Mud Monsters are building a great reputation in the South East for their mud packed course and so we sent Paul Burke and his daughter along to their last event to give it a taste test. Here's their verdict...
Mud Monsters is not a race that I know a great deal about. In fact, I originally thought I was being asked to review Monster Race (which was helpfully on the same weekend). Luckily I checked the details before setting off and plugged one of the two postcodes I found into the satnav (the one on the actual website) and off I went. Or rather we went, because the minimum age on this race is only 13, so my daughter got to come along for the day and make helpful observations about my slow pace, shockingly bad breathing and monobrow. I'm not sure how the last one impacts me as a runner, but it clearly does.
Roughly two minutes before the satnav said I was arriving, as I was driving through what I can only describe as a residential area in Sussex, I started to worry that perhaps I should have used the other postcode. Literally as I turned the last corner into what appeared to be somebody's backyard, I pulled up to a massive field. After making a (voluntary) donation to a local charity I parked up and went to registration, which was busy but efficient. The usual timing chip, number and a wristband with both distance and wave time were supplied and I wandered off to the bag drop.
My bag was taken and race number and name were written on a label and the bag was then put away into a big bucket with the wave time on it. This may not seem very important when all you want to know about is the mud (don't worry, we'll get there) but this was significantly better than some of the big names have managed recently and that was more or less the recurring theme of the day.
After getting through security to the starting pen we had a gentle warm up, following by a quick countdown and we were off.
The first section was a fairly standard run with a series of hay bales set along the course, before a fairly sharp turn out of the event village.
We hit some water (the first of many times this would happen) and then came to the first wire crawl. It wasn't too muddy although certainly muddier than I expected. The weather on the day was glorious but there had been some heavy rain earlier in the week, which was the perfect combination for this course.
After a few more hay bales and a couple of muddy sections we came to a water slide. I'm a big fan of these when they work, although they're clearly more of a fun obstacle than a challenge. At this point, this race is firmly in the "fun day out category" - nothing too challenging and a couple of decent photo-opportunities.
At this point, we headed into the trail running sections. I can only describe these as very very similar to certain stretches of the Nuts course (unsurprising given where it is located) but without the intense time pressure. They clearly ordered a job lot of "enter river"/"exit river" signs and just went all out to drag runners through the water at every opportunity, stopping only for the occasional ladder climb, or cargo net up a bank. There are around 60 obstacles, although my favourite (we'll get to that in a minute) wasn't even listed as an obstacle. This means that between the river and the obstacles, there's very little uninterrupted running.
The mud in this section was relentless. At certain points my mudclaws even struggled. The mud was grey, with a high clay content, similar to the Nuts course. This did mean that some of the man made obstacles were very slippy, despite us being in one of the first waves.
Let me ask you something: what is it that's not exactly water and it ain't exactly earth?
Which brings us to the raw chocolate section. This was sponsored by a company that makes dark chocolate, presumably because it is similar to the mud that was found in this area. Hopefully not the texture or smell though. I decided to wait for my daughter to catch up so I could pull her through my favourite obstacle (which I think of as Satan's swimming pool, whatever they call it). Pro-tip: don't stand around in insanely boggy mud for any length of time because you will sink.
Luckily, there was always another river section to wash off in. Incidentally, the water was cold enough that I'd have considered additional layers if I was attempting the 20k (they offer 5km which skips sections, 10km which is the main course and 20km which is presumably the course twice).
On top of all of this, there were carries (including a hilarious tyre carry through a mud pit), trenches, crawls through tyres and a separate very obstacle heavy little loop at the end of the 10k.
We finished the race in a dead sprint (my daughter being well used to my sudden burst of speed to try to cross the line first) and a shiny medal, finisher's t shirt and goody bag were ours.
In case you can't guess, I absolutely loved this race and the only downside I can think of is that the water pressure on the free showers was a little low. Oh and there weren't many hills. They sold out this year and based on this event I'm not entirely surprised, which is why I'm booking for next year before I post this review.