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You have to Suffer to become a Legend

by Paul Hayward
Friday 12th June 2015
Tags  OCR   |   Paul Hayward   |   The Suffering   |   Ultimate Adventures   |   Suffering Legend

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward takes on one of Obstacle Course Racing’s biggest challenges

The Suffering Legend 2015

The time had come for me to take on one of Obstacle Course Racing’s biggest challenges the 'Suffering Legend' - a 5k race, a 10k race and a 10 mile race, all in one weekend.

Different distances are often offered to competitors, as a scaled challenge for those wanting to test themselves further, but the team at the Suffering Race has taken this one step further and offering participants the chance to do all of their races in one weekend.

For readers that have not seen our preview (HERE), the Suffering Legend represents one of OCR’s harder challenges, with a reputation for brutal terrain and testing obstacles. I have often ran twice in a weekend, albeit at different races, so I was excited to take on the opportunity to join the 'Legends', who have survived all three races and earned their place in the Suffering Race’s history.

The Suffering Race was held at Rockingham Park on June 8 and 9, 2015 and offered competitors the option of racing any one of their races, or all three, across the weekend and also had various options for children, including a 5k race, that integrated some of the adult course. Race directors Richard and Drew had recently announced that Sunday’s 10 mile race had recognised as a qualifier for the OCR World Championship (HERE) and with the promise of a heatwave, the stage was set for a belter of a weekend.

On registering I was informed that I was in the 10am wave for the 5k and the 12pm wave for the 10k. So this provided me with a solid two hours to complete the first race, change my kit and take on some nutrition. Sadly the 5k wave was subsequently pushed back to 10.30am due to a few last minute entries, but with the sun shining, the mood was ecstatic and the challenge was on:

The Suffering - 5k

Having undertaken a few 5k OCRs, I was expecting a gentle start to the challenge, giving me a taste of what was to come. Sadly I was very mistaken and the clue is in the name of this race series, 'The Suffering' started almost immediately.

After making it across a number of horse jumps, competitors were treated to a tyre carry with a cargo net and a 6ft wall. However this tyre carry had a twist through the inclusion of the 'Reapers'. These are marshals placed around the course to ensure safety but can also hand out exercises to competitors. Before even picking up a tyre I was made to do 25 (yes 25) burpees and then navigate, or stumble around, the tyre carry.

On surviving the tyre carry, I made it to a pleasant stream with a Reaper smiling ominously at me before he elected me to do 10 press ups, 10 sit ups and 10 burpees in the middle of the stream. I often suggest that my rhythm gets broken in other races, but I can safely say that the inclusion of Reapers ensured that I had no ruthm at all for long periods, almost from the start of this race!

Rockingham Park is famed for its hills and the 5k provided a small glimpse of this at the castle with the inclusion of slaloms. These were divided into about 10 lanes and competitors were asked to run up and down these, with tyres or logs of wood, to the end. As the heat increased, the relentless hills and the 5k began to force many people to a walking pace.

Fortunately all that remained were a slide, tyre flips, one Reaper who felt sit ups in a bog were fun and around five walls to the finish line. As I crossed the line in about 1 hour 15 minutes, I was pleased to make the next wave but my time to change, eat and relax a little had gone.

After changing all my kit apart from my Inov-8 200’s, it was back to the start line for the 10k to news that the 5k had actually been 5.2 miles!

The Suffering Legend 2015

The Suffering - 10k

The 'Legends' wave had sadly decreased by about half. I can only presume that the missing participants were still taking on the 5k. Although we warmed up nicely after the start with a further succession of horse jumps and split terrain, the course took a turn for the worse and we were given a thorough introduction to Rockingham Park’s hills with some sheer vertical climbs and ascents. 

I have reviewed a number of races and commented that the hills were never ending or the race was constantly climbing. I take that all back in light of what Rockingham Park threw at me. The hills were simply relentless and we spent a large majority of the time either climbing them or running down them, with obstacles breaking up the pain!

