The Big BRO Race

Review by Rob Corless.

You never know quite what to expect when turning up to a new race on its opening event. Especially when a completely new concept is involved but the this one didn’t disappoint!

The Big BRO race (BRO standing for Bike, Run, Obstacle) was billed as ‘a triathlon with a difference’ and involved a 22km cycle on road the start with, followed by a 4km trail run and a 1km course packed with 25 obstacles to finish. 100% of the £45 entry fee was donated to Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s leading Beast Cancer charity.

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Nervously arriving in Barrow, I was greeted by a small but adequate setup with bike racks and plenty of obstacles. The registration tent was well organised with everything I needed in the race pack and a friendly good morning from the team.

Other people were beginning to arrive and it was clear the range of the 100 participants was vast.

It would be 3 waves setting off 10 minutes apart from one another. I was in wave 2. My bike was ready and I was all kitted up and rearing to go as I watched a very serious looking wave 1 set off from the road. We were then called up by megaphone for a friendly race briefing before heading out to the start line.

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A short wait later and we were off into a fairly hilly first few miles of the course. I was worried about finding my way round without getting lost but that was soon put to rest when on every turning there was a sign and a marshal cheering and directing us in the right way.

Legs burning I pushed hard on the peddles and before I knew it I had a cycling partner for the duration which made things go easier, no coasting rules in place here luckily! After the first half of the course it seemed to level out and I settled in to finish a well set out route in which all abilities could complete as fast or slow as they wanted.

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Coming back to the changeover point I dismounted my bike and was greeted by yet more marshals and supports giving everyone great encouragement. Racking the bike and heading back out over the timing mat for the run, I was about to find out this was to be the hardest bit.

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The 4k run, which was again very well marshalled, felt twice the distance with jelly legs from the ride. A downhill on road lead us to a farm track for 1k before a long hill to finish back at the transition zone where this time we were straight through and onto the 1km obstacles course.

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Everything from a hay bale pyramid to incline/ decline monkey bars, Cargo nets to water ditches, A rope climb and walls of 4, 8 and 10 feet. The rules stated that a adequate attempt must be made on obstacles or a 1 minute time penalty was given, to be served immediately on coarse. This was a gruelling last kilometre to finish but also good fun.

Awaiting me before the finish line was the ninja wall with two different heights. Picking the bigger of the two I was applauded as I reached the top on the second attempt and crossed the finish. I was rewarded with a well stocked goody bag including food, water a medal and cake!

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The chip timing could be viewed on a screen immediately and massages were also available.

This event gave out a really good vibe and atmosphere and I had a brilliant day all round. I will certainly be back next year after a very well organised, friendly good fun race and to top it off over £4000 was raised for the charity.

*Photos by Martin Grayling who is also donating all profit to the charity. http://www.martingrayling.com/

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Dogstacle South

One Man and his Dogstacle

Review by Andrew Ibbott

The day had finally arrived where two of my passions collide. Canicross (running with your dog) and obstacle course racing- DOGSTACLE (can you see what they did there?)

Although pre race communication from the host ‘Zeus races’ had stated that the obstacles will not be man made but natural it would still be a great challenge and I was still very excited.

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The day didn’t start brilliantly as the venue wasn’t signed greatly and although I managed to catch a glimpse of the only sign to show that you at the right location many were not so luckily and drove straight past.

On entering the grounds parking was simple but many were surprised by the £4 compulsory charge to park, they did state this was going to charity but, not everyone likes surprises and luckily I was carrying some change.

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Registration was quick and easy which is always appreciate and the Dogfit stall (this was the event sponsor) was very useful offering plenty of kit advise.

As time past it went from a very empty field to a lively gathering of dog lovers, with hounds and humans of all shapes and sizes. The dogs certainly adding to the atmosphere making it feel much bigger than the quite low key race it was.

The day was split into two races, a 5km and 10km, with the 10km being 2 laps of the 5km course. After a briefing we were called to the start line and those that wanted to race were invited to the front. As the dogs and their owners gathered there was an overwhelming noise of barking that seems to raise the atmosphere. Dogs are certainly the most excitable racers that I have ever seen (or heard!) As the starting siren went the runners shot off, many humans being dragged by four legged friends.

