My alam was set for 5am for a near 6 hour round trip to Wiltshire for the 9.30am ‘elite wave’ start time of what had become the UK’s most anticipated OCR ever. It was an early start and a long journey but an event I didn’t want to miss.
After a quick stop for a roadside photo of the nearby Stonehenge I’d arrived at Sailbury Plain. A Cold War army village built to train the best Military Forces featuring a FIBUA (fighting in built up areas) village.
Once we’d been put through one of the better pre event warm ups involving an MC and drum and base music pumping out it was on to the start line where we were reminded that this is a ‘challenge’ not a ‘race’ (which didn’t quite fit with me as we were in what they called an ‘elite wave’) then we were off.
The first thing I could see was how hilly this area was and after a few splashes through some deep puddles the first of many hill climbs arrived. This one had to be done while carrying a tyre, up, along and back down again for 1k. This would be a patten that became all too familiar with further long hill carries with a bucket of gravel, a stone and chain drag and then came ‘the sandbag mile’.
This was a full mile of a hilly lap through some woodlands with the only break from the sandbag being a rope climb and a rope ladder climb . During this section there was also a memory test which involved studying a painting then answering a question on it with a forfeit of burpees for a wrong answer. Luckily I got mine right!
I’d kept myself in the first few and although one runner had got a decent early lead I was confident that on a 10 mile course I could play catch up in the later stages if needs be.
An obstacle I enjoyed was a succession of tractor tyre flips as I’d always wanted a go at this. One I wasn’t too keen on was a kettle bell wind up as I felt it was just put there for the sake of it to break up the running.
I found a lot of the first 10 miles of this race to be a bit repetitive and it wasn’t as challenging as I was expecting but I knew the showpiece of the FIBUA village was still to come.
At around the 8 mile point I’d wound in the early leader and was running close with just one other competitor now still feeling like I had a lot left so I took the lead for the first time and tried to create a gap. Just as I’d got away I suffered some cramp in my hamstring while in some waist deep water and had to take a couple of minutes to sort it out.
This allowed 2nd place to catch me up and regain around a minute lead which I was able to close back down once I’d got back into my running and as I reached the FIBUA village with around a mile to go (this would make the distance 11 miles rather than the advertised 10) I felt I’d build up a winning lead.
I negotiated the first few wall climbs with no problems then made my way into the first floor building of one of the war village houses where I was directed by a marshal into a dead end. My shouts seemed to fall of death ears and it cost me around 2 minutes before 2nd place once again took the chance to catch up.
Finally we were told to jump out of the window and directed back into a succession of other houses and across 2nd story buildings by balance beams and through some very tight and pitch black tunnels.
There was no room for error in this section and it was caution over speed meaning although I was still ahead I was neck and neck with 2nd place going into an epic obstacle named the Infinity Jump (see photos below).
All that was left then was a final tunnel crawl before the finish line. We arrived at the two tunnels at almost the same time but I was still slightly ahead. The idea was to go up one tunnel and back down the other so I was straight in thinking 2nd place was following behind me and had no way of overtaking.
I crawled back out to find the marshal had told him to go through the other tunnel so we could race it out . I’d of been all for this had I of known but I didn’t and by the time I had found out the race was over. I’d finished in 2nd place.
It was very disappointing, especially having worked so hard to build up a good lead but as this was not billed as a race , there were no prizes and no results published I took it on the chin and put it down to the nature of this new sport where every event organiser is still learning.
It was still a great experience and I’m glad I made to trip.