Extreme Events UK run two events per year – the Battle of Lansdown and Rood Rampage. They have, in their short tenure, become a mainstay of obstacle racing in the South West. To my shame, I hadn’t attended either until last weekend’s Battle of Lansdown. Previously held at Bath racecourse, it has now moved to a venue close by that affords more flexibility in the setup, and it seems the race director has gone WILD with the undulating terrain on offer.
The crowds attracted to BoL seemed predominantly novice/intermediate, with the more experienced athletes having stormed through the course in the first wave. The vibe in the village was upbeat and the crowds and MC super encouraging - helped along by the fact that the final few obstacles carved straight through the beer tent. Waves were small and separated by 20-minute intervals, which made for a decent run at the course without much queuing - even in the later waves of the day.
I had assumed (wrongly, of course) that the course wouldn’t be that technically challenging, but it managed to be the sort of race that had something for everyone, depending on their particular motivation and skill set. There were technique based obstacles like monkey bars and ninja rings, but also really accessible wood and rope based challenges, and quite possibly the fastest slide I have ever been on in the UK – a completely exhilarating blur which the race can rightly be proud of. There were balance beams, tyre walls, cargo nets, an array of over/unders and walls (inverted and very tall), and everything seemed strong, safe and very well placed along the course. The emphasis from warm-up to finish was very strongly on having a good time – no obstacles were mandatory, and having a go, and helping your fellow racers was actively encouraged.
One thing that stood out (to the really boring reviewer in me) was that the course was impeccably marked – there was never really an opportunity to miss a course placard or tape. My only criticism is that there were two small sections where I worried that the barbed wire fencing may have caused problems for anyone slipping and sliding on the mud (courtesy of some afternoon rain). The terrain was masterfully used, though I may have cursed it on the uphills. I never really settle into a race until about the 4k mark, so thankfully I got to appreciate the beautiful forest trails incorporated into the course, instead of stomping, lead legged through them in the initial stages. At no point did I feel like I was pointlessly trudging around a field to make up distance – every section seemed to play a part in giving participants a full body workout, as illustrated by the fact that several runners were struggling to get their kit off afterwards because of a grip strength fail.
In keeping with the friendly atmosphere, marshals were encouraging and upbeat, even well into the afternoon when the weather started to turn, and the RD, conscious of everyone’s experience, was on hand to help out with everything from the course to towing errant cars out of the car park. (Incidentally, the car park setup was very logical, and made for a swift exit, which I always appreciate).
The Battle of Lansdown provided a perfect mix of fun and furthering OCR skills, and I’ll definitely be wanting to head back to the South West for more Extreme Events. These races provide a brilliant opportunity for those who are just getting in to OCR to test their abilities in an encouraging atmosphere, and unique builds like the final few obstacles were very surprising, challenging for tired runners and exciting for spectators (clambering over a van, anyone?). This race marked my first full water submersion of the season, and while it wasn’t the warmest of days, I wasn’t even mad. It was just fun; pure and simple.
Post race, I was delighted to find that coffee was still flowing, bag retrieval was swift, and the changing rooms were heated. This makes for a much nicer experience in the marquees, as finishers are gleefully chatting to each other (and helping each other wrestle in and out of sports bras – yes, that’s what happens), rather than shivering into damp towels, desperate to get out of the event village.
With races in this area dwindling into extinction, it’s so important that events like this stay off the endangered list. With a motivated race director, an excellent pricing structure, and solid, exciting obstacles, we’re hopeful that Rood and Battle have what it takes to stay in the game – they certainly deserve to. If you fancy having a go at Rood Rampage later in the year, signups are open. I really don’t think you’ll regret it.
[Photos by Active Stills]