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The course promised a mix of terrains and natural obstacles and it delivered. It started out in a field of long grass which unfortunately was hiding some large holes below providing not just a obstacle but hazard for most. We then darted into the woods and the course got exciting as in no time we were jumping gullies, climbing fallen trees and ascending short, steep banks.

A couple of big loops of the same grassy field wasn’t as enjoyable but we soon entered back into the woods for some more fun. As well as tight technical terrain the woodland also provided some much needed shade on such a warm day, and for those that needed it, a few natural water stops for the dogs.

Another section in the field followed which wasn’t pleasant with the sun beaming down but we were soon back in the woods for the final section. More technical tracks followed before some mud pits. This was made to look easy by most of the dogs with their humans companions struggling a bit more. But a nice addition which pushed the level of the challenge up a few notches. One last long field section lead to the finish line or end of the first lap for us 10k runners.

At the finish line the dogs were treated well with bowls of water and baths and there was a dog themed goodie bag. These were nice touches that showed a caring for the dogs which was a theme that ran throughout the day. Not to mention that both dog and human received their own medal to wear with pride.

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This race wasn’t the most challenging obstacle course but nor was it meant to be. It was a fun event which still provided a good challenge for most and an opportunity to get out and enjoy doing the things I love doing in anew experience of having my dog along side me for company.

At the end of the day, did the dogs love it? Yes. Did my shoes get muddy? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I sign up again? At the price it was this year most definitely. With a few tweaks this will be a great event. Well done team Dogstacle.

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The next Dogstacle event- Dogstacle North, is on October 29th in Ashby-de-la-Zouch during a full day of Zeus Races events including a regular humans only OCR and a Halloween zombie run. This time there will be actual man made obstacles for dogs and the owners to negotiate adding a whole new challenge.

Inflatable 5K

Arriving at London’s Kempton Park Racecourse it was clear to see that the inflatable obstacles weren’t the only thing UK Running Events had gone big on. This was an impressive venue and set up. From their social media communications I knew the inflatables were going to be large but the shear size of them up close surprised me. This was going to be a fun race!

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I have to say that I was also surprised by the lack of people present. But having already done the Kettering parkrun and travelling over 80 miles from Northampton we didn’t get there until 1.30pm and the event had been going since 9am. I was told it had been a lot busier early on and after setting off in the 2pm wave I soon became grateful of the lack of numbers as the marshals, who I must say we’re fabulous all the way around the route, we’re keeping it to a few people at a time on each obstacle. My first thoughts were that this must have caused some big queuing early on but from gathering various bits of feedback I’ve only seen positive comments. This explains why they had spread the waves out over a 6 hour period and it all seemed to be managed really well.

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To be honest though, nobody seemed to be in a rush anyway. The majority of people were walking between obstacles. No timing or results published here. This event was all about enjoying the inflatables and having a good time.

I thought the 10 obstacles were spaced out really well around the 5k course which broke up each running sections nicely. From first viewing it looked like the entire route was going to be on the grass infield of the horse racing track so it was refreshing when we moved into a section of woodland around a lake and the terrain varied to pavement, trail, gravel track and back to grass.

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Most of the inflatables were a take on the standard things you’d expect from the now hugely popular obstacle course races such as climbing walls, tunnels, hurdles and slides but they felt safer and more enjoyable by the fact they were all soft and bouncy.

This event is perfect to fun runners, first time racers, those who have always fancied an obstacle course race but are put off by getting wet and muddy and anyone who just wants to have a good laugh while being active at the same time. It’s also a really good one to do with children. I ran round with my 7 year old daughter and she loved it.

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This was the company’s inaugural event and if it’s anything to go by their Halloween, Zombie and Christmas themed events later this year are going to be well worth checking out.

One Girl on a 5,000 Mile Run

On Sunday 1st November 2015 Elise Downing, 23, set off from London to run around the entire 5,000 miles of the British coastline, all self supported carrying everything she needed in her backpack. 301 days and 7 pairs of trainers later on 27th August 2016 she returned triumphant becoming the youngest person and first ever female to do so.

