After her epic cycle along the wilds of Patagonia, Rosanna Kuit is back flexing her muscles in the muddy fields where she belongs – this time, the ones right behind her house, at Muscle Acre Winter Warmer.

I last ran Muscle Acre back in January 2015 at one of their very first races. They put on 4 events a year so considering it takes place in the fields behind my house it’s a bit daft that it’s taken me so long to return.

The very first obstacle of driving into a muddy field was a breeze with matting laid out and an efficient team getting cars in quickly. Other big name races could learn something here! Registration was easy and the usual facilities such as bag drop and changing rooms were all nearby. Marshalling at this race while injured was the best volunteer experience I’ve ever had, so when I saw the skips of freezing water waiting for us a small part of me wished I was marshalling again instead of running! A first wave warm-up commenced and the start was so prompt that I was still chatting to someone at the far end of the pen when the gun went off – oops.

I was pleased to find that the course route has evolved from the original start loop out on the road, to a series of hill slaloms with tyre piles. Yes slaloms are a tad tedious but they do a good job of spreading out the runners before you hit the first obstacles; in this case water filled skips. I always feel more at home on an obstacle course once my feet are wet so why not get it out the way early on? As we made our way round the course there were plenty of upgrades and new obstacles since my last visit. The short ladders had been replaced by a proper set of monkey bars, a surprisingly tricky wall with wooden block holds was a new addition, along with an Irish table, rope climb and sand filled bunker. Every marshal I passed was cheerful and enthusiastic which is a reflection of how well this race treats their team.

The race distances on offer were 6km, 12km and 24km, all of which were qualifiers for the 2018 OCR European Championships in Denmark. The variety of obstacles and level of organisation certainly lend themselves to this race being a qualifier, however every obstacle appeared to be entirely optional even in the first wave. People dropping straight off the monkey bars or rig, or walking round the walls, Irish table, rope climb etc. were putting a significant lead into those who completed the full course. I really like the atmosphere of this race and I think introducing mandatory completion or penalty loops would detract from the “challenging but fun” vibe they’ve created. I’d be more inclined to say it’s a good quality local event that doesn’t need to get involved in qualifiers for championships, or at least keep adjudication confined to the first waves of the day. My only other concern was that every runner was handed a banana and a bottle of water in a plastic carrier bag at the finish line -probably an avoidable consumption of single use plastic.

If you haven’t been to Muscle Acre yet then it’s definitely one to check out. It’s reasonably priced and brilliantly organised with a course that’s well designed to make best use of the land. It was great to see the upgrades and new additions since my last visit and I hear there are more planned for the summer.

[All photographs courtesy of Rosanna Kuit]

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