Having successfully completed my first obstacle course race last weekend, I now realise there are a couple of things I could have done to better prepare myself. I should precis all of the following by saying that despite looking like I had just been killed by the end, it was one of the best things I have ever done, and I can’t recommend it highly enough to everyone I’ve ever met, ever, including you and you definitely will not regret it if you decide to do something similar.
That said, forewarned is fore-armed, so here is my helpful checklist to help out in the preparation for your first muddy challenge.
1. The scramble net.
That’s scrambling UNDER, not over (that’s for later). There’s a lot of this, so you need to make sure you get it right. To prepare, procure yourself an angry toddler, and induce it to tantrum. Assume a prone position, belly down. Position your eager face directly in the line of fire of their flailing, thrashing, kicking feet; to add a level of realism ensure the toddler is wearing extremely dirty size 12 boots and it is snowing.
2. The slide
Who doesn’t love a slip and slide? You, in November, that’s who. To succeed at this obstacle you must practice the wilful abandonment of all self-preservation instincts, as the reality is that after a gleeful man with a cold hose and washing up liquid has ‘lubed you up’ (this is not as pleasurable as it may sound (to you – he however is having the time of his life)), you and thirty strangers will hurl yourselves in rapid succession down a terrifyingly steep incline, with only two woefully inadequate hay bales and the soggy tangle of broken people to stop you at the bottom. Some of them are even still alive. Aim for the twitchers, it’s kinder.
3. The Walls
There are a lot of these. The first few will lull you into a false sense of hope, as you spring like a gazelle in sportswear over the equivalent of a slightly high picket fence, convinced that those other ten foot high ones you saw near the start line must be for the 12 mile race tomorrow. Right? You are fucking BATMAN right now! So prepare yourself before the race for the inevitable humiliation of having to be heaved over said ten foot high wall like a world weary elephant seal by several men you have never met, all of whom (yourself included) will think nothing of bracing their shoulders against your sorry, prone, mud covered rear end, whilst grappling your thighs to toss you over that wall like the proverbial caber.
Find a mixing bowl, and a large spoon. From your garden, carefully harvest 5 heaped tablespoons full of dark, loamy soil, and sift into your bowl. Using a pipette, gradually add 500ml of cloudy, cold water (from a pond is ideal if you can source it) stirring constantly until you have a smooth paste. Sprinkle with shredded leaf mould to finish. Using a measuring jug, carefully pour the mixture into both ears, and punch yourself in the face. You have successfully mocked up the English winter.
5. The finish line
It’s important to consider what might actually happen should you survive your race. In order to prepare for the feeling of completing the beginners 5k race, I would recommend starting your training by pouring superglue over your shoelaces. Proceed to run 12 miles to a busy public place – I find a supermarket carpark ideal – being aware that your planned race ‘distance’ is a whimsical lie by the event organisers. Oh how they laugh! Strap two large bags of ice to your hands, whilst a colleague empties a bucket of water over your head. Standing next to the open boot of any car, proceed to remove all garments below the waist, working hard on the feeling of utter indifference as to how many people can see your actual area as you attempt to remove your sodden shoes. (This works even better if the colleague is 1. of the opposite sex and 2. an actual work colleague). Do not remove the bags of ice until you have eaten three burgers and a portion of chips.
So that ought to do it! Sounds like fun right?
Despite all of the above, I am totally hooked – this is one of the few things I have done as an adult that absolutely conjures back the simple childish pleasures of running around outside like an absolute berk, not caring what you look like, who is watching or what time your mum is going to call you in for tea. It made me feel incredibly grateful for the things we DO have and take for granted – hot water, warm houses, ready wrapped snacks and clean clothes – and at the same time itching to see how much further I can push myself next time. Because there will definitely be a next time. Who’s with me??!
For pre-race jitters blog, see here