I’ve not done one of these wet, muddy assault course type events before, but always fancied having a go (thoughts of the assault course in that wonderful 80s quiz The Krypton Factor came to mind!), so when a number became available I snapped it up! Well I wasn’t disappointed, it was certainly wet and certainly muddy, even got to use my triathlon swimming skills briefly! So I turned up on Sunday morning in glorious sunshine at Newcastle Racecourse for the event and was immediately rather surprised by the number of people – over 1000 entrants.
We all picked up our bright red British Heart Foundation T-shirt (making it rather difficult to spot anyone you know – and also adding significant additional weight once wet and muddy!), then headed out for the pre-race warm-up provided by the Marines. We were soon on our way and I quickly recognised Pete Mason (another Durham Tri member) a few yards in front. The first few km were pretty flat spreading the field out a bit, then we headed into the woods where the fun began.
The course eases you in gently with a few hay bales to jump/clamber over, then the first waist (or chest depending how tall you are) deep pond to struggle through – did think about swimming, but decided it was probably easier to plough through the muddy water on my feet. This was followed by the first half buried muddy pipe to crawl through. Then a fun waterslide down a plastic sheet coated hillside – I wasn’t quite sure how to do this one, but the helpful marine on hand just shouted ‘head first on your belly’ – I obeyed (the easiest part of the race!). Pete obviously took a running dive at it and flew past me – triathlon swimming training came to the fore and I grabbed hold of his ankle! A few more hay bales then a few km through the woods – classic cross-country fare. Pete and myself were pushing pretty hard on this section and were pretty near the front by this point (helped by a group in front of us going the wrong way through a gap in the tape marking the route!).
We then came to another friendly smiling marine giving instructions – ‘Just turn right here and along the ditch’ – about 100 yards of waist deep water with 6 inches of mud to get through. Crawling out the other end and trying to get up and run again – legs were starting to feel very heavy – I was starting to regret the mountain biking the day before! A few more km through the woods and we were getting towards the last few km – obstacles came thick and fast – hay bales, rubber tyres, skips full of water and mud to get through, then series of pipes ¾ below muddy water. The hard part was trying to get out of the 4 foot deep muddy pond after each pipe – fingers clawing at the mud, knees, belly and chest all came into play….. Then the cargo nets to crawl under (across rather gravelly mud – but knees were numb by this point!), Pete snapping away at my ankles…. and finally the end was in sight. Out into the field then turn right back into the racecourse…. one final unexpected obstacle – a local rugby club lining up ‘Gladiator’ style with scrum pads. This looked like it could be fun – unfortunately as a rather scrawny runner I just bounced off the first one! I decided perhaps trying to dodge them was a better option… managed to get through the rest and with a last hard drive to the line pipped Pete to the post!
There was even a post-race massage which was most welcome….. A fantastic event – enjoyed every minute of it and would definitely recommend it for those not scared of a bit of mud and water!