Saturday, September 27, 2014

Muddy passions

Well, that’s another pair of trainers and set of kit that'll never grace the streets of London again.

Actually, if the truth be told, although the ‘after’ photograph at the bottom of this post doesn’t really show just how muddy and wet I was at the end of the race (top tip: always wear black), the fact is that the kit didn’t even make it onto the train home from my latest adventure race, and the trainers are really only fit for one more extreme outing before they’ll have to follow suit into the dustbin. 

Yes, if there’s a downside to the likes of Tough Mudder, the Spartan, The Major and The Grizzly, it’s that it’s pretty deathly for your sports kit. But I can live with that because what adventure racing really is is muddy, heart-racing fun.

Honestly, what’s not to love about racing across country in all weathers, at any time of the year, forging through rivers and streams and mud pits, hauling yourself up hillsides and slithering back down them, dashing across waterfalls and crawling through tunnels, as well as taking in a few manmade obstacles along the way (take a look YouTube)?

I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but you have to try it. An adventure race is nothing like anything you’ve probably tried before, and each one is different so, unless you only ever do the same race each year, you’ll never run the same course or put yourself through the same obstacles twice. Admittedly, it’s not for the fainthearted - it’s a whole lot more than a run in the park on a rainy day – but most races offer a choice of distance (5k or 10k) with the tougher obstacles to be found on the longer distance.

You need to be pretty fit too. A penchant for running off-road and doing a good amount of cross-training is ideal as wading through huge pools of thigh-deep mud and pulling one foot after the other out of the energy-sapping, glue-sucking stuff, all the while trying not to lose your shoes or to fall on your face, requires abs of steel(!) and a whole load of grim determination. And that’s just to get yourself through one mud pool.

I tried out a brand new adventure race the other weekend – the Gladiator Games - and as usual, I got very muddy and I got utterly soaked. I also got covered in washing up liquid and pretty scratched and bruised. Less than half a mile into the race, I jumped into a river and waded through water that reached my chest, and a few miles and obstacles later on, I slithered into another backwater – thigh deep this time – and found myself in water as gloopy as liquid chocolate and bulging with submerged logs that only came to light when I bashed my shins on them.

I ran through a hail of giant beach balls, was pelted by tennis balls, and spooked by zombies. I had to charge across clearings guarded by gladiators wielding rugby tackle bags and was given a fireman’s lift by another of their cohort before I finally crawled through a foam-filled tunnel and made it back up the hill to cross the finish line – with a huge smile on my face.

Better still, by my racewatch, I’d completed the 10k (more like 13k once you take all the obstacles into account) in 74 minutes and still felt fresh (ahem) as a daisy. Clapham Runners, BMF and BMF running club, I thank you, as all that training is clearly paying off!

Of course, I'm sure there’ll probably come a time when the thought of doing another adventure race will pall and it’ll just be roads and tracks for me but until then, I’ll keep on doing it the muddy way. So roll on 2015 and the next raft of muddy races.

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