This weekend was a mud run and obstacle course race extravaganza, with three big events going head to head. Brutal10’s 12 hour Enduro had got me the most excited, as it looked to be unlike anything I’d done before. The aim was to clock up as many lap as possible on a Brutal 10km course between 9pm on Saturday night to 9am on Sunday.
There was the option to run solo or relay as a team of two, four or six, so we decided to form a team of four Mudstacle regulars. Alongside me were Haemish and Richard, who I’ve run with several times before and we also welcomed Huw, a last minute addition, who is a Brutal 10 regular (it would be nice to have some local knowledge!). It seemed like a pretty strong crew but we were all stepping into the unknown and had no idea how we would cope.
Team Mudstacle. Left to right: Ed (running solo), Huw, Richard, Haemish and Pete (me)
Richard is one hell of a runner, so we decided to send him off first to give us a strong start, followed by Haemish, then Huw and then me. I had asked to go last to give me enough time to get some pictures during the photographers’ “golden hour” just after dusk. We had allowed around an hour per lap, but the guys put in some really strong first laps and I found myself setting off just after 11:30pm rather than midnight, as expected. It suited me though, I was raring to go!
The course started out with a run across an open grassy field, which was all very pleasant but, unsurprisingly, it didn’t stay like that for long! Within a couple of minutes I was under the canvas of woodland and the visibility dropped dramatically. I was completely reliant on my head torch, which is super-powerful but I still had to concentrate heavily as there were a lot of stumps and holes that could easily take your ankle out.
I had run a regular daytime Brutal 10 at Bordon before and a few things that stood out to me were steep hills, long expanses of sand and insane sections of deep, thick mud. Sensibly, Brutal had dropped all of the deep muddy sections (that would have been too much for such a long race) but the hills and sand were still there in abundance. Both were incredibly draining, especially on the later laps.
One of the largest challenges was managing the time in between laps. I was pretty sure that I’d be running three laps, unless somebody got injured. So I had two big gaps to fill. I tried to stretch as much as I could, but inevitably I seized up. I managed to get a couple of short sleeps in. One burst of about an hour and one of around 30 mins. They both really helped I think but, apart from that, I just hung around taking photos, drinking tea and trying to force a bit of food down.
Huw battling on shortly after twisting his ankle
Trying to get your body going after such a long break was a real challenge. In some respects, I think it would be easier to run 30km straight up than it would be to run three lots of 10km. However, our challenge paled into insignificance compared to the solo runners. Their level of endurance was just immense. Mudstacle regular Ed, who I ran Commando Challenge with last week, was going solo - I bumped into him several times over the course of the night and his persistence was insane. He had decided that stopping would be a mistake, so he just kept on going... and going! He ran the first three laps, walked the next two, then ran for a couple more. By the end he’d smashed out a staggering 80km. Considering he’s barely run at all in preparation, it just blows my mind. That’s two and half marathons!
In the later laps there were times when it felt like a zombie movie. I’d be running through eerily silent woodland alone, then occasionally I’d pass a stumbling figure who looked worse than death. We were obviously traveling a lot quicker than the solo runners and a lot of them were really starting to look in a bad way. I’d say hi to most of them as I went past, but most of the time I got a pained groan in return. I did feel for them, I’ve been to the point beyond exhaustion and it’s not a nice place to be!
Throughout the night, we really didn’t have much of an idea where we were positioned. All we knew was that there was a Silva team that were completely smashing it. Our own target was to squeeze in 13 laps or more, which would mean that one of us would have to run a forth 10km lap. Richard was the most willing (and the most capable). He had found his third lap hard, but I was confident that he’d manage a forth within 55 minutes, which meant that I would need to hand over to him by 8:05am.
On the lead up to my last lap there were a fair few changeovers and, in the commotion, I forgot to look at my watch. I was too focused on catching up with the people in front. Literally 2 minutes into the run my bladder was bursting, even though I had been to the toilet three times in the last 20 mins. I don’t know what was going on with my body, but this was bad timing! I spent a minute or two wondering whether I could hold it in but I just kept thinking about a fact that I’d heard earlier that week. Apparently the last greyhound to pee before a race often wins... so I gave in and jumped into the bushes. I didn’t want a full bladder to slow me down!
Following my break, I then knew that I would have to run extra hard to catch up with the runners ahead. Contrary to what the other guys had said, I was actually feeling fairly spritely on my last lap. In fact, a couple of the guys that I passed joked around and asked where I had got my energy from. I was a man on a mission!
If I hadn’t been so tired, I probably would have had the good sense not to hit the first third of the lap so hard. The rest was literally hell on earth! My legs were really starting to ache and my energy was completely drained. I spent the whole time wishing for the end, which was making the time drag massively. My pace dropped down but I was really conscious of the time. I was struggling to think straight but I was looking way behind schedule. I pushed on hard but I know that I wasn’t at my best and was still just plodding. By the time I crossed the line, I had left Richard about 53 minutes (by my watch). It was a big ask, but if anyone could pull it out of the bag, Richard could.
Once I recovered, I headed into the woodland towards the end to take some pictures and do some filming. I managed to get a couple of nice snaps of the carnicross lot (the dog/owner racers), which is a great thing about Brutal10, they always have a carniecross catagory.
I was hoping that Richard would come through before 8:55am but I was amazed to see him way before. Considering he was approaching 40km, we was flying! I took a shortcut back through the woodland in time to see him cross the finish line in with five minutes to spare. He had knocked out his final 10km in a whopping 48:50. As well as registering our 13th lap it turns out that he’d just about scraped us into second place. What a legend!
Richard looking beaten after his last lap
All in all, there were some amazing results on the day. The Silva team squeezed in 15 lap, averaging 47 minute lap times. The top three male solo runners did 90km and the top female did 80km. The top pair finished 110km. That all totally blows my mind! Well done to everyone.
All in all this was a great experience and I'd definitely come back for more. The teamwork aspect was awesome, but I'd also be quite tempted to try it solo at some point, if I can get my mileage up. There's a lot less mud and water than your regular Brutal 10, so really this was more of a challenging trail run than anything, but there's still a lot of fun to be had! I'll be putting a video edit together soon, so stay tuned for that. In the mean time keep an eye on brutalrun.co.uk for info on all of their future races.
Anyway, from one crazy race to another. Haemish and I had left ourselves an hour and a half to get to the start line of Back 2 the Trenches, which was an hour drive away. Why the hell did we think that was a good idea?
To be continued...