The last weekend in April saw the latest entry into the South East of England's booming obstacle course race calendar. Warrior Run, situated just north of Brighton, looked to be a very welcome addition, with a nice variety of obstacles and 6km and 12km distance options available. We sent down a down a small crew of yellow vested Mudstacle runners to test the new course out. Here's how Fiona and the boys got on...
Up until Sunday, I was a mud run virgin.
There, I said it.
And worse than that, I don't even like running (although I do at least love mud).
I've been coerced into joining the Mudstacle team to run a couple of future events, so when the chance came up to tackle the Warrior Run, held in Brighton on Sunday 28th April, a few of us got together and grabbed it with both hands. Gloved hands actually, as we were strongly recommended by the organisers. Alongside me were Jat and Chris, who are very experienced mud runners, and seem to have completed half the events last season and a good proportion of the ones in preceding years. My main goal throughout training with them has been to not be the weakest link, and finally the opportunity had come to test that out in an environment more challenging than Richmond Park.
Parking was simple and, apart from a long queue to register, everything seemed very well-organised. We were issued with a race number and a timer chip with an ankle band, which was handy as you could attach it and forget about it during the run, as well as a bag of freebies containing, amongst other things, a Warrior Run t-shirt and a bag of Haribo.
Upon arriving at the venue – a very genteel converted barn – we were greeted with the blaring sounds of the Rocky soundtrack and members of sponsors The Gym leading an invigorating warm up for the group about to set off. Everyone seemed in really good spirits, and there were many teams taking part more for the challenge than competing to win. However, the combination of loud music and organised exercise being my idea of hell, I was glad that some milling around and several trips to use the facilities by a weak-bladdered team mate meant we missed most of it.
Finally our time slot of 11.20am rolled around, and we were off. Things started reasonably easily with the first stretch taking us through a gently undulating field. Despite the weather forecaster making the unnerving prediction of a chilly nine degrees, the beating sun soon had me regretting my choice of a black long-sleeved top. The first obstacles were all relatively tame – carrying a log for a bit (although having picked a smaller specimen, mine was more like a large stick and I later got chastised by the boys for running too fast with it), splashing through some muddy water and crawling through a tunnel just the right size to get your knees and back wedged into, and navigating over some increasingly large tractor tires whilst carrying a smaller tire. Some of the running was along the main road, which seemed like cheating to me, but I definitely wasn't going to complain about having a smooth level surface for a bit, unaccustomed as I am to running across what I will describe as “incredibly lumpy grass”.
There were well placed marshals throughout the course, pointing us in the right direction and generally being cheerful and encouraging. As a first-time mud runner it was good to know there was someone by all the obstacles in case you fell off, and the fact they were often hidden made it a nice surprise to have a friendly face emerge from the bushes as you rounded a corner.
Another kilometre or so and we ended up in the main field of obstacles – with rope nets to climb, fences to jump over (at this point I was very thankful for my team mates who could give me a bunk up!), various wooden contraptions to clamber through, nets to wriggle under and even a rope swing, although sadly not a giant pit of crocodiles underneath it. The staggered start times meant there was no congestion around them, which was excellent. At the time these all seemed pretty simple – upper body strength definitely being my forte – but the bruises and scratches that have revealed themselves at inopportune moments since (kneeling on the floor being particularly painful, and the application of menthol muscle rub not being an experience I will be forgetting any time soon) proved that probably wasn't the case.
The only obstacle I skipped was an A-frame set of monkey bars. The fact that it was too high to reach didn't really encourage me to try at all (really – I'm only 5'4” – what do they expect us short people to do to get up there?!) and when the marshal said I could swap it for five push ups, that was a done deal. Frankly I would've given him 20, so daunting was it [Ed: You got let off lightly! 20 burpees is the industry standard obstacle-skipping punishment ;)].
Next up was some more running, then zig-zags over some small hills and finally a section of fun and muddy things – jumping across big pits of mud (apparently I was one of only two girls to make the jump so far that day!), climbing up muddy banks, wading through chest-deep water (which also afforded a welcome chance to soak one of my team mates who likes neither water nor the cold – we're nothing if not thoroughly supportive of each other) and crawling through tarps covering, you guessed it, mud. This was by far the most fun part of the course – natural obstacles, lots of mud and very physically challenging.
The water sections were particularly good – they were all natural stretches of streams so the flowing water meant they were relatively clean, and the riverbeds were smooth and muddy as opposed to treacherous and rocky, although there were occasional drop-offs for those moments of “OMG I'm going to face plant in the icy water”.
There were lots of muddy banks to climb up too, some with ropes, and also a fun crossing with a lower rope to stand on and a higher one to hold on to. The fact that these were tensioned made the experience fun as opposed to shoulder-wrenchingly awful. One of the final “obstacles” was a large water slide. This should have been easy, but they had made two rookie mistakes (as a seasoned water-slide constructor I am an authority on the subject) – not using enough washing up liquid, and using a tarp instead of heavy duty plastic sheeting, which is much smoother and would allow for more rapid shifting of Lycra-clad mud-covered bodies. However it was still fun, as we went down in a threesome and got some speed up towards the end.
All too soon it was over, and we were handed a foil blanket to keep warm. There were lots of places to buy food and drink, as well as tents offering sports massages for weary bodies. After an “interesting” experience getting changed in an exposed field by the car, which reminded me of days at the beach and hanging onto a beach towel with one hand whilst taking off a sandy pair of knickers with the other, we jumped in the car and headed to a local pub for lunch, tired, happy and, in my case, a bit more confident that I can make it through an obstacle course race in one piece!
Thanks loads to Fiona for a great report from Warrior Run. It sounded like a great event and by the looks of things there were some really nicely constructed obstacles to play around on. If you'd like to take part in the next Warrior Run, keep an eye on their website: www.warrior-run.co.uk.
If you like the cut of Fi's jib, make sure you check out her blog about bodyweight training, bar calisthenics and nutrition: www.bar-barella.com