I’ve been wanting to do a Ram Run obstacle course race for quite some time now as they have been building a growing reputation, it’s fairly local to me and most importantly they were so generous and helpful in their donations to the charity raffle I organised last year. Event clashes however have meant I’ve had to miss the last couple and I waited to the last minute to make a decision on weather to race this one due to such a heavy schedule of late. I felt good at World War Run the pervious weekend though so decided to give it a go.
The event consisted of a full weekend of races including a 12k trophy race and a 8k on the Saturday and a 24k trophy race as well as another 12k on the Sunday. Both days also included a 900m time trial event.
Due to work commitment I couldn’t make the Saturday but felt I wanted to be as competitive as possible so although a little future than I’d of ideally chosen I opted for the 24k and also entered the Rampage 900 as a little sharpener.
A straightforwards 40 minute drive brought me and my Dad, who at the age of 60 was running his first ever obstacles course race in the 12k, to Stoneleigh park in Kenilworth. I got myself ready for what would be by far the shortest OCR I’ve done to date but one I wish there would be more of as the shorter distances suit me better coming from a middle distance running background.
The Rampage 900 consisted of a short flat run followed by a 200m log carry then a succession of man made obstacles all in the main event arena. It was a time trail rather than a race so we were set off in small groups every minute. I wasn’t entirely short where I was going so opted to go in the second group so that I had some people to follow and also chase down.
I had caught all but one by the end of the log carry and drew level with the leader as we climbed a scaffolding structure before having to do 10 burpees each. I then pulled away on the monkey bars but was given another 15 burpees to do as I had apparently taken the easier of the two routes that had rope rather than foot holes (not that I used either anyway) without knowing.
Once I had completed my second set of burpees I was still ahead and flew under a tight crawl then over a series of walls before heading to the finish. I later found out that I’d recorded the fastest time of the day.
I then had about half a hour before the start of the 24k elite wave.
Although the sun hadn’t quite broke through the clouds I found it to be very humid and my green Muddy Race t-shirt was covered in flies so I made a quick chance into my Parklands Tough Running vest and I was ready to go.
On the start line I saw so familiar faces so know I was in for a competitive race but that what I’d expected and we were set off I found the early pace fast. I eased off letting the front 4 go as I knew there was a long was to go. I wanted to feel my way into this one rather than getting caught up in a race so early on and I was confident my endurance would pull me through in the later stages.
The first couple of kilometres was almost all running which would normally suit me but I wasn’t feeling great at all. My pace wasn’t overly fast but didn’t feel anywhere near as relaxed as it should have done. I was hoping things would get better as they went on and tried to keep pushing so that I didn’t loose touch of the leaders.
As the obstacles and water (lots of water) came I started to feel a little better as I cooled down but still wasn’t on my game. We reached some cross over sections of the course so I could see how much catching up I needed to do. This course offered plenty of open running so I could see all those in front of me from time to time. I eventually passed the forth placed runner and set my sights on third but as the race went on I knew I had a real job on my hands to get anywhere near the leading two.
As much as I was grateful of the water sections on such a warm day they seemed to be really sapping my already depleted energy meaning my running that followed was slower than it should have been. There was an awesome jump from a bridge into deep water that I really enjoyed but I can’t speak as highly for the swim that followed. Swimming isn’t one of my strong points.
This was followed by some undulating woodland trail which was very muddy in places. The variety of terrain in this race was great. Although you were constantly going back and forth around the same area you always felt as though you were mixing it up doing something different.
As we followed the gravel path back into the event arena signifying the 8k mark I final caught up with third place and we had a tussle for the next miles arriving at the 50 meter swim almost side by side. That was until we were greeted with the infamous ‘bridge of despair’, voted the UK’s toughest obstacle!
It involved getting from the deep water below up and over the bridge via a climb using either a straight rope, a knotted rope, a thin cargo net or a thicker more sturdy cargo net all dangling from above. If you were competing for the trophies however you had to take the hardest straight rope climb or face a forfeit of burpees and a time penalty.
I normally don’t have a problem with a rope climb but just getting onto the rope from the water was a task within itself then with a soaking wet body things were made 10 times more tricky and once I had managed to hoist my way up the hardest part was still to came- getting myself from the rope onto the suspensions of the bridge and handing on for dear life or facing a substantial and uncomfortable drop back down.
As much as I tried in honestly I had no idea how I was going to make this awkward manoeuvre but suddenly struck the idea of getting myself between the two rafters running horizontally along the bottom of the bridge and although it was one hell of a tight squeeze it seemed to work as I finally managed to get up and onto the huge metal structure and continued my running. I was later told that none of the marshals had ever seen this technique used before but it did the job for me.
Unfortunately though I had lost time on the dreaded bridge and third place, who was a member of Team Ram, so I’m guessing had a much more polished approach to the unique obstacle than I did, had pulled away again and it was hard going to get any speed up in a effort to once again close the gap in the horrendously boggy mud that followed.
The remaining kilometre of the first of two laps did however involve some firmer ground but much of it was made up of a hill slalom so by the time I’d completed the lap which marked the half way point it was much the same with me still in forth place with some catching up to do. I was already starting to feel the strain and wasn’t sure my body would allow me to push hard for another 12k but I kept going as hard as I could.
On the long run that followed I got a look at how far ahead second and third place actually were, the leader was now out of sight altogether. I felt on a good day defiantly third place and possibly even second place would still be achievable but this was far from a good day. My energy levels were really low and although I was holding my place comfortably I wasn’t doing any more catching up, in fact I was probably loosing further ground.
I then started hitting the trail end of the runners in the later waves and the 12k racers. This made it increasingly hard to see the race that was unfolding in front and behind me and despite the marshals best efforts, at some obstacles I was slightly held up. Quite unusually for me I was loosing my competitiveness rapidly. I felt the race had gone and I wasn’t sure weather it was worth pushing any harder when my body was clearly very tired with this being my third consecutive weekend of racing since completing 85 miles at Endure 24.
I then caught a glimpse of my dad just ahead of me. He was moving at a good pace because it took me a while to catch him and in that time I had decided to call it a day with regards to racing and instead accompany him for the remaining 8 or so kilometres.
We had a great laugh and I was able to run at a much more relaxed pace while passing on some obstacle techniques I’ve learned over the last couple of years to my inexperienced dad. He did amazingly well and seemed to take it all in his stride finishing first in his age category.
I thought Ram Run was a top event all round with a great friendly feel yet also very competitive. They made great use of the environment with almost the entire course (apart from the arena area) made up of natural obstacles. The race director Iain Exeter is a complete legend. He was on the mic all day supplying race commentary and cracking jokes. Being hilarious came natural to him but he had a serious side too and makes charity central to the event. His generosity and emphasis on giving his races value for money is why this event has improved so much and will continue to do so.