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Elise did this with very little prior running experience and without any sort of sporting background. She’d only been running for 3 years and done just 2 marathons, the first of which she describes as ‘the worst experience of her life’ and the second was completed in just under 5 hours and she came very close to dropping out with around 8 miles to go. Perhaps the fact she did indeed finish both of those races gives us a little insight into her stubbornness and that if she sets out to do something she’ll finish it however hard it may be. She also goes by the motto of “Doing a thing is a lot less scary then thinking about doing a thing”.

4 weeks on we caught up with her to find out what motivated her to take on such a challenge, her experiences along the way, what she’s been up to since and what the future holds. Some of her answers may surprise you some what!
(Quirky Races) How long was it between you sitting in your office coming up with the idea and actually putting it into practice? (Most noticeably setting up your website & announcing it on Facebook- that’s the ultimate sign of anything becoming official!)

(Elise Downing) I came up with the idea early March 2015, told my boss and Facebook (equally important, of course) mid-April, and then set off on November 1st. So 8 months in total.

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(QR) I’ve listened to, watched or read almost all of your interviews throughout your journey and the comment that fascinated me the most was one you made in a podcast just before you set off. You said (something along the lines of) most people go on adventures because they’re stuck in dead end jobs and their life isn’t going anywhere but you enjoyed your work and were happy but that worried you because you didn’t want to still be doing to same thing in 10 years time having not been on an adventure. Can you elaborate on that thought process?

(ED) Well it just seems to be that people often go and do these things as the result of a mid (or quarter!) life crisis. I guess the difference was that I kind of pre-empted that before it happened. I was working for a great company, I liked my job, I loved living in London and I had great friends but I just knew that wouldn’t be enough if that’s all I did for the rest of my life. Running the British coast wasn’t a life long dream that I had been working on for years. I just had the idea and the fact that I couldn’t think of any solid reasons not to do it, was reason in itself to go and at least try. I just thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’. If I’d really, really hated it, I could have just stopped and come home. Yeah, you lose face a bit but at the end of the day nobody really cares if you quit except you.

(QR) I know that you had several ‘I don’t think I can actually do this’ wobbles early on, including one on the very first day. How close did you come to not continuing and at what moment throughout the entire 10 months did you come closest to quitting?

(ED) I can pinpoint the moment I came closest to quitting to a specific date. It was March 7th. I had been home for a few days the week prior for my Grandma’s book launch, something that I had always planned to do. I sat on the train back to Wales, to pick up the trail again, and I don’t really know what was wrong but I just literally could not stop crying. It was pretty embarrassing. People kept asking what was wrong and I was just like, “erm, I’ve gotta go for a run?”.

I think that doing a long journey solo gets really lonely, not necessarily because you’re alone (I spent a lot of time with a lot of people!) but because nobody really quite understands how you feel. Adventures are weird, they take over your whole brain and there are so many moments when you’re cold and tired and bored and you just think, why did I choose to do this? It was the contrast of going from being at home for a few days, where everything was lovely and comfortable, to going back to Wales where it was still raining, just as it had been for most of the past 4 months. There were so many miles left and I couldn’t fathom how I was possibly going to enjoy them, and enjoying it was my number 1 priority, so that presented a big problem for me.

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(QR) And similarly, was there a particular day, event, moment which made you think to yourself, ‘I am actually going to do this’?

(ED) I spent most of the first eight months trying really hard not to think about the finish line or how far there was to go. I just focused on one day, week, month at a time and as long as I was having a reasonably good time on any given day, that was okay, I could go on and do another. It wasn’t until I reached John O’ Groats, the most north westerly point of Britain, that I really let myself think about the finish line. At that point I had just over 2 months left and around 1000 miles left to run. I just knew that, unless I literally fell off a cliff or broke my leg, there was no way I was going to be giving up.

I remember being so, so happy the day I got to John O’ Groats. It had been a damp day, then I got to the famous sign and the sun came out. I met a guy just setting off to Lands End on his bike and a hilarious older couple from Australia and we just stood laughing and chatting for ages. Then I ate a pizza and drank a beer and I was just so content. It felt like the hard bit was over (and it was – the terrain gets increasingly easier from that point onwards).

