two of the race organisations dropped out – one due to unavoidable family circumstances, one (to my knowledge) has not stated the reason. A shame, but these things happen. Still, the remaining events did themselves proud. First up was Zeus, a race team based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. A great start, plenty of climbing obstacles with enthusiastic – and costumed – marshals. A fun way to start, with the final obstacle being particularly memorable – a long crawl through a mud-filled tunnel and under cargo-netting, sapping the a fair bit of energy after the first kilometre. Whilst this wasn’t the most technically challenging part of the course, it was a good introduction and a fun event. Section two was a replacement for one of the drop-outs – carrying a tyre for the kilometre and going under a cargo net. Not the most strenuous of events, but as a last minute replacement it was a good challenge.
Next up was the Bigfoot Course, travelling up from Sevenoaks in Kent. This was one of the most entertaining parts of the course, with one obstacle being a coconut shy (the idea being if you win the coconut and carry it for the rest of the course, you win an entry into a prize draw for free future races). I took aim… and narrowly missed. They offered me a further attempt in exchange for burpees (for those who don’t know, a fully body exercise designed by Satan himself) which I accepted, took aim… and missed narrowly again. Starting to think this wasn’t my day, I moved on. Still, this may have been for the best. After an energy-draining crawl through several tyres, we found ourselves at a water pit with a series of ropes running across – the idea being that you used the ropes to crawl across. I managed to get about three quarters of the way across before the inevitable happened – probably wouldn’t have got that far carrying a coconut. After this, came The Colour Dash, another last minute replacement. You may have seen these events advertised – a run with people throwing powdered paint. Obstacle free, and a bit of a comedown after before, but it was still a good show from a last minute replacement.
Somerset’s Rocket Race was Zone 5, and this is where the challenge ramped up! Obstacles were coming thick and fast with a great degree of inventiveness (on my part as well as theirs – I was told by the marshall that mine was a unique method of traversing a pair of wobbly parallel planks). An A-frame with a cargo net drop, a slippery diagonal climbing wall, a river crossing with several cargo nets… this was where the day got tougher, but so rewarding as a result! Reaper was up next – seeing as the event was being held at their home ground you’d expect something special and they did not disappoint! Some great obstacles, culminating in a great run at the end. A rope traverse over a river (I didn’t fall in!), a rope swing across the river (I did fall in), a crawl through a water cage and something that I can best describe as involving a climb, a jump, a pole vault and a drop! A brilliant section, and one that left very little energy for Rock Solid’s section at the end. Travelling from Milton Keynes, these guys were charged with providing a tough ending and they did just that! An obstacle called Tricep Terroriser (which lived up to the name), a downhill cargo-net crawl, a climbing wall up & over a tunnel, a lake swim and bouncing across water on giant buoyancy aids (which were admittedly more likely to send you in the drink) were just some of the fun and games this section had for us. The race then finished with a climb up a giant climbing wall before presenting you with the finishing medal! Got to get the bling at the end…
This event is a fantastic idea, allowing a number of different race companies to showcase their events – I’m certainly planning to pay a trip to some of these courses in the near future. But whilst the obstacles may be tough, they’re not impossible – they’re designed to be conquered by people with different levels of fitness. And this leads to one of the great things about OCR – the sense of community, with elite athletes running alongside people just there for a challenge and a bit of fun (believe me, I count myself among the latter group!). It’s always worth giving an obstacle a try, pushing yourself and challenging yourself to conquer any fears that you may have. But don’t like the look of something? That’s fine, walk round it. No-ones judging you. People help each other out on the course, whether it’s holding up a net or dragging people out of a mud pit. And of course, everyone’s having fun and joking around all the way through the event. So if you fancy trying something different, keeping fit in an unusual manner, living the life of your inner-child and getting some very strange looks as you walk into Burger King for a post-race meal still covered in mud, then I’ll see you at the start line!