It’s inevitable that at some point in your OCR career, you’ll try to indoctrinate at least one person into the sport; You’ll try to drag a family member or partner in to a race on the premise that it’s ‘only’ a 5k and you want to spend quality time with them; cajole and wheedle some poor sod at work into slamming themselves into a 6ft wall in a field just so you’ve got someone else who understands why you’re a bit limpy on a Monday morning; make your best friends slop around 7k of an old quarry for your hen do. I get you. I can be a bit like that too. Although not the hen party thing - I’m not an animal.
I think sometimes we’re in danger of losing the fun of our favourite outdoor activity, instead getting lost in our targets and times and competition. That’s why runs like Splat Quack Go exist – to remind old timers that we are, at the end of the day, just grown adults playing in mud. They’re also there to provide a mud-spattered taster before moving on to more technically demanding races, or a means of having good ‘clean’ fun with the family. Either way, they serve a purpose: fun.
I’ve never run SPG before, but since it’s in my neck of the woods, it seemed rude not to saunter up to Suffolk on a Sunday morning to take a dip in what appeared to be a platter of every type of mud in the world.
SPG is centered on family antics in the morning, with 3k races that are appropriate for kids and adults alike. The family feel extended to the small, but functional race village comprising a couple of good food trucks and charity and merchandise stalls. The RD was very welcoming to further stands, so it might be a good opportunity for more companies to jump on the bandwagon in future years – perhaps more kit sales! The weather was absolutely glorious, which added to the relaxed feel – I suspect it may have been a different story if the rain had closed in. Thankfully the bright sunshine made everyone want to stick around and spectate into the afternoon when the adult 6 or 12k waves began.
Quick to reassure my boss that I was a) unfit and b) not likely to bother with a 12k, I had managed to convince him that doing SPG on a free weekend was a great idea. I’d already seen him attack a TM5K, so that’s was the technical side of things sorted – he just needed introducing to the more traditional, English mud-based extravaganza to give him a more well rounded initiation.
I think I realised that there wasn’t really a full grasp of JUST HOW MUDDY these things get when he assured me that he knew what sort of kit to wear because he played rugby when it was ‘really muddy’. Thankfully my incredulity must have paid off; he traded rugby kit for lightweight, quickdry kit and some trail shoes.
And my goodness was that warranted; from the outset, and if you had never watched a course review video, you wouldn’t have thought the run could be that muddy. You’d have been wrong though. After a brief jaunt through some undulating, sandy terrain (Too soon. Still have RedBull PTSD.), we were spat into lovely woodland trails that dropped us into some of the sludgiest vats of mud I have ever encountered. Not content with making us slide through chest deep muddy, silty water, we were in and out of sloppy, thick, clay mud, spongy black ditches and a swamp that caused so much inertia, I felt sure people were actually moving backwards. The course designers made good use of the area, managing to create a small, yet demanding series of hills, and apart from one perimeter run around a field, the obstacles were really well spaced.
My only real criticism of what was, in every sense, a non-competitive run, was the bottlenecking of the course at these slow points that led to queues. The queue for the most difficult swamp was more than 40 people deep at one point, and the shivers were beginning to set in for many. Of course, there were bypass routes, but this did mean missing out on some key obstacles and aspects of the course, and I could understand why people wanted the full experience. This may have been rectified by smaller, more staggered waves (as our wave was actually 2 combined), or potentially opening out a little more of those bogs to stop it being a single file trek. Most people were very accommodating about letting faster walkers/swimmers/trudgers pass, but the hold up did break our stride a little. This happened again when it came to walls and haybales, and could be rectified by adding in duplicate obstacles, side by side – especially since people new to OCR really want to have a go on everything. I know that’s easy for me to say – I haven’t bought any obstacles lately, but it’s certainly something to think about when considering the potential for people to return rather than use your race as a gateway, and move on to other things.
I must however applaud the fact that there were bypass routes, and that nobody was made to feel ‘lesser’ for taking those paths. The camaraderie and team spirit was evident throughout the course, and I didn’t see anyone finish with anything other than a grin.
In terms of the builds, the obstacles and challenges on the course were actually delightful. It was a real return to running just for the hell of it, with welly throwing, a lot of horse jumps (which have left their mark on my shins), and a GREAT slip and slide, as well as a truly filthy cage crawl – I think I have only ever done these in mucky water, and not viscous mud, so it was a welcome twist on a classic. I said welcome; it played havoc with my hair, really it did.
The friendly team behind Splat Quack Go fostered such a welcoming atmosphere; with entry, registration and key drop an absolute breeze. With early bird pricing, it’s also a really inexpensive way to get your whole crew around a course – for the adults, a second lap to take you up to 12k is absolutely free. If you live locally, it’s certainly one to check out, especially if you have children, or OCR novices who want a no-pressure introduction to mud running.
Another excellent part of the day was the huge charity involvement; we had to keep a plastic duck safe across the whole course. For every duck returned home, SPG was donating 50p to a very worthwhile charity, which was a lovely touch and a cute little edge on other entry-level races.
It’s been a few days since the run now, and it appears that I still have a job, so I would call the endeavour a resounding success. I’m actually wondering if I we can claim some time back in lieu for safeguarding the welfare of those two little ducks over the whole course. I somehow don’t think that will wash - much like my yellow shirt, destined forever to be a weird shade of bog brown.
[Photos courtesy of awoladventure]