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Ram Run provides a value for money winter OCR challenge

by Paul Hayward
Friday 16th January 2015
Tags  Ram Run   |   Paul Hayward

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

If Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is closed for winter, save for Tough Guy, someone forgot to tell the team behind the Ram Run, as January 10 & 11, 2015 marked their winter event with a 36k challenge on offer.

Split into a 12k race on Saturday and a 24k on Sunday, with competitiors offered a 'mega medal' for completing both, the challenge was a great way for competitors keen to get their 2015 season underway. In addition the waves were split into those competing for a trophy (timed) and those wanting to run for fun at their own pace (departing after).

There was a huge queue for registration into a Crossfit Box, which acted as Race Headquarters for the day. The queue did not show any sign of moving for quite some time, some suggesting that they had been queuing for 29 minutes, but luckyly Ram Run’s race director Iain Exeter ushered anyone racing in the timed wave to the front of the queue.

I joined the “trophy” wave, with thoughts that I would be lucky to make it past the 'Bridge of Despair', let alone win, and waited for the start. My start time came and went with me still standing ready to go, which was a little obscure, but Iain reassured everyone that we were just waiting for the last compeititors to register and soon we were off.

On being released into Stoneleigh Park I was instantly impressed with the terrain, ranging from forests and mixed trails to steep hills and bogs. As competitors reached the river verge, a bottle neck of people formed as you had to wait to cross the first obstacle - a traverse. A hit from 2014 and a great obstacle. It was a shame that it had been placed as the first obstacle as congestion was rife so soon into the race.

Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

Thankfully the hold up was not too long and I was back on my way. What followed were a number of obstacles including rope climbs, a huge log carry around a little race circuit and some cargo net crawls. The cargo nets were spaced across hills and trails, ensuring that competitors were pushed that little bit harder.

By the time I reached a succession of walls, ending with a 9 foot wall, and a long crawl under balance beams, I was struggling for breath. I had no rythym at all and my breathing was everywhere. More worringly was the fact that I was only 4k in to this race.

I took some faith from others appeared to suffer similarly. Thinking back I think it was a combination of the cold air and the terrain that had made it difficult, but at the time I was questioning whether I would make it to the end and whether I had actually done any training this month.

On passing the event village and running back into Stoneleigh Park competitors were made to run up and down a succession of hills, drenched in thick mud. I had, due to the sun, opted for my inov-8 X-talon 190s and I was firmly planted as I ran up and down the hills. Some of the competitors I ran past fared a little worse as they struggled for grip with their trainers and were reduced to crawling or sliding.

The trails lead us into thick woodland and at one point I found myself running down small verges into densely packed woodland. I must admit there was something quite exciting about not being able to see where you were going. The woodland ended and I found myself in a field facing the 'coffins', which consisted of a number of ditches the length of a coffin, filled with water. As I jumped in I underestimated the depth and, being a little vertically changelled, had to rely on my strength to pull myself out.

On being released back into the woodland I met the RamRun’s signature obstacle, the Bridge of Despair, which consists of a steel bridge that runs across the river. There were a number of options to surmount it, ranging from a rope to a cargo net. Those racing in the Trophy wave were subjected to a time penalty for using anything but the rope option.

I attempted the rope and fell straight back into the river, which was beyond cold and deep, and decided to take the two minute penalty. I had heard rumours that there were hot drinks being served at the top of the bridge for those who had to wait. Fortunately, and in possibly one of the most civilised features of a race, there was indeed a young lady serving coffee and I spent my two minutes cheering on other competitors and drinking coffee. This has to be the best penalty zone I have ever experienced and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee did not hinder my pace.

Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

On the way back to the race village I was required to loop back to the mud hills, coffins and Bridge of Despair (to cover another 4k), before making my way to the finish line. On reaching the outskirts of the race village I was met with a tunnel crawl through water, with wire meshing on the top, known as 'a Watery Grave'. Competitors just had enough space to get some of their head above the water to breathe and I was forced to go through around four metres of mud coloured water with limited breathing opportunities. I think I swallowed a large amount of the water when it was impossible to get through without becoming fully immersed.

Absolutely drenched once again, I climbed the final obstacles (hay bales and monkey bars) to the finish line. I was met by a girl who said 'well done' and handed me an energy bar, before promptly leaving. As I pulled myself together I looked for a marshal handing out medals or a goodie bag, but sadly no-one was to be seen and the finish line was a lonely place.

I decided to make my way inside the Ram Run headquarters to change. I was greeted by a gentleman handing out soup. He told me that the medals had not shown up yet but to go and get my time. I was thankful for the soup, as I was 'shaking madly' according to some, and handed my chip in and went and got changed.

In a random turn of events, once changed, I managed to get a goodie bag, beanie and medal (they turned up!) from three different tables spread across the room. This was due to other competitors telling me to do so and helping each other out. As I spoke to a friend a marshal approached me and said she had watched me shivering and I should have her tea.

I tried to say I was okay but she was insistent, thankfully, and I was able to warm up quite quickly. I could not find her to thank her; so hopefully she will read this (or it will be passed on) and accept my thanks as it was a real moment of kindness.

If I am honest the end of the race was a little chaotic (like the beginning) and detracted from what had been a good event.

Overall the Ram Run provided an excellent event. The terrain was challenging and provided some really tough moments (such as the continious mud hills or rushing into the woods blinded by trees). Bar the cargo nets, which I feel needed to be tougher and weighted down, the obstacles were challenging and fun - the bridge, the coffins and the crawl at the end were all horrendous but fantastic.

For £35 the Ram Run represented some of the best value I have seen in ages for an OCR.

Ram Run - January 10 & 11, 2015

The Summer Ram Run takes place on 25 & 26 April 2015.

More information can be found at: www.ramrun.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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