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(QR) I believe one of the main things that impressed most people was the fact that you are a young female doing it alone. You had to put a lot of trust in strangers at times, was this something that bothered you, were there some uneasy moments & other than your well documented fear of cows what was the scariest experience of your journey?

(ED) Of course there are risks and you have to be careful (as a young female or anybody else) but I actually believe those risks were less on the adventure than in normal life. Big, open, expansive places can seem scary but, in reality, running on a remote coast path is significantly safer than walking back to my flat late at night by myself in London. You just have to look at the assault stats of the Scottish Highlands versus Soho on a Friday night.

Cows and other animals aside, there were scary moments where the wind was strong and I thought I might get blown off a cliff, or during the winter when the sun was setting at 4pm and I got lost and had to run a couple of miles in the dark, which was frankly just idiotic of me. There really weren’t any uneasy moments involving another person though. I get the occasional inappropriate comment online but those people get blocked very quickly. You just have to use your common sense.

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(QR) I know you didn’t keep many milage records as you wanted the running to be a mode of transport to take you exploring around the beautiful island we live on rather than something you were doing to set records, beat times etc. but as you know, many people are fascinated by numbers so do you know what was your longest day’s running, what your biggest milage week/ month was and any other crazy stats you’d care to share with us?

(ED) The furthest I ran in one day was 41 miles, which took me about 10 hours door to door. I think the biggest mileage week was probably around 150 miles. My hilliest day, which was on the South West Coast Path in North Devon in January, was the equivalent to 444 flights of stairs climbed, which was the same elevation as a day I recently spent running up mountains in the Alps!

(QR) What most surprised you about yourself during the run and what would you say is the most valuable lesson you learnt?

(ED) I think that there were three key things that surprised me:
1) I can survive with a lot less stuff than I ever thought possible. By the end I was down to 2 pairs of socks, 2 t shirts, etc and it was really liberating.
2) I’ll go to almost any lengths to avoid a field full of cows. Barbed wire, rivers, ditches, mild trespassing… anything.
3) There is such a thing as too much cake!!

A key thing I learnt is that I don’t want to live an entirely nomadic life. I desperately missed just having a kitchen and being able to go food shopping! It’s so nice to just have the freedom to put a load of laundry on whenever I want, which I realise is probably the most boring thing I could say.

(QR) What was the worst part of the entire trip?

(ED) The section I mentioned before, when I really wanted to quit in Wales, was probably the hardest. It felt like it had been such a long, wet, windy winter and I kept expecting Spring to spring and it just didn’t! That was the most fed up I felt. There were also some slightly, erm, less scenic places around the way but these were scattered around, rather than being concentrated in one area.

(QR) Coming across the finish line on the final day must have been quite overwhelming and I’m sure it was some time until you got a chance to have a moment to yourself. When that time did come, what were your overriding emotions?

(ED) To be totally honest, crossing the finish line was actually kind of underwhelming. There were lots of moments of euphoria over the ten months that I was running, of being so happy I could literally have cried (and often did!) but the finish line just wasn’t one of those moments. I was ready for it to be over by that point. I think that’s the thing with such a long journey though – it’s much more of a slow burn, rather than several adrenaline-fuelled hours/days followed by an explosive ending. And that’s okay! The last day was really lovely but it was probably the only day of the whole thing that I didn’t feel like I was about to burst into tears. It was so nice to know that I was finished and to see lots of familiar faces.

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(QR) Having spent 10 months doing the same thing almost everyday, knowing when you get up in the morning you have to go running in order to make it to your next destination and never staying in one place for more than a couple of days at most it must have felt pretty strange for the first few days after the finish knowing that was no longer required. We are almost a month on now, do you feel completely over it yet or do you still wake up some days thinking of where you have to run to and how many miles you’ve got to do?

(ED) Like I said in the last question, by the time the end came, I was really ready for it to be over. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to stop running but more that I missed not really being able to do anything else. I missed working! I felt so exhausted all of the time that my brain didn’t work properly, and I found that really frustrating. I think getting ‘back to normal’ would have been harder if I’d had to go straight back to my desk job but I’m lucky to be working on some really exciting projects now which has made the transition much easier. And I’ve actually been running quite a lot since I finished, as well as some cycling and swimming, so I’ve not been a complete couch potato.

