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Virtual race throws up some obstacles

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 14th May 2015
Tags  Virtual OCR   |   Nuclear Races   |   SpecialOps   |   Nuclear Races SpecialOps   |   Paul Hayward

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward enlists a friend to take on an urban virtual OCR!

Nuclear SpecialOps

Virtual Runs are the “new thing” in running; be it the “doughnut dash” or the “Spock Saviour race” you cannot seem to escape them on social media. The concept is simple; sign up, pay a fee, evidence your run and wait for your medal in the post. However their entry into Obstacle Course Racing (“OCR”) has been fairly muted in the United KIngdom until Nuclear Races decided to launch their “SpecialOps” series; including a virtual 5k run with your own obstacles as their first mission.

On a twist of the traditional format, thankfully, the team at Nuclear Races asked entrants to run 5k but this time take on obstacle every kilometre. The obstacles could be anything, ranging from balancing across a brick wall, to hurdling a wooden park bench, and provided a beautiful moment in that you were in charge; could determine your own fate and make your own challenges.

All that Nuclear Races asked was that each entrant provide evidence of their run, through their GPS watch/mobile phone app, and a picture of them taking on an obstacle. Also, as this was 'SpecialOps' and covert, you had to do this armed with a head torch at night. With this in mind I enlisted my good friend Stuart Morris and decided to take on the mean streets of Oxfordshire in an urban virtual OCR!

Whilst the route was not going to be a problem, as we benefit from a massive path network called 'the yellow brick road', there could be a few issues with obstacles. Not due to a lack of options but due to an abundamce as everything around offered an opportunity, from bin hops to children’s climbing frames, to climb, jump or crawl under.

We decided on the following:

  1. the Railway’s revenge (a massive set of stairs over the railway to be sprinted up);
  2. Dagdale Dilemma (10 pull ups or 10 dips);
  3. the Cow Lane climb (a climb across a massive wooden climbing frame);
  4. the Terror Tables (three tables with springs on requiring a sprint across all three); and
  5. the Zak Mundy Crossfit Checkout (a surprise for later!).

Nuclear SpecialOps

As we set off on our virtual run, as we had done many times whilst marathon training, we both were in good spirits. On hitting Railway’s revenge, we both charged up the stairs and back down. Sadly not to the sound of a passing train. On the way back down I did ask the question why we had gone crazy with such a hard obstacle to start at such as fast pace!

On making it to the second obstacle, the Dagdale dilemma, I opted for some pull ups whilst Stuart went for dips. Amusingly we drew some strange stares from passing dog walkers as we were bobbing up and down in our head torches.

After climbing the Cow Lane climb, a huge wooden climbing frame, we hit the Terror Tables at pace. These were three tables ladened with springs underneath that threw you to the side as soon as you jumped on them; it looked easy but actually was quite a challenge.

We picked the pace back up on our way to the final obstacle, when we came across an abandoned trolley! In recognition to our personal trainer Zak Mundy and his use of the 'prowler' (weighted sleigh) for sprints, we decided to sprint between three lamp posts with the trolley. This drew much concern from the passing public, who tutted and shouted 'are you not a little old?', much to our amusement as we whizzed past them.

Our 5k clocked in at 44.00 which was just about respectable. What Nuclear Races had done through their Virtual Race was provide Stuart and I with the chance to enjoy our local surroundings and come up with our own obstacles. Importantly, and poetically, there was no limit to what we could do.

Nuclear SpecialOps

I decided to speak to Nuclear Races’ race director James about some of the innovation and obstacles that they had seen:

“It had occurred to us that Mission: 1 (the Virtual Run) would be undertaken internationally, but we were overwhelmed with the completed overseas missions that have come in: from Arizona to Thailand to name a few and John Burke from Perth, Australi,a who was the first to complete Operation Darkness, taking advantage of the Australian time zones and nailing an epic obstacle, The DNA Tower!

"All of the entrants have shown great imagination with their natural, urban and man-made obstacles. The photos have been fantastic! Most recently we have been sent a video of an epic overhang climb! We will not be copying any of the obstacles directly but it does start the thought process and the mission has confirmed to us that people just love to crawl, run through water, squeeze through tunnels, climb and work out differently using different muscles. Just about anything to break up the monotony of running a long distance!

"We are hopeful that a few OCR virgins and newbies have cracked their fear of obstacles and are going to challenge themselves further at a daylight obstacle race!”

I also asked James how the Virtual Run, as part of the SpecialOps missions, had gone down:

“When we came up with the idea of the virtual missions and launched it, we had no idea how many of our community would get involved virtually, despite knowing our runners quite well. We are very pleased with 350+ entries [with 6 days to go] and everyone wants a Nuclear Races medal for their achievements. In addition we are delighted that so many of the entrants are up for the SpecialOPS and are sharing their experiences with us and the #nuclearfamily on social media!”

On completing Nuclears’ SpecialOps’ virtual 5k, I have to say I am a convert to virtual runs. Anything that changes your training and allows you to have fun at the same time has to be a good thing; plus for some it is a vital step into OCR with the enticement of a medal and proof that they can do the distance with some obstacles.

Nuclear Races’ mission 2 for SpecialOps took place on April 19. It may well be worth keeping an eye on the missions (nuclear-races.co.uk/event/nuclear-special-ops) in case a further virtual run returns.

More information can be found on Nuclear Races Obstacle Course Races at: 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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