Within the OCR community there are a few rare things, as rare as a real life Jurassic Park in fact, and this past weekend one of those rare things happened when Obstacle Race Magazine introduced MUD7 to the UK OCR scene.
Now remember that our chosen sport is so competitive that we even have multiple world championships so for anyone to realize a concept like MUD7 is bordering on miracle status. I am sure you are asking yourself, what exactly is MUD7? Well it was a 7k course in which every km featured a different company and on top of that brilliant idea was an expo for all your OCR needs.
Carl and Kevin, the guys behind Obstacle Race Magazine had first hinted at the idea a year ago and I admit even I was wary of how they would achieve this race let alone ensure it was a success. Driving down to the event I was excited and bored as it was 6 -7 hrs from my home and I was traveling alone, but I had won my race place so I was not going to miss this event. I arrived in Coventry early so I agreed to pick up my friend and elite athlete Thomas Blanc (I also decided to buy him white roses, but that was more to embarrass him than in any way prepare for the day of racing).
The venue itself is home to other OCR events already so parking was easy and the walk to registration was clearly marked. The registration was quick with no queues and then we were in the event site and already we could see the excitement building as new obstacles and old favourites were all around. A nice touch was walking under the A framed cargo net towards the expo area and a lake was on our left with markers indicating a swim or wading was going to occur in the race. I wondered around the expo and it was clear most, if not all UK OCR companies, were on hand with great special offers for the growing crowds and was well laid out so the flow was not disruptive between racers and those here to buy stock for future racing.
My wave time was 10:30 and as I entered the start area I was glad a warm up routine was in place with words of encouragement and a reminder that this was a chance to see various events and to enjoy it for what it was and then we were off! The initial km I found out was added to break up the pack and make the obstacles less crowded and this was a great idea as we looped past the lake up and around a few hills and the field soon started to spread out and then it was the first company.
Aztec Warrior is a new name in the scene and their first race is months away so I wasn’t expecting much. We got the usual up and down hills then a balance beam more running and onto a tunnel style obstacle with two lanes. I picked the right lane and found potatoes on the ground as we went into a tunnel and to my left I noticed was meat (The smell was off putting, but I scrambled through). The concept of meat didn’t appeal and I don’t know how well that will go within the OCR community. Right after was a traverse wall which was easy because the hand holds had grooves and the foot hold was full length so not hard or challenging at all. What followed was more trail running onto the next zone, but as a first event and as rookies, Aztec didn’t set the house on fire and hopefully their event is better!
The next zone… we were onto experienced race companies and Airfield Anarchy certainly set their stall the right way as their first obstacle was a massive inflatable slide at least 30ft high which involved a rope cargo climb then slide into a mud pit. This was a perfect example of a company show casing their race and after was a muddy trail run with obstacles built into natural terrain to test your climbing and stability. This was a perfect use of wooded area and queues were starting to build up as technical ability was needed.
What followed was the master of OCR and viewed by millions as the godfather/founder of our sport. Tough Guy was in town and boy oh boy did they have everything right from Celtic warriors beating war drums to cannons firing. This was a sensory invasion and their obstacles were top class from balance beams on an incline the wobbled the closest you got to the end to carrying a full on cross round the woods to dips under logs over waist deep mud pits this was what you expected from expert OCR course designers and everyone loved this section.
Right after was another new company, Bigfoot Challenge and again they fully used the woods and natural terrain to test everything you had from climbing frames to nets and traverse ropes onto monkey bars all spaced out via muddy pits and trail routes zigzagging the woods. Again, another excellent zone. Then onto Ram Run another experienced company who made you climb ropes onto platforms and again built impressive rigs into the natural terrain with cargo nets you had to jump up to climb and an impressive scaffold rig set up with horseshoe rope swings and balance wires to cross before giant bayhales to go over. More mud, lots and lots of mud!
Then onto Reaper, the company whose home this venue was and they stamped that fact right on your forehead with big impressive builds and had you sliding down ramps covering you in thick mud. Ladder climbs and a sloped wall caked in mud onto a cargo net, their obstacle set up was bang bang bang not giving you time to catch your breathe and by now everyone was carrying at least half their body weight in mud. So reaper certainly made you work hard!
After them was one of the companies everyone had come to see Bear Grylls. Yes that same pee drinking, maggot eating adventure nut the whole world knows! So to be able to see what he had in store was one of the main reasons I was eager to come down so far South. He and his company played it safe though. Their obstacles were the standard ones from a rig monkey bar to that massive A frame and walls of various sizes understandable for them to play it safe. However, a few murmured complaints could be heard though as this was a perfect opportunity to stamp your mark within UK OCR. The Bear Grylls course did however, have a brilliant ending a swim/wade across the lake to an island for a cargo crawl. The obstacle itself was meh, but going into the water was a perfect chance to get clean and let your muscles get much needed cold water after an intense 7km race. After the crawl it was back into the water off the island to the finish line and another chance to get clean.
In short, this race was awesome bordering on perfect. Total distance was close to 11km and there was queueing, but expected. Most people were not racing, but enjoying the experience the average finishing time was easily over a few hours due to this. Few people cared or complained as this was an experience unlike any other, this is a brilliant concept and worked in broadening knowledge of other races and mud runs. I personally can’t wait till next year and will be encouraging everyone to come do this race as it highlighted everything we love about this industry. Only down side was a few obstacles seemed unnecessary like the meat in the tunnel and a few obstacles could be improved, but all in all this was full of smiling muddy faces all helping each other. Staff and marshals from all companies were happy and cheering giving hugs and jelly babies with words of encouragement. This, in essence, was OCR at its finest. Let’s see if the big boys come to play next year :).
*Photos By: Mudnificent 7.