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Another Monster success

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 6th November 2014
Tags  Winter Monster   |   Monster Race   |   Paul Hayward   |   OCR

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

Photos © The Little Photo Company

Earlier this year I stumbled across a real gem of an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) by the name of the Monster Race. Offering both unbelievable value for money as well as excitement, it quickly became a firm favourite of mine and I gave it a glowing review (HERE).

To this day the Summer Monster remains one of my favourite races this year. Could they deliver a repeat performance at the end of an OCR season that has season some very good competition?

On November 1, 2014 the Summer Monster’s evil brother, the "Winter Monster", took place at the organiser's preferred location of Charlton Park in Wiltshire. With tales of frozen water appearing at last year’s event and the onset of harsher weather, I was a little apprehensive of taking this race on. I had to remind myself that this was a race that appealed to both beginners and OCR veterans alike, with a 5k and 10k option through laps, and that surely it could not be that cold!.

Fortunately, by some strange weather turn, the sun was on my side, with some tropical heat beaming down on the race village. This resulted in the atmosphere at the race village cranking up a fair bit.

Before lining up on the start line competitors were treated to a small muddy crawl to get there, which was a clear message to get involved with the mud early as there would be no avoiding it as the course progressed. This would be confirmed to me when hitting the lake and the resultant bogs.

On crawling through to the start line I was met with a sea of bright tops and a lot of excited chatter, and it was clear that a lot of these competitors were trying their first OCR, with some attempting the 10k, having conquered the 5k earlier this year.

As I lined up, jumping up and down with my fellow competitors, you could have easily mistaken this for a race in July. The atmosphere was buzzing, the smiles were abundant and we were all in T-shirts and shorts. This atmosphere exploded when we were released into the grounds Charltom park and the first set of obstacles, some hay bales and static horse jumps.

the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

Although I skipped over these obstacles with ease, the rhythm had been knocked out of me pretty quickly and I found myself breathing quite deeply almost immediately. The Monster tends to lure you into a false sense of security and you might believe that you can push flat out.

Upon regaining some form of rhythm I faced one of the first 'traditional' obstacles in the form of the wall. Cleverly the wall had a larger lip at the top which made gripping it a little harder and ensured that team work was required. After a failed attempt of scaling it by myself, I was luckily assisted by a fellow competitor and I went straight over the wall to a massive obstacle shaped like a toilet.

On pausing to examine the low entry point of this obstacle, the marshal enthusiastically explained that “you need to go in and pull yourself up". I laughed and thought to myself that this was possibly one of the most simple obstacles I had seen, but also one of the funniest. The gap, or toilet bowl, that you were required to push up over, was pitched just right to ensure that you had to use a fair bit of upper body strength to get through and I can imagine that this 'simple' obstacle caused a few headaches.

After clearing the obstacle and jumping off, I was back smiling. I turned round to see a battalion of pink t-shirts combating the wall. The group were all cheering each other and patting each other or hugging each other, as one by one their members managed to negate the wall. This really stuck with me, as it was a pleasure to witness people beating their fears and stepping outside of their comfort zone first hand.

The Winter Monster’s terrain was fairly mixed, with fields, forests and even a pleasant stream that required competitors to go through until you faced a bog in the middle with a barb wire crawl. On crawling under the barb wire you entered the bog which was, simply disgusting, and I quickly became covered in mud. Walking through the bog was pretty much impossible, unless you wanted to lose your shoes and I was back down to crawling.

As the day wore on and the bog became more churned up and thicker, competitors found it increasingly harder to negotiate. On the second lap of my 10k jaunt, I could not move at points and I thought I may actually lose my inov-8 X-Talon 190s!

the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

Fortunately I survived, although it took a lot of effort, and I was able to enjoy the new obstacles, the 'Hydro' and the 'Titan'. The Hydro was a huge slide down a hill, that allowed competitors to release their anguish and enjoy the event a little, whilst the Titan required you to hoist kettle bells and weights in the air above your head through a rope pull.

Both obstacles were hugely enjoyable, although on the Titan proved problematic second time round, due to the rope being savaged by the mud. I simply could not get any grip and the tactics I had learnt in Covent Garden (HERE) were out of the window.

Luckily for me and my fellow competitors, all that remained after these obstacles were a wall and the 'Meatgrinder'. Aptly named, the Meatgrinder consisted of tyres pushed together, in the form of a huge grinder, and required competitors to go through the middle.

I have seen this obstacle before at other, events but never as large or as tight as this. On trying to slip through it gracefully, I realised that this was not an option and I was going to be squashed if I delayed. The Meatgrinder took a fair bit of effort to get through and was the epitome of what the Winter Monster had been - a tough but immensely enjoyable course.

On scaling through; I was laughing and beaming at the same time. I had expected this course to be fun but I had not banked on it being a lot tougher than the Summer Monster.

the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

In pitching the Winter Monster as Simon and the team had, they had given competitors a good test of their fitness coupled with a rollercoaster of an obstacle course. The obstacles were challenging and included classics with a twist that ensured competitors could not take the course for granted; but would enjoy every moment of the experience.

The Winter Monster was a much tougher beast than its summer sibling and proved that the smaller OCR events can match the bigger providers in terms of style, challenge and fun, despite the constraints on them.

They may not have t-shirts, a huge marketing campaign or a claim to be the hardest course, but the Summer and Winter Monster represent some of the best value you can get in Obstacle Course Racing at the moment.

It leaves competitors, including myself, begging for more and with 1,200 people attending the Winter Monster, this series can only go from strength to strength.

Simon confirmed to us previously that it will offer a 15k option next year, which, combined with a fantastic medal and free race pictures, certainly pushes this race into the zone of being a must for your diary next season.

the Winter Monster – Charlton Park, Saturday October 10, 2015

Photos © The Little Photo Company

Find out more about the Monster Races at www.monsterrace.co.uk


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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