(QR) What do you miss most about the journey?

(ED) Definitely the simplicity. I got used to living with almost no belongings, just two sets of running kit (one clean, one dirty), my camping gear and a book. My mum keeps laughing at me for wearing one outfit on repeat since I’ve come home but I just can’t be bothered to wade through my wardrobe looking for something to wear! There’s something really nice about having absolutely everything you need in one small backpack.

(QR) In hindsight would you have done anything differently and if so what?

(ED) I would have learnt to read a map sooner! I only properly learnt about a fortnight before I finished and my mind was blown. They’re so useful! Perhaps it’s more impressive that I managed to run over 4500 miles without being able to read a map though…

(QR) Short term we know that you’ve kept yourself rather busy since returning home. You’ve already been on a running trip to the Alps and have the Fitbit challenge at the end of this month. What other events, trips, races do you have lined up?

(ED) I kind of unintentionally seem to have quite a few races lined up over the next few months: the Birmingham half marathon, then the Snowdonia and Athens marathons. I also fell completely, completely in love with the mountains during my trip to the Alps with Mizuno. I was running with some super talented mountain athletes who really inspired me, so I’m definitely planning to work towards hopefully doing some mountain races. Running without carrying a heavy pack just feels like so much fun now – I can’t get enough!

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(QR) What does the future hold long term for Elise Downing? Will you be going back to the job you said you enjoyed (and missed) and do you have anymore big adventures in the planning?

(ED) I’m afraid I’m going to be annoyingly vague on this one. I have some big plans in the works but nothing I’m quite ready to announce yet. Lots of exciting opportunities are coming up so I’m just working hard at the moment to ensure that I’m in a position to make the most of those. For all the fun Facebook highlights, there’s a lot of time spent behind a laptop.

You can follow Elise on the links below:

Blog: https://elisedowning.com
Twitter: @elisecdowning
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisecdowning/
Instagram: @elisecdowning

Judgement Day – The Unknown 2016

Review by Natasha Moto de Howlett

Photos from www.tonyjarvisphotography.com

It’s difficult to put into words what this event is all about, and I warn you that if you are considering doing it you should carry on reading this with a clear mind-set that this is a very subjective and generalised overview of what happened this year from the viewpoint of #129, rather than a reflection on what you can expect should you decide to give it a go.

The Unknown, I feel, is better appreciated by knowing as little as possible beforehand. Fully immerse yourself in the experience, release any premonitions or preconceptions and dismiss everything you’ve read or heard about it as urban myth, including what you are about to read.

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All we really knew was that we would be getting at least 36 hours of relentless physical and mental challenges to try to break us down. If you gave up at any point you were out, if you made it to the end (whenever that may be) you had survived the Unknown and would receive the medal.

The hook of this event is that it will be for you what YOU make of it.
The name is a big clue on what to expect. In the lead up to the event all we received were three emails within a month or so of each other from the Judgement Day team with equipment that would be needed. The final email gave the location and arrival time. All very cryptic, our kit list included, amongst others: shovel, builders bucket, 100 pennies and a specific Lego set.

On the day, I set off with 8 fellow Parklands Tough Running members, to what would turn out to be the most challenging events I have ever participated in.

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On arrival the organisers gave all 42 participants a vest with our number – this became our name, and they became “Staff”. We were instructed to put our overalls on, get our compass and a hessian sandbag at the ready and line up with our equipment on the curve of a Park and Ride car park in Anglesea, North Wales. We all put a empty sandbag on the head of a fellow number, and lay on our bellies, on the wet ground in stress position (hands on head). Sensory deprivation meant every sound and movement was amplified. We spent some time there, hearing cars come and go, some giggling, some very quiet. Eventually we were ushered onto coaches, with sandbags still on our heads. Sitting in the brace position through the coach journey we were taken to the this year’s location.

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Once off the coaches we were sat on the ground in three groups. After removing sandbags from our heads we were reunited with our bergens (military rucksacks), tyres, and issued with a map.

