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The Monster shows its teeth

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 14th May 2015
Tags  Monster Race   |   Paul Hayward   |   OCR

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

What is that coming over the hill? Last year it was one of Obstacle Course Racing’s (OCR) best examples: the Monster Race. I had stumbled across this race series by accident and after completing both the Summer Monster (HERE) and the Winter Monster (HERE), I was firmly of the view that the combination of great obstacles and fantastic terrain, for under £50, made the Monster Race a must for your diary.

Last weekend I returned to Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, slightly apprehensive and wondering if I was going to experience a plateau. Could the Monster Race improve on an already fantastic experience? The Monster Race is a great OCR that is aimed at beginners, but somehow manages to provide seasoned athletes and competitors with the same rip roaring experience as those trying OCR for the first time.

The Monster Race’s race director Simon told me before the race that he had taken the step of putting monkey bars in the course and had created a huge version of the crowd’s favourite obstacle 'the toilet seat'. Whilst a lot of people that race OCRs will tell you that monkey bars are a common occurrence, they are not for beginners. They are daunting, almost always end in failure and can be the nemisis for many.

This is not to mean they are not great - but they can be 'that obstacle' that beats you. This is at odds with the Monster Race’s fantastic ethos that their obstacles are challenging, but 'doable'. Could Simon and the team at Monster get the monkey bars in the race and still deliver the same experience? Or had the Monster finally bitten off more than he could chew?

The fantastic thing about OCR is the amount of different people you see at the start line. The Monster Race did not disappoint and as I joined my wave there were athletes from Team Brocket to bootcamps, of predominantly women, all jumping up and down, ready to go.

On being released it was back down the hills and over the classic static horse boxes before making our way back up the hills into the forest and the first section of walls. These walls were not very high but after expending a fair amount of energy getting up the hills to them, they can knock you for six, before charging back down into the forest trail.

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

As the sun began to take its toll, the forest broke and it was into a skip full of fresh ice cubes! As I waded across the chill grabbed me and I was caught out by just how cold it was. Fortunately the Monster had brought the weather and I warmed up quite quickly before facing 'the Multi Storey'.

Last year Simon had created 'the toilet seat', that required competitors to go into the obstacle and pull themselves up through the 'basin', shaped like a toilet, and out of it. It had been an instant hit and this year there appeared to be four of them stuck together; all requiring competitors to go in and out quite quickly using both their feet and upper body strength.

Despite looking harmless, the Multi Storey managed to knock the rhythm out of me quite quickly, by requiring both your upper body strength and leg strength, and by the time I made it to the wooden A Frame following it, I was gasping for breath.

On returning into the woods, taking on a small sandbag carry, the wooden pillars and some rather steep hills, I found myself facing a floating obstacle in the middle of a huge reservoir. The obstacle required competitors to swim out to it and then fully submerge themselves under it twice before making it back to land.

The water, whilst refreshing with the sun beating down, certainly tested a few people (including me) and my pace slowed considerably whilst hesitation set in. Fortunately I swam under both and made it to the other side and onwards to the monkey bars set across a floating pontoon and another reservoir.

In a clever move Simon and the team at Monster had made the distance between the start of the monkey bars and the end quite short; ensuring that it did not look as daunting as normal and appeared achievable. This being said I managed to test the deepness of the water some three rungs in and approached the second lap, 10k , option and that dreaded hill back to the forest with the walls.

Whilst Monster Race, like a number of OCRs, asks competitors to do laps in order to achieve the distance, this never felt tiresome or boring with the Monster Race. There can be some congestion in the later waves at obstacles and if you are racing then you should go early, however the atmosphere more than makes up for it as you watch people of all backgrounds attempt and enjoy our sport.

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

On making it through a second lap, and across the monkey bars, I ran through to the inflatable slide down the hill to the finish. Normally OCRs feature a slide down into a river or some mud; however the Monster Race treated people to a huge inflatable slide, serviced by firemen's hoses, and with it a chance to throw yourself down safely. To say it was a huge hit was an understatement as the crowds were drawn to it in huge numbers with children getting soaked by the splashes at the end.

As I crossed the line, after navigating a rather large wall, and collecting my medal I looked round at the faces of the other competitors. These people were of all ages, wearing very different kit. However without exception all of them were smiling and laughing at the finish line.

I think in essence the Monster Race is able to provide something very special: an OCR that offers a rewarding but fun challenge, through some great terrain and a diverse range of obstacles with some hints of innovation, that puts other more expensive events to shame.  I know that some people feel that the laps method has served its time and it should just be a straight course; certainly the terrain and location could provide for this. On walking round the course later and seeing competitors queueing; laughing and helping each other - this clearly had not caused any of them upset and the formula works well at the moment.

More impressively the monkey bars were pitched perfectly; by providing a short distance ensuring that people would have a go and actually make it across. I stayed at the monkey bars and watched a number of people make it across and jump for joy, scream and hug their team mates. Even those that tried and fell in were smiling.

This was a clear sign that the Monster can show its teeth with the bigger mainstay obstacles but do so in a way that keeps with their ethos - fun and achievable. 

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

The Winter Monster returns in October and more details can be found here: 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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