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Of battles with crocodiles, space hoppers and children

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 12th February 2015

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward returns to 1 Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

One Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

If you ask someone at an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) why they have decided to take on a race, a few may say that they do it in order to challenge themselves, however many more people will say that it is to enjoy the experience and have a great day out with friends. Sometimes race directors forget this, and experienced competitors are guilty of this as well, and that is why Mud N Madness was such a breath of fresh air last year (HERE).

With fond memories of bouncing on space hoppers down a hill and laughing too much, I was pleased to make the journey back to Stubbers’ Farm in Essex to take on Mud N Madness last weekend. As I was getting changed in the changing rooms, which was very civilised and appears to becoming the norm at an OCR, a few competitors came in from the 9am wave.

All of them started to tell me that the water was freezing and they were exhausted! My smile started to fade and I thought to myself that Adam Moffat, 1 Step Beyond’s race director, could not possibly be that mean; had he seen the weather?

On reaching the start line I could see 'Heart Break Hill' and the infamous line of space hoppers. I will be honest with you, I may have borrowed one to practise on before this event, although admittedly, not up hills. Once released with my wave I made it to the crest of the hill pretty quickly and grabbed my space hopper; I was not going to be beaten two years in a row.

One Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

I may be a lot fitter and about to enter my Ironman training, however once again I was reduced to a mess within seconds of the race starting. Space hopping down a hill may be fantastic fun but as a first obstacle it is brutal. I was gasping for breath almost immediately and on handing my space hopper back I was faced with some hills to navigate.

Later on I would take comfort in watching others gasping like I had, however it took me a good five minutes to establish a breathing pattern again. On breaking my way past the mixed terrain I arrived at a huge reservoir and the chance to do some kayaking. Sadly I had not practised this before the event, although I had done it last year, and I managed to hit most of the buoys on my way round the loop much to everyone's amusement. 

Although my breathing had recovered, I was glad of the rest to be honest, although my arms were on fire at the end of the jaunt around the reservoir. I must admit that I love an obstacle that is a little random and completely takes you out of your comfort zone.

I would eat these words later and curse myself for even suggesting such a thing.

Through some woods, I was faced with two large gentlemen dressed as sumo wrestlers blocking the way. Within two metres of them I checked behind me and it was clear that I was facing this obstacle on my own. I decided to try and be clever and do a pivot to the left and then sprint right. Or that is at least how it looked in my head; the reality was that I went left half heartedly before moving right and being squashed between two huge men.

One Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

After picking myself up, to the amusement of the sumo wrestlers, and trying again they decided to merely laugh at me as I went past. The obstacles came thick and fast after this, ranging from a static assault course to a traverse crossing over a river, and I was pleased to make it to the 4 x 4 section of the course and the chance to run and get my breath back.

I recalled from last year that this element of the course was exceedingly muddy and grip would be a real issue. However this year I was sporting the new inov-8 X-Talon 200s (review coming soon) and I was ready to laugh at whatever Mud n Madness decided to throw at me. Upon hitting the first series of slaloms, it was clear that the huge puddles were still frozen over with ice and as competitors charged through, breaking the ice and releasing the freezing cold water, the cold attacked my feet like daggers.

Although the X-Talons did an excellent job of draining the cold water, I was frozen within minutes and cursing the weather. However I had half expected to come into contact with water and, having read the advice from Tough Guy the weekend before, I had decided to go for shorts in an attempt to keep my legs warm. Thankfully I made it through further frozen puddles and to the Courtyard with the 'mystery obstacle' pretty quickly.

I was met with four children all staring at me as I entered the Courtyard. The marshal smiled and said "this obstacle is British Bulldog; make it across the yard and touch the wall without being touched. You may then leave the obstacle". Having not played this game for around 16 years, due to it being banned at school and sadly not featuring in my calendar after that, I was a little apprehensive. But I am a fit young man, how hard could it be?

One Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

It became clear after two attempts that these children were fitter than me and were clearly powered by mars bars, as they were just so quick. I looked them in the eye and thought "I can do this!". I got all my energy together and sprinted as fast as I could towards the wall. I made it past two children, only to be foiled by a child that was lightning fast and took delight in saying “got ya”.

I fell to the floor at this point and I actually thought I would be sick, I could feel it. I simply was not quick enough and these children were clearly part of some athletics club or simply superhuman. I walked back to the start of the courtyard and I honestly had no idea how I would defeat them, bar violence. Thankfully five ladies dressed in pink boot camp tops came to my rescue, so I did the noble thing and I hid behind them and waited for my opening and then charged towards the wall.

All of the ladies were “tagged” and were shaking their heads as they walked back. I considered helping them but I thought better of it; I was lucky to get out. Aafter the race Adam confirmed that the idea had come to him that "you did not want to be alone with them”. I told him that I thought he had created possibly the hardest obstacle I had ever seen and had it not been for those ladies, I would have been well on my way to a DNF.

I overcame my sickness and negated the bootcamp section before facing my other favourite obstacle, the crocodile dash. The idea is to run across a foam walkway to the end, turn around and come back with an inflatable crocodile. A lot of OCRs have a 'wow-factor" obstacle that you cannot stop talking about, and this is the one for Mud n Madness, as it is simply hilarious to watch people fall over and fly into the river. The fact that there are hundreds of spectators all laughing shows just how good this obstacle is!

On crossing the line I was met by a smiling lady serving High 5 and as I stood there, smiling myself and thinking about the previous 60 minutes of “racing”, I wondered what could I say to do this race justice? This is not a serious OCR and it should not be treated as such, however this race is an absolute roller coaster of humour and fun.

The course contained a good mix of fun, challenging obstacles such as the kayaking or the space hoppers as well as the crazy obstacles such as the crocodiles or the children. I did not see one person frowning or moaning on the course or after it; everyone was laughing and clearly having an absolute blast. 

One Step Beyond 's Mud N Madness - February 7, 2015

Adam admitted to me last year that this race is a bit of fun for 1 Step Beyond, after the seriousness of holding one of the most respected triathlons there is in the 'Outlaw', but I do not think saying that does this race justice. This race is a blast on the basis that it is not about high walls or getting round in one piece; it is about offering a fun experience and genuine laugh out loud moments.

If you are looking for a serious obstacle course race then this is not for you, sadly. However if you want an event that has something for everyone and provides a decent challenge, coupled with a massive injection of humour - this is for you and you will go away from the event smiling and laughing at your exploits.

Even writing this I am smiling and for me that is how Mud N Madness achieves in OCR; it offers a very different experience from the rest and it does so with style and humour. Apart from those children; that was just cruel.

One Step Beyond have not yet released the details for 2016; however keep a watch on their site here www.onestepbeyond.org.uk/mud-n-madness-adventure-race.php as the event is going from stregth to strength


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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