Another new obstacle race opened up their account this weekend in Kent. Beat the Bog claimed to be 8km of heavily packed obstacle racing and we sent along Nathan to see how they measured up. Take it away Nathan...
Before I really get into this I would like to take a moment to show some appreciation to all of the volunteers and marshals without whom these events just would not happen. More often than not they will be stood in the same spot all day, shouting directions and encouragement, all the while with a big grin on their faces. Then again they could just be sadists who enjoy the shock and screams of participants, each to their own. The majority of the marshals at this particular event were members of the local cadets and deserve a big thank you, as they really did a sterling job!
So, Beat the Bog, a new starting event for east Kent, which is ideal as it just so happens to be on my doorstep. It really does make a difference when you don’t have to drive for over an hour and a half to get to and from an event! By the looks of things they’ve got a good thing going, as currently the only other event on offer (that I can think of) in Kent is Dirty Dozen at Paddock Wood.
I arrived on race day morning at the event village, set within the grounds of Preston Court Farm, to a good sized group of participants, all getting themselves ready for the run. After a few introductions to some of the race organisers and a quick look over the course map I got myself ready, necked an energy gel and made my way to the start line for a quick warm up.
The race was started in a fairly dramatic (but well appreciated) fashion, a group countdown from ten, and then a load of smoke pumped across the starting line as the runners set off. As usual there was a large number of over-eager runners who set off at a sprint only to find themselves out of puff after a few hundred meters! We started by running down a hill towards a section of woodland, immediately upon entering said woods the first obstacles reared its head, and it was a good’un, a good sized bog with a load of logs stacked across the top to duck under followed by a steep hill to climb on exit. This event was truly going to live up to the name of Beat the Bog!
After a short jog through the woods, a few of the regular over walls, and some field, came the next decent obstacle, one that in my opinion isn’t used often enough; a 'tight rope' walk. Five telegraph pole sized logs were laid across a river from bank to bank (with a good sized drop if you fell) to work your way across; I love this sort of thing! 50 meters on came another river crossing, this time in the form of two inflated inner tubes to clamber over, I opted for a roll off the second tube and ended up fully submerged in the icy cold river, there would be plenty more of that to come!
A long run through uneven and exceptionally muddy farmers’ fields followed. Seriously, the mud was really trying to drag my shoes off! A few cargo nets were scattered about, along with the utilization of some boggy trenches which had more logs laid across to either dip under or climb over. The river was used well here, some serious wading going on with varying depths between stomach to chest deep. Another great obstacle/challenge in this section was a construction made of more telegraph poles, a couple of railway sleepers and some cement reinforcing iron, all put together to make a spinning balance beam that was MEGA difficult, if anyone made it across they did very well indeed.
The trail took a turn back on itself here to make its way towards a muddy mound, the top of which was covered in two long cargo nets, fortunately these were quite loosely laid so instead of baby or bear crawling you could crouch and make your way across, avoiding all the brambles on the floor, on the way down from the mound there was another deep, muddy trench to traverse.
To be honest, for a lot of the course the directional markers were vague at best but at this point they reached a whole new level of confusing. The tape seemed to lead us into another very long river wade but on exit it seemed like we should have instead run along the bank. A lot of the people I spoke to afterwards seemed to have the same issue, but then with a new event at a good distance there will always be some little teething issues! Either way the wade was long, deep and cold. Lovely!
Just before ducking under a bridge there was a crowd of spectators offering encouragement, a few of which were young boys asking everyone to bomb dive back into the river, I obliged and got my foot stuck nice and deep in the mud at the bottom of the river. It took a lot of effort to get it back out, by this point I was feeling tired out, but there was still a good mile and a half to go. Time to dig deep and get it finished.
