Obstacle Courses: My 2 Cents

Recently, a new type of exercise has taken the UK by storm. Nope, not Boxercise. Or Pilates (it’s 2014, not 2004). Or Metafit. Or P90x.

 

I am talking about the Obstacle Course.

 

These days, you can’t open a copy of Runner’s World without seeing photos of what can only be described as muddy Rambo wannabes running through the English countryside, lugging logs, climbing ropes and willingly jumping into ice cold water. It’s like they all know something about the Apocalypse that we don’t.

 

I saw a conversation on Twitter recently among some fellow runners who weren’t positive towards this slightly wild cousin to the trail and road race. As someone who has done their fair share of obstacle courses (well, I did two. But that’s two more than this time last year), I started thinking about why I enjoyed them:

 

  • The aim is very different to straight-out running events. As well as your typical running strength, these events also test your upper body and mental strength in ways a running race doesn’t. What else would you need to haul yourself across monkey bars over ice cold water?
  • If you choose the right one, it can be an amazing team event. Tough Mudder and Total Warrior like to promote a no-man-left-behind ethos, which means that the time you get as a team isn’t as important as the fact that you all completed it together. That’s really nice, and different to a running race when you’re competing against other runners, but also against yourself.

21421_677156145636349_384443133_n

  • If you thought completing a 10k race was satisfying – imagine how it feels to complete a 10k obstacle race. After you finish, the high is amazing as you feel that you can run, lift, jump and scramble as well as any action hero. In fact, these events make all those old action movies look lame. I’m looking at you, Running Man….
  • As a runner, you probably spend a lot of time cross training. This is a good chance to give those other muscles a chance to shine.
  • Don’t be put off by the waiver they get you to sign! You also have to sign a waiver when you go paintballing, get your ears pierced and … when you sign up to any normal running race too.
  • As a girl, it’s awesome to kick ass. I remember during Total Warrior that I wanted to do every single obstacle, and I did and it was so satisfying. I’m a sucker for events with names that make me feel like a hero.

1385494_726630604022236_2094312110_n

  • As a guy, it must be awesome to kick ass. Why spend all that time in the gym pumping those guns if you never get a chance to test them?
  • The variety of events is huge. You have 10 mile events, 10k events, zombie apocalypse events. You can find ones with high tech obstacles like electric shocks, or good old rustic ones like hay bales to climb over. There are even events which simulate the Zombie Apocalypse.

 

At the end of the day, running is still my favourite activity, and there’s nothing that can top that in my opinion. But these obstacle courses are a good way to test yourself in a different way, and the team dynamic has also encouraged other friends of mine to get involved when they wouldn’t normally have considered it.

Total Warrior

That’s not to say they’re for everyone – they’re just another option. I am 99% sure I’ll never attempt a triathlon. But I am definitely considering Tough Mudder. If for no other reason than the fact that the word Apocalypse has been mentioned twice already in this post, so it seems that it might be better to be prepared than not. Maybe they’re on to something….. 😉

 

Ellie B

 

Tempest Warriors Stampede!

The first rainy weekend of the Autumn. The temperatures dropped, and night time seemed to fall at about 4pm with all the clouds blocking the sun. And what did I, and 11 of my friends, do on Sunday morning? Get up and run a 10k obstacle course?  Of COURSE!

 

Obstacle courses seem to be the biggest thing in England at the moment, as if running itself wasn’t enough. It’s a really different experience because you’re not just tired from running, but also from hauling yourself over/under/through whatever they throw at you. So your overall pace is slower, but you’re still really tired as everything has had a workout. Plus, it’s like when you were 6 and ran everywhere, and didn’t care how wet, dirty or tired you got.

 

1383102_726630507355579_165903647_n-1

The race is run by the British Heart Foundation, and we’ve been busy raising money. We got to the starting line and collected our T-shirts, sorted our bags out, and posed for the pre-race photos. If you’ve not picked up on it, the pre-race pic is a very important part of my routine 😉

 

photo (6)

Matching nails that match your clothes helps you to nail the course. Hahaha

Before we started, they took us through a very thorough warm up. Everyone was raring to go, and we had a really strong start. Then, as we turned into the woods…. Disaster struck. We hit a queue for the first major obstacle. I was running at the front of our starting wave, and we caught up with the previous wave who were still queuing. We kept telling each other ‘it’s ok, it’s a fun run, we’re in this for the charity not the time’, but a few friends who were a little further back said my face was like thunder. Turns out competitiveness trumps reason in my brain….

 

We were in the last wave of starters, so I had guessed things were going to be a bit backed up for us. However, we queued about 20 minutes to get to the obstacle, which was too long in my opinion. People started to get cold after such a great warm up, and that’s not completely safe or encouraging for people in the fun-run category and who may be doing this for the first time. We met some other queues too, and by the time our group were running, the water stations en route were empty and abandoned like some kind of plastic cup ghost town.

 

photo (4)

Despite this initial setback, we made it through the muddy ditch and were back running. What followed was 8k of running through uneven fields, leaping over hay bales, running over tyres, crawling through water-logged pipes, and climbing a huge hay-castle (there is no other word for it). And again they had my favourite: the slip’n’slide!!!

 

The course finished with a mud-finale. Three big pipes, with a mud pool either side. And each mud pool was deeper than the last. I’m only 5’2″, and by the third, it was over my hip. To be honest, this is what I love about these courses: testing your speed, strength and stomach (that mud smelled weird). I am the biggest wimp when it comes to jumping in a swimming pool on holiday (what if it’s too cold?!), but seem to have no issues jumping into a pile of mud – and whatever else is in there.

photo-43

One of us is a professional dancer, and the other one is a mud-lover. Can you guess who’s who?

I finished with a time of 1:31:46, but we all agreed as a group that we can take off at least 20 minutes due to the queues. We know the times don’t reflect our actual running, but then again, as a team we raised a lot of money for charity so the times don’t matter (too much). And it was fun. And knackering. And dirty.

 

And the highlight: just before we started, we were told that members of B*Witched and 911 were running the course too*, filming for their Christmas video. We starred in their video singing along to their song – lead roles you know 😉 I’m now compiling my talent CV for when all the agencies come knocking. This is my Big Chance, I can feel it.

 

If you’re interested in an obstacle course, there are literally loads  you can choose from: Total Warrior, Born Survivor, Rat Race Dirty Weekend, Tough Mudder, Survival of the Fittest, and then there are probably smaller ones like this one too. Give it a go – it’s unlike anything else you’ll do! But be prepared for your family to hose you down before they let you in the house afterwards….

 

Thanks to Ian Cameron for the pics used in this post!

 

Ellie B

 

* If you’re not sure who B*Witched or 911 are, you can familiarise yourself with their amazing contribution to the UK pop scene here and here.