Rich and Drew had sprinkled in a good selection of obstacles, ranging from cargo net crawls, up the hills, to a number of weighted carries over and across some of the terrain. This was in addition to standard favourites such as 8 ft walls or a rope climb. The pace of the race ensured that you never had a moment to recover as the clever combination of the terrain and obstacles took their toll on you.

By the end of the race my pace and my upper body strength began to leave me. Fortunately on making it to the slide I knew that the race was coming to an end. Due to the amount of water, mud and washing up liquid that had been spread on the slide it had gone from a fairly fun affair to an obstacle that was genuinely scary as your pace increased considerably towards the end!

The myriad of walls at the end provided the biggest test as my exhausted body could not find the previous strength or technique, that I previously enjoyed, to hoist or even climb over them. Luckily I was not alone in this predicament and a number of people began to help each other.

The 10k (actually around 9 miles) had battered me with a sharp combination of hill running, constant carries and breaking exercises by the Reapers. Despite stretching and having a bath, I had genuine thoughts of going home as my body was simply shutting down and walking became an issue.

The Suffering Legend 2015

The Suffering - 10 miles

Sunday morning reared its head and as I lay in my hotel bed my whole body ached. Despite 9 hours of sleep and some stretching, I honestly thought that I would be crazy to take on the final race. The Suffering had, through their clever use of terrain and obstacles, wrecked me and despite supporting myself with Red Venom compression, my body simply did not want to entertain the idea of any further running, let alone across such a distance.

On talking to a number of would be Legends, plus some Legends, it appeared that I was not alone in this feeling and everyone was talking about survival rather than racing. As the race began and we were back over the horse jumps into a carry course, with two Reapers presiding, I could understand why.

These Reapers were, despite the sun being out, not in a good mood and I was asked to do 20 push ups, 20 squats and 20 burpees within minutes of leaving the start line. Sadly this did not do anything for my pain other than intensify it and ensured that I would be plodding through the carry.

On being given the opportunity to run, my legs began to feel alive and I gradually increased my pace, only to be treated to continual climbs and descents, broken up with further slaloms containing carries or a quarry, with further carries. The Reapers were also providing further punishment through weighted squats, with the tyre or water keg, or bear crawls, that simply destroyed your legs.

As I passed a few people they all shouted that I was doing well to still be running and at points I was surprised myself, as the course began to take every last bit of energy out of me, even without the help of sit ups in streams or press ups after navigating walls.  At the final batch of obstacles, my strength fortunately returned and allowed me to climb the walls, but I thought I was going to collapse at the finish line.

The Suffering Legend 2015

The Suffering had lived up to its name and pushed me in ways I had not imagined. I have never done an OCR challenge where I genuinely asked myself whether I could walk anymore, let alone finish the course. The mental fear that crept in during this challenge was unknown to me and I was not alone in having moments of self doubt over the weekend.

Drew and Rich cleverly used every inch of the terrain to their advantage and created a really challenging course that was simply relentless at times, through the ascents and descents. The 10 mile race was of particular note and would have taken a number of victims on its own, let alone those going for Legend status that were already broken from the day before.

This being said the course was stunning at points, as Rockingham Park is simply beautiful. The Reapers provided a welcome, although painful, distraction and some much needed humour through their 'challenges' and the obstacles were well placed to ensure that you forgot about the pain you were feeling.

This is an OCR that plays to a runner’s strength and the obstacles were pitched well. I felt that there could have been one or two more additional obstacles throughout the 10 mile course, such as further walls or a rope traverse across one of the rivers, but then you would have to ask if this would have been too much for the competitors.

The races in isolation provided an excellent challenge and were all achievable, but as for the challenge of doing all three in a weekend - I have to say that the 'Suffering Legend' status and medal was well earned as it was pretty horrendous at times and is not for the faint hearted.

Overall the Suffering Race offered a fantastic insight into Obstacle Course Racing and is worthy of both their name and their status as a World Championship Qualifier. The jury may be drawn on the distances provided, but the experience offered by the Suffering Race will stay with me for a long time, and that is the mark of a fantastic race/series. 

The Suffering Legend 2015

More information about the Suffering Race and the “Suffering Legend” challenge can be found here: www.thesufferingrace.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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