This year has seen an explosion of obstacle courses and mud runs in the UK, and I've made it my mission to run as many of them as I possibly can. On behalf of Mudstacle I'd like to award some special New Years honours to the best events in the UK.
Taking part in so many races has been an amazing experience. I've never walked away from an event disappointed. Although I've had some painful and down-right exhausting moments, the fun, sense of achievement and camaraderie has made it all worthwhile .
There are three events from 2012 that really stand out in my mind, each of them brilliant in very different ways. So here we go, these are the first annual Mudstacle awards:
Best all-round mud and obstacle race - Nuts Challenge
It hard to find something to say about this event that I haven't said already. I really haven't shut up about it since taking part back in September. It had everything I look for in an event: loads of permanent obstacles, loads of mud, challenging natural terrain and unique imaginative features.
The best thing about this event is that it suits every level of fitness. The course is 7km long, even though it feels a lot longer, but is achievable for most fun runners with a relatively good base fitness. Those wanting to increase the challenge can choose the 2, 3 and 4 lap options. I took part in three laps last year and it wasn't to be sniffed at. Running four I'd say is up there with the toughest events of its kind.
Congratulations Nut Challenge, you really were the highlight of my year and the very deserved winner of "Best all-round mud and obstacle race 2012"
Toughest obstacle course - Tough Guy Nettle Warrior
Mr Mouse's Tough Guy events have been around for donkey's years. They were undeniably the start of something very special and inspired some of the most popular events in the world who now claim to be the "The Toughest". No matter how hard any of the others try though, there really is no denying the might of the Tough Guy assault course, it is unparalleled. It is filled with large wooden structures, some as big as a house - these permanent obstacles, as well as the many water features have been slotted on over the last 25 years! It is built to push the limits of the participants and shouldn't be underestimated... ever!
The original Tough Guy event is run in freezing January conditions, so in the evil mind of Mr Mouse, the main summer event "Nettle Warrior" needs an extra challenge to compensate for the lack of ice - namely TWO full laps of the assault course.
Congratulations Tough Guy, if any event has claim on the "Toughest" in this genre, it's you guys. You are the deserved winners of "Toughest Obstacle Course 2012".
Best natural terrain event - Hell Runner "Hell Down South"
Aside from the many obstacle courses that have sprung up in the UK, there are many mud runs that present a series of natural challenges to equal the toughest man-made obstacles. With years of experience, the Hell Runner Series are experts at planning a brutal trail run. The Hell Down South event at Longmore Camp this October was an amazing surprise. It's 10-12 miles long which, to be honest, I thought I would cruise through... if there's one thing I've learnt this year though - never EVER underestimate an event. This was a seriously tough run, with insanely steep hills (some needing more climbing than running!) and the water features were cripplingly cold.
I crossed the finish line exhausted but I had an amazing time facing the constant challenge that the course presented. Although I've run in the Peak District, Lake District and the Valleys of Wales this year, I'm happy to award Hell Down South with the "Best natural terrain event 2012" award.
Although I've picked out three events here, there are many more amazing events out there, view the events page here for a few ideas. Keep up to date with Mudstacle on Facebook and Twitter for all of future mud and obstacle races. Happy New Year!