Over the years, Nuclear have established themselves as the premier independent OCR in the UK. They always have innovative obstacles, like the Essex Buoys, which are still trickier than they look (I favour using my knees rather than feet on them to get across), and a supersized helping of the gloopiest mud - I’m looking at you, Ebeneezer. Not wanting to rest on their laurels, they continue to evolve every single year. The obstacles have become bigger, more technical and the mud, although there is still plenty of it, feels less of an immediate focus.
And so, to Rush 2018: On arrival, parking was quick, easy, well marshalled, and best of all - free. I find it a bit of a bug bear to pay an extra fee to park when I go to a race, so I have always really appreciated this about Nuclear. Registration was sorted by race number, rather than name, which did have a number of people frantically checking their phones trying to work out which queue to join. I think this caused some confusion for the runners, though it was a minor issue. When you did get to the correct desk, the volunteers were swift and efficient in giving you your timing chip and wave band, permitting entry into the ever-growing Nuclear event village.
What was once two food trucks, toilets, and a merchandise stand has grown into what industry giants like Tough Mudder and Spartan should be trying to replicate; a village full of people from early morning ‘til late in the day, a huge variety of food and beverage stalls to keep everyone happy; (even vegans). There were also the two giant screens allowing people to watch the live action out on course, (which always commands a large crowd), and the comfy leather sofas that were quickly snapped up. With the Nuclear merchandise tent and Muddy Kit also present, the event village was complete, and I doubt there will be a better atmosphere at many events this year. A great new addition this year was the Tractor Bus for spectators; those there to support runners have always been able to walk out to various points on the course, but knowing when and where to go if it’s your first time can be confusing. The smart minds in the bunker have you covered, and now ferry spectators around key parts of the course at regular intervals – this was a great service.
Having done a number of Nuclear events, I thought I had a good idea of the route the 12k course would be taking. James and the team had other ideas, with the route heading off in a completely new direction. Favourite elements, such as Aquaphobia, were included but approached from a different path, completed in a new order, and with added elements. The cage crawl was thick and hard to move through, but then you were straight into the water to clean off. This was a great way of keeping old elements of the course feeling fresh. Nuclear also managed some innovative repurposing of obstacles to turn them into something novel; changing the weaver into an ascending stepping bridge between two obstacles and flipping the ninja rings upside down to use as a ladder to cross a container. Nuclear took what was already there and made it new, surprising even those who have run the event many times before.
The course itself was really well designed: for many, there is always the worry that the mud will hinder the ability to use more technical obstacles, but they overcame this concern with aplomb. There was great use of water on course to shed most of the slick mud, and, as always, plenty of sawdust prior to any grip intensive obstacles allowing you to attempt without the niggling thoughts of slippy hands in the back of your mind. Nuclear made great use of the quarry and Wild Forest areas, the latter of which has been tidied up and given a new lick of paint since being brought fully into the Nuclear fold. The final village area has also been freshened up with some new and improved obstacles. The quarter pipe has grown and is now more of a challenge, along with a new giant A-frame. The one that caught my eye the most was the Nuclear re-imagining of the most talked about obstacle from last year’s OCR World Championships, “La gaffe du draveur”. Named The Northman, in a tribute to the race that invented it, we see hockey pucks and wood replaced with side mounted ladders. The Northman is simpler than the original, but a clever obstacle and a brilliant addition to the course.
There is a reason Nuclear and the Rush weekender continue to grow year after year, even when other events may be seeing a dip in attendance. Simply put, they have amazing attention to detail. All of the obstacles sporting the black and yellow of the Nuclear brand is a prime example of this, as it creates a feeling of consistency throughout the course. Another factor is the thriving event village, which makes it fun for the families to come along to support, and further encourages people to make it a full day out.
Based on this past Rush weekend experience, I’m now even more confident that Nuclear will continue grow and prosper, and increasingly excited to see what the collaboration with the OCR World Championships will yield.
One thing remains certain – I’ll be seeing you on the Death Slide!
[Photographs courtesy of Nuclear Races/Amie Spade]