If you're looking for a tough race that combines natural terrain, manmade obstacles and a hell of exercise reps, Pain & Suffering could well be an event that you'd want to consider. We sent along our reporter Lauren to check out last weekend's course...
Off the back of completing On Trial two weekends ago, I felt like nothing Pain and Suffering could throw at me could break me and perhaps this was to be my downfall. I didn’t do my usual pre-race prep and had a small bowl of cereal and packed a spare jumper and hat for afterwards and that was pretty much it! My running partner Pete reckoned it would take us about 90 minutes to complete the 10 miler having completed the May Pain and Suffering. This weekend brought the first winter weather so we wore base layers for the first time, which were much appreciated being on top of a hill at Rockingham Castle.
The race started off with a tyre wall and, no sooner had we manoeuvred our way past this, we hit a cargo net and were attacked by spectators who had been given numerous wet sponges to fling in our direction. Audience participation was a nice touch and should be brought in to more races (although my view on that changed by the end). Next up, after a run to spread out the field, we navigated our way over and into the woods and along some tree trunks and into a pond where the ‘Reapers’ (marshals in disguise) made us do press-ups right in the middle, so very early on we were near enough completely soaked! Straight out the pond and into a very thick muddy stream, where again we had more press-ups to do. One of the reapers kindly gave me the nickname ‘Pinkie’ which was yelled after me down the stream (I was wearing a pink shirt) I was then given bonus press-ups to do as I was the first girl through. I did however manage to avoid the bucket of mud over my head though by accidentally not seeing it; Pete not so lucky 🙂
Still in the woods we slid how a ditch and everyone worked together to get each other up a high wall; there was a rope but it was very slippy and everyone was already so wet and muddy that it was no use whatsoever. Out of the woods and there was more running; I seem to remember there being virtually no flat sections in the full 10 miles; all up or down hill 99% of the time. We hit the first quarry section, where we had to carry an extremely heavy container of water down to the bottom, up, over and down a scaffolding rig and then back out the quarry again. This was seriously challenging and considering my upper body strength for a girl is fairly decent (despite slight shoulder injury!) I think a lot of the girls may well have struggled carrying the same weight here as the men… and if they didn't, then they certainly would have by quarry number two! After several more cargo nets over various swamps (not my favourite) we came to another quarry with yes… more extremely heavy water containers to carry up and down MANY hills, cargo nets and swamps. This was back breaking work made all the more difficult by the hilly banks having zero grip. This obstacle was as tough as any I have ever done or seen on a course to date! It was then followed by MORE carrying water containers across a pond with a cargo net in it, 10 squats (virtually impossible with the weight) and back across. Thank god this was the last of the water carrying!
Just as we were starting to freeze over, the course took us up and out on a long steep hilled running section and at the top we got treated to a hill slalom; up and down a very steep embankment approximately 10 or more times maybe. With the odd log to carry up and down, obviously! At this point we were graced with a small thunderstorm, as the obstacle began to thin with long stretches of running (still constantly up hills or down hills - never flat!). Here the cramp began to set in for us both; a combination of being in and out the cold water and certainly, on my part, the lack of suitable food preparation – I thought we would have been finished and back in the car by this point! The weather was so delightful that an extremely tall tree completely snapped and fell down right as we ran past it through the forest!
Our next obstacle section involved a reaper screaming at us to army crawl up a hill with burpees to do once we reached the top, followed by over and under fences. By this point, calves were extremely tight and with cramp really setting in we reached the top of the hill at Rockingham Castle itself. At this point we had to carry two tyres up ANOTHER hill right to the very top at the castle wall. There was more PT at the top, all the way back down, PT at the bottom and then… back up again and repeat! Once back down we had another hill slalom up and down about five times (virtually on our knees, just waiting for calves to completely ‘ping’ half way down a hill). Pete reckoned we were nearly done (from memory of last time) by this point and, as we left the castle and hit a giant spiders web, we could hear the finishing music; only to be told that despite the finish in sight, we would be looping the long way round… via a skip full of water with more squats to do in it! Next was a long wade through a swampy stream all the way down to a cargo net, where a Reaper hosed us down and right as we were about to attempt to climb out the slippery banks, we had to do sit ups and press-ups in the water and then climb in and out five times.
Now the end was actually in sight and, after one final loop round, we came onto the home straight with monkey bars (absolutely pointless as hands were soaking wet, muddy, and numb – I think it needs moving to a different section), a climb up, over and down a tyre ladder and over several 8 foot walls. Once over the last of the walls we were rugby tackled by four giant rugby players and made to do a final lot of PT before the last cargo net where, whilst I was doing my closing set of 10 press ups, someone’s absolute little darling who had clearly been let loose off his reigns came and smashed a sponge full of mud right into my eyes blinding me (to add to another blast from the Reapers spraying us again with a hose). At this point I was freezing cold and less than impressed when I was told I wasn't low enough going under the cargo net and kept my bum in the air defiantly! Crossing the finish line, we didn't stop running until reaching the tent for our finisher’s bags and then sprinted straight off to the car in an attempt to warm up.
The course took us a full two and a quarter hours in the end – a lot longer than anticipated. This was down to the sheer difficulty of the course, conditions and my slight complacency! I was even too cold to find out where I placed so I'm still waiting to hear results on that one. After thawing off (it took me a good 3 hours, 7 layers and 2 warm showers) I can safely say this was one of the toughest courses I have done and was extremely well thought through and well organised. The Reapers were an excellent addition and Pete said the course had improved dramatically since last time with extra PT, a lot more water and obstacles, so well done Pain and Suffering for that. I’d definitely recommend the race and it’s a bargain for what you get.... maybe not for a beginner though, however there are 5km and 10km versions!
The next Pain & Suffering events will be taking place at the end of June. Find out more on: www.thesufferingrace.co.uk