A short trail through the woods led to the next seriously impressive obstacles, two 12 foot high wooden slat ladders, both mounted above a deep bog, these required a combination of upper body strength and technique to drag yourself up and get a foot on the slats, a really satisfying challenge! A bit more running through the woods and a few other little obstacles led to my one true enemy, an electric shock run. I appreciate that it’s a bit of a mental challenge, but there’s no skill or technique involved. I told the guy alongside me to not think about it; just keep running. He got through at pace and was still on his feet. I started, got about 6 feet in and got a real good belt, I yelped and went down, instead opting to crawl the rest of the way through. The crowd of spectators at this obstacle seemed to be enjoying themselves... Another good obstacle made up for the electrocution at this point though, and one that I’ve not seen before, it was a cargo net crawl, but instead of being on the flat through some mud or water it was uphill. It was really tough getting up and trying to stay low! Before getting out of the woods there was one last challenge, a 15 foot high cargo net climb, it was secured between two trees and it was fairly loose, this made it really difficult to climb but the extra challenge was well appreciated.
Departing from the forest led the runners back into the fields that we had run earlier in the course, except this time there were a few big obstacles in the way. Once again the construction of these obstacles was amazing, really good solid walls. Firstly a 5 foot wall that could be cleared with relative ease, immediately after came a much taller wall, possibly 10 or 11 feet, similar to the Hero Walls at Tough Mudder, but the foothold at the bottom was much narrower and lower down. I found this made it impossible for me to get over unassisted (although I heard a couple of people did manage it, awesome work!). Luckily one of those handy marshals was nearby, instead of the usual linked hand bunk, this guy took it to the next level, bending at the waist and offering his back as a platform, what a hero! Once this wall was cleared there was another, this time closer to the 7 foot mark. With two walls cleared my arms were feeling a little tired, so it was a bit of a struggle dragging myself over this one. Note to self - more chin-ups needed!
The next obstacle was a true behemoth, it might just be the best obstacle I have ever seen, a huge construction the organisers named "The Bog Scraper". Crafted from a lot of wood, a few tyres and a bit of plastic sheeting - you've guessed it, there was a water slide involved! The obstacle was pretty much three telegraph poles pointing out of the bog at a 30 degree angle, with a load of wooden slats set about four or five feet apart to act as steps, you climbed about 20 feet up to a platform upon which were three crawl-throughs made of the tyres. Once you emerged it was a small drop on to the steep, wet and bubbly slide. Head first is always the way forward!
A short jog uphill lead to the finish line, but it wasn’t as simple as just running through, nor was it as easy as a few pugil stick touting volunteers, it was another cargo net climb! This time it was about 20 feet straight up. Fortunately, as I had run in the first wave and made a fair break from the pack at the start, there was no bottleneck for me. Even so, the net was quite loose and again was a decent challenge!
Across the line you were given your finish time, a cup of water, some banana, a t-shirt and your finishing badge. Not quite as good as a medal, but for a first time event still a nice touch!
I took a bit of time to stand around and have a chat with a few people after finishing. Everyone seemed very impressed with the standard of the obstacles, and the bog element made this a decent challenge for just about anyone!
The only downside of the event was poor course marking. At this sort of distance and with as few marshals as were available, this would always have been a issue. All events have teething problems and it’s important that organisers use feedback from participants to make improvements in future. On saying that it was quite funny being handed a feedback form at the end of the race, my fingers could barely hold the pen and paper, let alone write anything. So sorry to all the organisers if you struggle reading my feedback form!
All in I’d say that this was a fantastic event, great atmosphere from start to finish. The obstacles were of a standard that some of the bigger race organisers should take some notes (everything was built by two blokes in their spare time, SERIOUS props to them, they should be EXTREMELY proud of what they built). The terrain of choice was great, the natural obstacles made this event what it was and runners should be well and truly pleased to have Beaten the Bog!
I cannot wait to see what the future holds for these guys, they've got a good niche location in the market, the obstacles are amazing and, with a bit of work on course marking and layout, they could be on to something really special. Congratulations to everyone, organisers and volunteers, you deserve it.
The organisers of Beat The Bog would like to thank all the fantastic Marshalls - especially the young cadets who seemed to be loving every minute - who provided lots of 'appreciated' encouragement. They've said they will absolutely nail the course marking before the next BTB event, "The Bog Rush" on 16th February and, no doubt, it will be a COLD one! ...Sign up at www.beatthebog.co.uk
Thanks to the spectators and Funk Dooby for the photos.