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The Winter Monster provides cold water and heart-warming laughter

by Paul Hayward
Wednesday 14th October 2015
Tags  Winter Monster   |   Monster Race   |   Paul Hayward   |   OCR
 
 

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward laughs his way through The Winter Monster

The Winter Monster

Photos © The Little Photo Company Limited

Last year I discovered the Monster Race purely by accident (HERE) and I was blown away by the experience and value offered by this Obstacle Course Race (OCR). The race is, rightly, aimed at beginners and manages to offer one of the best OCR experiences that you can get with a balance of great, but achievable obstacles at a fantastic price.

I think I summed up the experience perfectly in my roundup of 2014 (HERE) by saying “Monster Race offer one of the best value and fun courses you can do”.

Last weekend saw the Winter Monster Race take place in Charlton Park in Wiltshire. Simon and the team at Monster Race showed yet again that they can get the balance just right and offer one of the best races, not only in value but experience. With a 40% increase of people racing the Winter Monster from last year, could they improve on what was a fantastic race 6 months ago?

I decided to run a later wave to have a chance to gauge the thoughts of others and especially those taking on the race for the first time.

I say this too often, but you can easily forget that OCR is essentially about fun. As I crawled under the wooden beams and through the mud to the start line I was hit by a massive clump of mud, thrown by three girls jostling in their bootcamp tops, laughing. They apologised and I had to laugh, as they were clearly having a great time and the race had not even started!

This theme of fun was to continue all through the race and as I surmounted hay bales or small jumps, I was surrounded by people urging each other to do the obstacle and smiling or cheering when they all had climbed over it. Moments like this remind you of the benefits that OCR brings to our world, as people who would not normally run 5k or 10k find themselves out running on a cold Saturday in October.

On reaching a crawl under some tyres I could hear screams coming from the middle or the end of the obstacle and I became a little nervous. As I crawled to the middle section I became frozen by a huge wave of cold water. It would appear that the marshal was throwing cold buckets of water over everyone and there was no escape or way to dodge it! As I remained stationary and soaked under the obstacle, I found myself smiling with the girl next to me who smiled and said “I am going to kill her”.

The Winter Monster

Photos © The Little Photo Company Limited

This comment made me laugh out loud and as I ran through Charlton Park and its beautiful scenery. I couldn’t help but wonder just how simple things seem to work so well at this race. On making it through to the forest, aptly named “Gloomy Wood”, I became worried that I was about to be hit with some smoke machines or even a huge muddy crawl.

Sadly neither of these featured, bar the picturesque woodland, and I soon found myself  reaching a sloping wall, with bars to climb up, and some dreaded congestion as only three people were allowed over the obstacle at a time. Normally I would fear that people were getting cold but everyone seemed to be too busy telling each other off, to much laughter, for not waiting!

This could have easily been remedied by another wall which would have helped to disperse the queue of people quickly, but as said the queue did not appear to bother most of the participants. The second set of walls did not suffer from this problem but they had been made much harder due to the mud from the earlier waves. This caused widespread devastation and it was a battle to get over the walls without help. As I climbed up I heard the cry of “I have a found a man, he will help us” and turning round it appears they were referring to me!

So five minutes later, after I was trampled to pieces, all three ladies were over the wall and we were all laughing about just how muddy it had been! This would prove a warm up though for the obstacle known as “the Stench” in the middle of the next wood. Although it was probably quite a disgusting bog at the beginning of the day, the effect of the earlier waves had caused it to be well and truly churned up and it became impossible to wade through.

As I lost my arms and my legs (with moments of thinking that my shoes were going too), the smell was horrendous and as it was disgusting. I really felt for the poor competitor next to me who lost his trainer, his footing and then went completely in. Thankfully he could wash off in the river soon after, but I could not help but join in with the laughter!

On making it to the final hill, from the monkey bars and the river swim, the run to the finish line was on. Fan favorite obstacles featured, such as the Titan, a weight on the end of a rope, and the Meat Grinder (a massive crawl through tyres above and below you) before the finish line and the new balance obstacles, which were a welcome addition, and the huge “toilet seat” (a climb through multiple toilet basins) which required you to pull yourself up through it then get down as quickly as possible!

I crossed the line to the smiles of the marshals and I took a moment to watch the ladies behind me, who held hands as they crossed together, cheering. The elder lady said “I didn’t think I would make it today” and they hugged.

The Winter Monster

Photos © The Little Photo Company Limited

Monster Race may not have the huge obstacles that you find at other events or join with other providers in saying they are the “toughest race”; but therein lies their secret and winning formula - they provide a race that is achievable, with a balance of perfectly pitched obstacles, including monkey bars, and by doing so provide an experience that is fun and genuinely enjoyable.

There is some criticism that the Monster Race does not offer t-shirts at the end and whilst I can see the complaint, this race is fantastically priced compared to a lot of other races and offers more, in terms of value and experience, than their higher priced competitors. Whilst there was congestion at some of the obstacles, no doubt due to the popularity of the event as it grows, this is easily fixable with some additional walls and the relocation of obstacles into a wider field as the race grows even bigger.

I would have liked to see the final obstacles strung together, like the Summer Monster, towards the end, not only for competitors but for those watching, but I am struggling to find constructive criticism with this race. I can only add to what I have said already, that this is a must for your diary next season and remains one of the best OCRs I have been to. If you have the choice of one or two races - this is a must and has to be included.

More information on the Summer Monster and the Winter Monster 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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