Mudman. Man Vs. Nature… Not for the faint hearted
As my alarm rudely awakened me on Saturday 7th March at 5.25am, I naively thought that the most gruelling part of the day would be force feeding myself porridge 5 minutes later…. I was in for one big, no, huge mountainous shock.
The Mudman was the finale in the Human Race Off Road series. Set in the MoD grounds at Camberley with a choice of a 10km or 15km trail run or the Duathlon, which attracts around 800 participants across the 3 events. I opted for the 15km trail and with most of the races I am running at the moment, what caught my eye was that it was ‘dog-friendly’ all other details were somewhat overlooked!
So, with porridge consumed, bags packed, dog harnessed up, and full of excitement, Daisy and I hit the road at 6.45am. An hour and forty minutes later we drove into the very well signed posted MoD ground. We were on time (yes, you are reading this correct… Josanne Ell was on time for a race, it’s actually becoming a bit of a habit!).
Marshalled to a parking spot nestled amongst the trees I could feel my excitement growing, it may be army training ground, but it was stunning, this was real off road, no tarmac in sight and the sun was shining. Registration was really well organised and I quickly collected my race number, free t shirt and handful of gels and headed off towards the start line. Start times were staggered and there was a 10min difference between the 10 and 15km race, with Canicrossers being held back an additional 4mins. So we joined the rest of the determined and rather professional looking runners for the briefing and patiently waited for the klaxon to sound. At 9.10am on the dot we cheered the dogless 15kers off and 4mins later over much barking and excitable doggies, we were off… I still had no idea what lay ahead other than it was 2 laps of 7.5km trail with a water feature at some point!
The first kilometre or so, now that I am post run I would describe as flat and rocky under foot, at the time it didn’t feel that flat, couple of mini slopes and gulleys, but in comparison to the next 6km I was about to tackle it was as flat as it was ever going to be. ‘Ooo’ I thought ‘I am enjoying this’, we had a fast and good start, it’s flatish, we’re in woodland, the sun’s out, there’s other dog runners and hills, what hills?? this is going to be ok…
We got through the ‘water feature’, well Daisy got carried across the knee deep 40metre expanse of freezing smelly water and we carried on, we were now descending and I knew if there was a down there was surely to be an up… and this is where the brutality of it really started, and I was still clueless. The first hill was in sight and it was steep and I mean steep. Like everyone else we managed a half run, half walk up it and due to the gradient the same on the way down, half walk/run. ‘Phew’ I panted at the bottom, ‘that’s got that out the way’ and again, naively I thought this was the worse of it done. Courses in woodland are very misleading, because you can’t really see what’s round the next bend, and yes you guessed it, another mini mountain, then another, then another, then another and then I simply lost count… we were on a roller-coaster of hills and all I could think was that I had to do this all over again on the second lap, and NEVER AGAIN. To give you an idea of how horrendous these hills were some were named after the Die Hard films (Climb Hard, Climb Hard 2, Climb Hard with a Vengeance… I thought this was very clever initially, by the third I definitely lost my sense of humour!) and there were an abundance of marshals and occasional St John’s ambulances positioned at the top! Oh and with a dog attached to you even attempting to run down the slopes you’d either need full body armour or nerves of steel.
So this pretty much carried on for the rest of the 7.5km lap, up, down, up, down… you get the picture… and I’m not going to lie I was ready to stop, my quads and hamstrings were burning, I felt done in and light-headed, this was beyond hard, I had never experienced anything like it and as we were coming up to lap 2 I knew I could have easily slipped down that finishers tunnel… but I didn’t, the marshals and the crowds spurred me on. We stopped at the water station, rehydrated and looking at Daisy she was loving it and ready for more, and you know what, so I was, deep down I was enjoying it, I knew what was coming now, and so-what if I had to walk all the hills and we came in last, we were going to finish and not give up! So with a little PMA we were off on lap two and this time I had a smile on my face and actually managed to close the gap on 2 fellow canicrossers, we got each other round the rest of the course and all crossed the finish line within seconds of each other! We did it!!!!!!! I was handed water, protein bars and other delights and Daisy got some doggie treats, our names were called over the loud speaker as we finished and I was congratulated by the group of canicrossers, whom I have befriended over the last couple of events, who all waited to welcome us over the finish line, we all shared stories of how horrendous the course was and now that the dogs were calmer they all had their chance to say hello (that’s a bottom sniff to those undoggy folk!)
The whole event was faultless and so well organised and mapped out. Other than the hills, the actual course was lovely running through woodland and also wide enough to cater for runners and canicrossers without any trip hazards, there was one section that was almost single file but by this point everyone was pretty spread-out and had zero energy to overtake anyway.
Everyone was really friendly especially towards dogs and the atmosphere was alive. If you want to test yourself on hills then this is for you, if you are of the Scotty Brenton mind, then avoid at all costs!
So, reflecting 2 days later, still unable to scale my stairs and muscles aching in odd places, I would say that I’d do this race again, next time though I will be more prepared!