The first task was navigating to a given checkpoint using a 6 digit grid reference. The task was difficult and the only way we could be successful was to work as a team (and to be able to read a map!) Team dynamics played out, and off we went around in circles, until eventually my team found check-point 1 which gave us the confidence to find checkpoint 2. However the navigational skills of the whole group were not up to scratch and the first exercise was taking too long so all three groups were ordered back to base camp for what would be the official start of The Unknown.

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At basecamp we were issued with three wrist bands: black, red and white. Not completing certain tasks would lose you a band in order of importance-first black, then red and finally white. Losing all three bands would mean not completing The Unknown. This was the first time I realised that it would take a little more than just plodding along to make it through the weekend.

Due to our poor performance in the initial navigation task we were all stripped of the black band, made to snap them to make the point very clear – “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

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It’s difficult to remember every exact tasks and exercises that we carried out over the weekend but they all involved some sort of carrying of loads, running, crawling, team work or individual work – all in and out of the water. There are a few that stick out so I will focus on those.

Navigation and memory test: It was clear from the offset that only a few of us could navigate using the map we were given so the memory task, which involved navigation, was not going to be an easy one. We were tasked with visiting 4 check points within a 2 hour timeframe. At each checkpoint we were presented with images, three playing cards, to memorise. We then had to return to basecamp to recite the cards in order. We were to do this task without conferring, without even talking to each other.

Pencil Rolls: These were actually called Sausage Rolls, but I am way too fond of sausage rolls for that. The task seems fairly simple: you roll along a distance, then you get up and do 5 burpees, then you crawl up and over a little sand dune, do another 5 burpees, then roll some more, and finish off by crawling to the beginning where you are asked a question and given water. The brutal part of this exercise was the rolling, which was over a distance of around 20 meters both times. Dizziness and nausea kicks in. The leopard crawls add to the difficulty as you have to keep your belly to the ground. This had to be repeated 4 times and most people found this one of their lowest points in the event.

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Equipment carry: At basecamp there was an array of equipment in the main circle, and on Saturday we set out to carry the equipment to two checkpoints. The emphasis being in team work, we had to move stretchers, ammunition boxes, heavy bergens and tyres to checkpoint 3 in the dunes. We left some of the equipment there and the rest was taken to checkpoint 2. At the time we did not know that the equipment would need to be retrieved and brought back to camp by the remaining participants as one of the last tasks on Sunday.

Tyres on the beach: We carried out a series of exercises on the beach with tyres. An individual exercise involving pushing our tyres along the beach and then sprinting to the start point with the tyre held high over our heads. There was also a team exercise involving a tractor tyre, rope and the smaller tyres. It involved dragging the tractor tyre along the beach, adding a smaller tyre on each lap at one end, and doing a burpee per smaller tyre at the other end of the distance.

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Escape and Evade: We would be guided to a checkpoint and split in groups of three. The task was easy: make your way back to camp as a team without getting caught, or face the consequences of capture. We had to carry our fully packed Bergen for this exercise and we had 2 hours to compete it. Our watches had been confiscated at the beginning, were given them back to keep track of time as one way or the other all participants were expected back at camp for 11:30am. I think the key to this one was stealth and team work. Whilst several numbers made it back to camp avoiding capture, the majority were caught, myself included. The consequence? A relentless beasting which involved crawls, tyre carries, lung walking, squats, press ups and so on. I felt it was one of the most gruelling beastings of the entire event.

Sandbag Tabs: In the very early hours of Sunday morning we were tasked with collecting a sand bag from the circle to take on a tab, in formation of 3. The tab was to be carried out in silence and we were informed by Staff that we were not to talk to each other, hum, sing or make any noises. At a half-way point we put our sandbags down and picked up a different one. It was dark and we had only slept for around 90 minutes. At this stage, so close to the end, we were still losing numbers. But the end was final in sight.

