Once you’ve got your shoes muddy, you can start looking at races to get your competitive spirit burning. Here is MR’s take on some of the strangest, dirtiest and downright deranged events on the circuit
Some of the names they give these events can make you think twice, but you don’t need to be an endurance lunatic to try your hand at an off-road race. There are events across the country ranging from distances and difficulty a beginner with a solid running base can try, to the more unhinged end of the scale that requires serious, long-term training and a precarious grip on your sense of self-preservation.
WELCOME TO HELLWhat?
Cheshire, Cannock and LongmoorWhen?
Up north – Nov 7, In the Middle – Feb 12, 2011, Down South – Nov 27 & 28How far?
Ten to 12 miles
Now in its 12th year, the Hell Runner series is one of the most popular events of its kind. With events up north, down south and now in the Midlands, the distance of each course is billed as somewhere between ten and 12 miles, the mud and hills are plentiful, and the sense of achievement at the end is immense. Oh, and there is a bloke in a devil costume waiting for you in an obstacle known, cheerily, as the Bog of Doom, which sounds like one of George Michael’s Los Angeles haunts.
Seasoned Hell Runners’ advice is to use an old pair of running shoes and some manky kit you won’t mind binning after the race. And if you want to stop your footwear being sucked off by the mud, bring a roll of gaffer tape with you to keep them on your feet. Have no expectations of a fast time, only that you will have an absolute blast.
Mike Rodgers did Hell Down South for the first time last year. “I hadn’t done a proper off-road race before and this was a great introduction,” he says. “I had run a couple of half-marathons before, so the distance wasn’t a problem but it took me longer just because of the crowds and the hills [and the devil]. It’s all about enjoying it, though. I’d recommend it to anyone up for a laugh.” www.hellrunner.co.uk
THIS… IS… SPARTA! What?
UK-wide from next yearWhen?
Six dates in 2011How far?
Actually, it’s not Sparta. It took place in Cambridge this year. The Spartan 5K was the first of its kind in the UK. Its American creators are looking to roll the concept out in this country next year with another race in Cambridge on July 24, followed by Exeter on August 14, Manchester on September 4, Birmingham on September 25 and London on October 16. You don’t have to dress up like Gerard Butler, but you will have to face the odd helmet-clad lunatic with a pugil stick. Other challenges include a mud pit, a spear throw, a crawl through a barbed wire-covered pit and a leap of faith over a burning bale of hay. It all sounds mental, but over 5K it’s a good distance for a novice to tackle and as their Facebook page says, guys from couch potatoes to cage fighters like to have
a go, so no need to feel put off, whatever your running level.
The winner is rewarded with an authentic piece of Spartan headgear and entry into the Spartan World Championship in the States, otherwise known as the Death Race. Its website is named www.youmaydie.com, which would leave MR inclined to hang about in the middle of the pack and let someone else win.www.spartanrace.com
THERE'S MUD IN YOUR EYEWhat? MudManWhere?
December 5 2010How far?
The MudMan is an extremely hilly course and billed as ‘not for the faint hearted’, so you will need to be ready for the gradients on one of the MOD’s sites in Camberley. If the sun comes out and the weather has been kind in the previous two weeks, then you’ll be in for an enjoyable winter’s morning. And the chances of that in the first week of December are about as likely as the Vatican City’s football team being sponsored by Durex, so get ready to get muddy. It’s not called the CleanMan, is it? This is one of a series of races that includes the IceMan, WildMan and TuffMan. Are you getting the picture? Entries for the MudMan are open until November 29.www.humanrace.co.uk
January 16 2011How far?
When the Ministry of Defence wants to put a new combat vehicle through its paces, they send it here. If this is where a tank is tested to its very limits, it must be pretty rugged terrain. Now you can find out for yourself. Run Rampage’s inaugural event takes place on January 16 2011. Ricky Moore, race organiser, says: “We wanted to put an event on that was a bit tougher than your average 10K, but not as far in distance as the likes of Tough Guy and the more extreme races. This is a bit harder than the average 10K but people can still feel it’s achievable.
“The hills are very steep, but not too horrendous and there are at least five or six so it will be a challenge, especially by the time you reach the last slope. The whole course is very hilly and it’s multi-terrain, with stretches on concrete, mud, sand and parts through water. That’s what makes it quite different, along with having to cope with January temperatures. It
is a tough challenge, but we hope that even if entrants wanted to walk it they’d be able to.”www.runrampage.com
HALF THE FUNWhat?
The Dirt Half ChallengeWhere?
November 20How far?
This half-marathon makes its entry to the off-road scene on November 20. The race follows the canal towpath north from Leighton Buzzard to Stoke Hammond, climbs to Great Brickhill and then passes through the scenic Stockgrove Country Park before following the Greensand Ridge back to the start via the canal towpath. Organiser Andy Hully says: “We’ve organised races before and struggled to get 100 people. For this race we got over 250 without having to promote it too much. I think that shows that people find off-road running more enjoyable. The scenery is better, the terrain is different and that makes it more fun and more interesting than traditional road races.”www.dirtrunning.co.uk
The Yorkshireman Off-Road MarathonWhere?
September 2011How far?
Not for the beginner (obviously), but there’s plenty of training time before next year’s event if you want to set yourself a long-term goal. It also gives you time to brush up on your orienteering skills, because if you don’t want to end up wandering the Yorkshire countryside for weeks on end, you’ll need to know which way is up on a map to get round this course. The race is run under the rules laid down by the Fell Runners Association and you’ll need a map, compass, emergency rations and all the other kit they tell you to carry. You’ll thank them later. The route covers open moors and also takes in the highest point in West Yorkshire. The race is also open to walkers.
They say: “Enter individually or round up some other nutters and enter as a team. It’s tough, but we know you wouldn’t want it any other way and 6,500 nutters in 2009 are proof of that.”
They say: “You will need every last ounce of mental and physical strength you can muster. Your fear of heights, tight spaces, fire, water and electricity will be tested to the max.”
of water obstacles, boggy tracks, steep inclines and lots of mud. This place eats 4 x4s for breakfast. Imagine what it could do to you!”
They say: “A gruelling 10K race with more than 300 metres of climb over challenging terrain.” The race starts and finishes at Machen Welfare Recreation Ground in Machen South Wales, UK.
They say: “Ten miles of the gnarliest mix of mud, sweat and trail to satisfy the most hardcore of off-road desires! The infamous natural assault course will push you to the limit!”