It almost becomes difficult to attend an event year on year and find something else to talk about without seeming stale and repetitive. Yet, I’ve been Mud Monsters since its inception and it never fails to surprise and delight me.
As I’ve hinted at before, Mud Monsters has evolved from a somewhat rustic, more basic obstacle race helped along by brilliant 4x4 track that made the terrain significantly more difficult to navigate, to its very own beast that has found its niche and literally built a village in it. It continues to do that, but with a bit more flair and finesse each time.
The village itself has grown into somewhere that you genuinely want to stay and hang out in after the race, with all kinds of food tastes catered for, a proper bar, and activities for the kids while you watch racers so covered in mud you can just see some eyes and a toothy smile.
Now, Mud Monsters features prominently on many racer’s calendars – it’s not just a race to go to and get a guaranteed smattering of mud, it’s somewhere you can go to test obstacle technique in race conditions, push yourself, and qualify for OCRWC. It is still, very much a race handled and nurtured like a tiny baby monster, by its dedicated race directors, Becky and Mark and a team that just seem to love being there, from the course builders to the volunteer marshals, who were unfailingly pleasant on a beautiful June Sunday.
I ran the 10k race, giving me the perfect balance of seeing everything without flogging myself to a dry husk on the 20k, and genuinely, everyone I saw seemed to be having a good time. Even the participants tended to by the medical team still had a smile on their face, though I hear gas and air can do that to you.
Mud Monsters still sees participants weaving through waterlogged woodland in various zones covered in, it seems, their own specific species of mud. You’ve still got your crumbly soil, your clay mud, this incredible dark mud smattered with woodchips and dead leaves, thin, slippy mud and then this horrendous black stuff that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was mixed with a gel. It grips and pulls at every part of you, and even when you think you’re safe on a lake swim, it lurks beneath the surface, grabbing at your thighs as you wade to safety. Not wanting to rest on its reputation for the muddiest race around, Mud Monsters also boasts some of the more technical obstacles like ninja rings, hang touch, incline monkey bars, hamster wheel monkey bars and a weaver. Nestled in a pasture is the skeleton of a new low rig, cleverly placed as an advert of what is to come in their next race. This makes Mud Monsters pretty edgy and exciting, as you always have to keep something in the tank for a technical section. Big, structured obstacles are always preceded by a bucket of wood shavings to aid grip, and this works really well. The only slightly poorly placed obstacles was the weaver, which came after a swim and made it very slippy and congested at times, though there was a wall next to it that you could hop over if you didn’t fancy pretending to be a greased up sloth in front of a crowd!
Not to diminish the fun aspect of this race, it is still perfect for beginners as long as they are willing to immerse themselves (literally) in the mud and get into the spirit of it all. Nothing is compulsory, and even the quote unquote penalty obstacles, or easier options will still have most runners going home with a feeling of achievement and satisfaction. This, coupled with the encouragement of the marshals, makes for an entertaining and empowering jaunt around the East Grinstead trail.
For returning runners, there were some simple changes to the layout of the trail, so that nobody could be truly sure of what came next. There were also some new little gems that I hadn’t seen before, and truly, a contender for best obstacle in the form of the Mud Mangle, which was beautiful in its simplicity. The only thing that I want for Mud Monsters is for it not to become too technical, as some permanent, mud themed races can be, as this tends to take away from the enjoyment of basking in the wet stuff in favour of staying dry to complete obstacles, which in turn leads to some evasive tactics that one may consider a bit unsportsmanlike. So far though, the balance is just perfect.
Never change, Mud Monsters. You still have the dirtiest course and yet the cleanest toilets I have ever seen. Now that is some wizardry; you are a fantastic beast. How lucky we are to know JUST where to find you.
[Photos courtesy of epic action imagery]
Click here to go through to the Mud Monsters website: I still don't know how they manage it, but they're exceptionally good value. What's stopping you?