At an OCR, Matt Adamson is usually out on course in the thick of the action: running, conquering obstacles and clawing his way through the mud with everyone else. But the Nuclear Challenge Cup was a whole different prospect for him; the nerves were abundant but not for the reason you might surmise...
On a chilly and drizzly morning at Kelvedon Hatch, I was not to be found on the start line ready to battle it out with the best, nor marshalling one of the many fantastic obstacles. A new challenge beckoned.
Following an unexpected offer, I was to help film the live race action with Mudstacle. That’s right, the team who give you all those epic and fun-filled race videos from across the world. My task: to follow the women’s race with a handheld Osmo camera. No pressure.
I’m no videographer; I'm not sure I have ever used the video function on my phone let alone run around an obstacle course with an expensive piece of kit I’d never even held before. To say I was outside my comfort zone was an understatement.
With an hour until the start, Tom and Phil were meticulously formulating the team's plan; simultaneously reviewing the course map, working out the logistics, setting up all the camera and sound equipment and teaching me how to handle the Osmo. The plan itself was mind boggling for an amateur, let alone contemplating the execution.
With a head full of instructions and some calming words from Ross Brackley (who would be covering the men’s race) I stationed myself roughly 400 metres into the course to get ahead of any early congestion and pick up the front runners. Remember, rule 1: do not get the camera wet! I mean, have fun. With the Osmo wired up to my phone, I waited...
It truly was a sight to behold as the racers came marauding out of the woods and streaming up the hill. Crunch time. After the wall at the top of the hill, the women flew down and straight up the other side of a steep, slippery mud bank and off into the woods. Easy as a runner, not so much when you are a newbie carrying a camera that you cannot get wet. In a mild panic I threw caution to the wind and scrambled, Osmo aloft, up the bank. I had to really put the hammer down to catch up along the ensuing single forest track. Lesson quickly learned.
Wary of getting in the racers' way (invariably having to run within the course tape due to trees), I quickly found I didn’t have time to look where I was placing my feet. Running with self-abandon as to my own footing I concentrated on what was ahead, evaluating short cuts and vantage points for capturing footage of the front runners. I hadn’t previously appreciated how difficult it would be to strategically plan what and when to film whilst on the run.
Without doubt the race was epic, with the top six ladies battling it out and changing positions constantly. I crashed through thorn bushes, nettles and scrub, slid sideways across muddy tracks and nearly stacked it head first into a trench. Following the front runners is a challenge in itself; at points I had to really push myself hard as I blasted over furrowed fields to get ahead of the racers and steady myself to capture the action at the major obstacles. Caked in mud, I bounded up to numerous marshals along the way, asking some where the course was heading and others to simply help tie my shoe laces. All helped me with smiling faces and without hesitation. Marshals are great aren’t they?
It was slightly odd seeing a race through the lens of camera; grit and determination etched on faces up close, racers giving it absolutely everything, the fine lines between failure and success. Through the screen of the Osmo I was capturing both the gut wrenching and the glorious, but without time to encourage, cheer or console as I hurtled across the fields and forests, from obstacle to obstacle, filming events as they spectacularly unfolded. In some respects, it was like being a ghost, running where I wanted on course, capturing the story but not being material to it.
My journey came to an end; legs burning, covered in lacerations having run over 9 miles through forest and thorn. I crossed the line following Laura Heywood (whom I had been filming for the final 3-4 miles). Although I hardly know Laura, I felt like I’d been on a journey with her, from the moment she (with what seemed like superhuman strength) powered into the lead at the chain pull, to the darker times of self-doubt in the freezing and wind-swept fields after the Death Slide, and lastly, to the scintillating final obstacles which took her to glory.
Filming the Challenge Cup was a baptism of fire, but I loved every single second. I learnt so much and it really did feel like a personal achievement to have contributed in some small part to documenting the race. Even more so because of the Challenge Cup’s significance in being a testing ground for next year’s World Championships.
Aside from the heroics of the racers themselves, the thing that really dawned on me at the end of a long day was a huge admiration for the talent and professionalism of the Mudstacle team. I was blown away by the time and genuine love they pour into planning, capturing and editing every single video for the races and community alike to enjoy.
Fingers crossed I turned the Osmo on and some of my footage makes it into the final edit!