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We head to the woods looking for BigFoot

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 31st March 2016
When ‘BigFoot Challenge’ entered Obstacle Course Racing (‘OCR’) last year with a series of previews depicting woodland, hills and a ‘mythical simian’ that has not been sighted for a fair while, many believed that the race would disappear like its namesake. Fast forward 12 months and in the glow of receiving a Mudstacle award for ‘most innovative OCR 2016’, BigFoot Challenge roared to its new venue in St Julians in Kent last weekend hoping to start their 2016 series with a bang. 
Much like the frustration of those chasing BigFoot itself, I almost missed the race due to Bank Holiday incidents on the M25 and I found myself in the final wave, after possibly the quickest registration I have ever done, at 12.30pm with six other competitors. I was a little surprised to learn that there were no bibs and no timing chips, however, after getting over this impasse something very special unfolded. 

Bigfoot collage 1

Images by Tony Jarvis photography

Released from the pressure of getting a time I was free to take my time and soak up Bigfoot Challenge’s terrain and obstacles. This was just as well as the venue offered an onslaught of hills through mixed terrain that made South Wales look flat in comparison and after one or two vertical climbs, the obstacles began to come thick and fast. These ranged from wooden ‘A-Frames’ to crawls whereby the logs were low enough to ensure that competitors were forced onto their hands and knees into the mud. There was no chance I would have sped through these had I been timed!
In an interesting spin on a ‘traditional obstacle’ a crawl was set under 5 logs requiring competitors to go onto their backs and pull themselves under the logs with the aid of a rope through the mud to the end. Words cannot convey just how disgusting this was and entailed that by the end of the obstacle your head and shoulders were firmly submerged in the mud. It is thinking like this, on a play on a traditional obstacle, that earnt Bigfoot Challenge their fearsome reputation for innovation and this race did not disappoint. 

Bigfoot collage 2

Images by Emily Johnson photography

Further highlights included a ‘deadlift staircase’, whereby competitors were asked to deadlift to shoulder press a large wooden log up a series of stairs, to ‘Comeback Jack’ whereby you were hoisted in the middle of a rope wrapped across a beam and asked to shimmy across from one end to the other using only your weight and the rope itself. Although it sounds simple enough I was pretty shocked to learn that on making it across I was one of 13 people that had managed it! 
To focus on these obstacles would do the race an injustice though, the course enjoyed more traditional obstacles such as rope climbs, carries including logs and buckets full of stones to obstacles from the OCR World Championships such as a Weaver (a series of logs varying in height and asking competitors to go up and under the whole way) to a Platinum Rig (a combination of ropes, gymnastic rings and monkey bars requiring you to swing from one end to the other) which were all executed well. 

Bigfoot collage 3

Images by Kevin Clow photography

If it was not for the varied and challenging terrain, which was either up the hills gradually / vertically or back down the hills in the same manner, then you may well have had some rhythm to really push through these obstacles at speed. Instead I often found myself gasping for air at each obstacle, with my legs screaming, and this was not helped with me occasionally going ‘off piste’ due to the weather taking the signage or directions away.
On making it to the finish line it would be easy to criticise this race for not having timing chips or a course that was well enough marked out to ensure that competitors all knew the routes that they were expected to run. However to do this would be a real injustice, although course marking is no joke and can lead to a lot of angry competitors not to mention safety issues come race day, BigFoot saved itself through offering a race that was brimming full of innovation, experiences and importantly fun that was immersed in some fantastic terrain. 
BigFoot Challenge offered a real change from the norm through an interesting slant on some traditional obstacles, which completely revitalised them, and through some real innovation that left competitors smiling, laughing and going back for more if they failed. If BigFoot Challenge can ‘iron out some of the kinks’ in their events and address these, then they could be onto something really special. 
If I had to have one complaint, it would be the lack of an obstacle at the finish line. Not because the course needed more obstacles but purely to advertise this event at the venue and show the passing public what they are missing. In a sport that is becoming evermore challenging and competitive, BigFoot Challenge showed that it has the heart to compete - they just need to get some of the basics right and they could be onto a winner. 
More information on the BigFoot Challenge can be found here: http://www.bigfootchallenge.co.uk/event-calendar.html 

Header image by Kevin Clow photography

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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