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Nuclear Races know how to have fun and challenge at the same time

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 13th November 2014
Tags  Nuclear Fallout   |   Nuclear Races   |   Paul Hayward   |   Thomas Blanc

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

What do you get if you cross a quiet (most of the time) farm in Essex, a permanent obstacle course and one of the most interesting historic buildings in our Country, namely the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker? You get one of Obstacle Course Racing’s brightest and best providers; the Nuclear Races. 

I say this as you, like me until 2 November 2014, may not have had the pleasure of racing at one of their events, but you cannot fail to be aware of their offering due to their presence on social media, with pictures of competitors drenched in mud (hence the hastag #LoveMud) in various poses, or within the OCR community itself, where Nuclear Races have a great reputation.

With obstacles including a zip wire, a Death Slide and 110 metres of Monkey Bars - Nuclear Races has the potential to offer an all round superb OCR experience by way of offering something for everyone.  

Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

Photos © Nuclear Races

When I made the drive down to Essex, I did so with a little apprehension. I had wanted to review this race all year for Run247. In order to provide credible reviews, you have to see both the best and the worst our scene has to offer and be objective. I was a little apprehensive purely as they are, like Tough Mudder (although that is where the comparison ends), one of the bigger players in the OCR scene and one of the loudest, brightest and, dare I say it, on the basis of comments from a lot of people who race OCR most weekends, the best?

Walking into the race village, through gushes of strong November rain, these fears were quickly dispelled as the village unfolded around me. I have never seen such a busy race village in my life; it was bouncing from competitors, sporting everything from OCR tops to groups from local gyms, laughing, smiling and enjoying the music to large crowds of supporters cheering on competitors.

My attention was drawn to the start line where I was lucky to be joined by Run247 OCR blogger (HERE), Wild Forest Gym team member and all round good chap Thomas Blanc, who had marked his comeback to OCR with a emphatic third place earlier in the elite wave (behind the impressive James Appleton and everyone's favourite Ross Macdonald) and had decided to run the 16k course for a second time. On asking Thomas what it was like out there - he smiled and said "Good, Paul, Good", which left me thinking it must be pretty tough!  

Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

Photos © Nuclear Races

After the start we almost immediately faced two sharp descents and climbs, with water in the middle, known as the "bitch ditches". If I had any hope of avoiding the mud for a while then I would be sorely disappointed and I was thoroughly soaked within minutes of the race starting.

Luckily I was able to dry out a little before facing some walls to surmount and one or two small stream runs before facing a huge bog. Being short I have always struggled with these but I was able to slowly wade through the bog, with water up to my shoulders, before hitting a row of inflatable doughnuts across a river.

Thomas, still thinking he was racing in the elite wave, gathered pace and attempted to run across them in one go like stepping stones. Whilst his technique and bravery were hugely impressive, sadly his plan did not work and he careered into the river.  Although he did almost make it all the way across!

On surviving the inflatables, by me taking them one at a time, we came to the legendary "Hang Tough", which is a set of gym rings hanging from a rig across a bog. Competitors are required to swing across the rings, one by one, to the other side in a good test of upper body strength and agility. I made it to the third ring before flying off, in some style, into the bog sideways whilst Thomas crossed quite elegantly and it looked like it was no real bother - it was clear that there was a technique to this.  

Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

Photos © Nuclear Races

By this point I was pretty much covered from head to toe in mud and bog residue. However this look was nothing compared to what lay in wait after the monkey bars (110 meters of them!) in the mud crawl - essentially a cargo net crawl. The monkey bars stretched for as far as I could see and competitors had the choice of facing them or facing the dunes with bogs separating them.

I have had variable luck with monkey bars this year and although the thought of me doing a 110 metres sounded achievable, sadly I came crashing down within 10 metres and this feat was left for another day.  On reaching the cargo nets and mud crawl, the terrain was completely churned up and with the nets forcing you to crawl, the mud attached itself to you like glue on contact.

So much so that on reaching the end of the obstacle; my hair felt greasy and my ears were actually blocked with mud. It literally had got everywhere.

Fortunately a few water based obstacles followed the mud crawl, in the form of a Zip Wire and a Death Slide, and provided a welcome opportunity to wash it all off. On skimming down the zip wire my smile exploded on my face as memories of being younger came flooding back as I was launched into the river at speed.

On surviving the Death Slide, which Thomas decided to go down head first, I faced the final set of obstacles including some technical hill climbs with ropes, possibly the most disgusting bog that was filled with black sludge,  a half pipe to run up and climb and a balancing beam against swinging punch bags attempting to topple you off before making it to the finish line and the warm showers.

After crossing the finish line, in a time of around three hours, I can honestly say this course had been anything but easy. The weather had savaged it somewhat and running in a later wave meant that the ground had been destroyed, but by providing a 16k obstacle course race with 56 obstacles – Nuclear Races had delivered, in some style, a roller coaster of an OCR that was challenging, fun and that injected some much needed humour into our scene.

Nuclear Fallout - November 2, 2014

Photos © Nuclear Races

This course had with a balanced mix of “fun” obstacles and “serious obstacles” that would have challenged every competitor on the field, through technical hill climbs with the ropes to the monkey bars, but importantly made them smile five minutes later through a huge slide into the river or wading through sludge that was simply disgusting. Our scene has a danger of taking itself too seriously but somehow Nuclear Races have bypassed this and reminded us why were are here; to have fun and be challenged.

In providing this perfectly balanced mix; Nuclear Races have cemented their place at the top of our OCR scene as one of the events that cannot be missed from your diary. Their reputation is deserved as they offer an absolutely fantastic experience for seasoned competitors and those making their first foray into OCR.

In short Nuclear Races have set their stall out as one of the best OCR providers there are and importantly they are not taking themselves too seriously in doing so.

Their first race in 2015 is on 16 May 2015 and is a must for your diary.

More information on Nuclear Races and their excellent season package details can be found at: www.nuclear-races.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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