Penny hill: We were lead to the sand dunes on the beach front with our 100 pennies each for this task. The remaining numbers, 25 of us at that point, were asked to empty our pennies into a bucket which was placed at the bottom left-hand side of a tall sand dune. The task was simple: take 2 pennies, walk up the sand dune to deposit one penny in another bucket at the top, then go down the other side of the sand dune to deposit the other penny in a bucket at the bottom right-hand side. Repeat until all pennies have been transferred to the other buckets – that’s 2500 pennies in total. The reward for completing the task? Full submersion in the sea and a run back to basecamp for the next exercise.

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The final task was, for me, a reflection of what my Unknown experience had been all about. We were all broken, some of my team mates had been pulled out due to injury and those of us that remained were hungry, tired, emotional and cold. Only 25 of the total participants remained. This task involved a run from base camp to a flag on the beach, then into the sea for exercises in increments of 3: 3 second full submersion and 3 burpees. After each set of exercised, return to basecamp, and then go back out to the next flag, adding 3 more to each exercise. There were 5 flags to reach.

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I have no idea what distance I covered, how much weight I carried, or how many hours I was awake and working. That is not what The Unknown is about. It is about the intangible things – knowing what you can do, and then pushing further. It’s about finding your limits and challenging them. It’s about being the best that you can be, and helping others to reach that same place. A brilliant event, challenging and rewarding in equal measure. And when you know, you know!

The documentary below from Mudstacle elaborates on Natasha’s words.

Human Hound Challenge

You could say the concept of this race is ‘barking’ mad and you’d be spot (the dog) on. When I first saw it advertised on the Peterborough Greyhounds Facebook page I had to ‘pause’ for a second to check it was real. I shared it onto my own page and was ‘hounded’ by friends to sign up. ‘Dogged’ to do well I did just that and here’s how it when (minus anymore dog related puns).

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The race involves dressing as a dog and racing the final 150 yard stretch of the Peterborough greyhound track. The race is held during the greyhound racing programme so the stadium is full of spectators who can actually bet on the human hound they think will win. All money bet goes to the organisation or charities the participants are representing. Therefore, unlike most races, there is no entry fee. In fact, they pay you £50 for taking part in the heats and up to £250 more if you do well in the final.

There were to be three heats held over three successive Friday evenings with six participants in each. The first two from each race would go through to the final on the fourth Friday of the month.

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Running, fancy dress and a night at the greyhound racing are three of my favourite things so combining them was something that came with great excitement to me.

The dog racing started at 7.30pm. We were told to report at 9pm for the 9.50pm scheduled race. On arrival I found it brilliant to see that we were listed in the event programme. As I watched the first few races and saw the four legged hounds speeding around the track excitement grew. I’d had several bets but won nothing. I was hoping my luck was going to change.

As the clock struck nine, all six competitors were lead down to a room track side where two large laundry baskets full of costumes were placed on a table. We were told to help ourselves.

Not really knowing what we were pulling out we all matched the giant heads to the costume bodies and began to get dressed into them. We all had to help each other out to do the onesie style suits up at the back and as we tried the heads on it was apparent that some fitted a lot better than others. It seemed that my run of bad luck had continued as I couldn’t see a thing when inside mine.

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I soon realised that I would have to hold the head in place with one hand so that I could get any view from the tiny sighting hole but I was still confident I could give it a good go.

There were lots of jokes flying around between participants as we waited for our call to step out into the track and plenty more laughs as we lined up for several photos.

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We were then interviewed one by one and introduced to the crowd before walking across to the start line at the far side of the track. I used this opportunity to have a little run in my costume and as I expected I could see very little.

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We had wondered if we would have to crawl into the traps to start but instead we stood to our makes. The hare was released (a man dressed as a rabbit) and then we were off.

I thought I had gotten away well but struggled to see where the other hounds were as we ran around the bend. As I came into the home straight I saw the sand kicking up from the heals of two speedy runners in front of me. They had a good lead and try as I did I wasn’t able to catch either so crossed the line in third place. I’d had to run the entire race using only one arm to run while holding the head with the other arm. This isn’t easy when sprinting flat out.

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All things considered I was some what satisfied to still get on the podium but the announcer summed my mood up when he said “Congratulations to the first two who will be rejoining us for the final and commiserations to third place who just misses out”.

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My main disappointment came in the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to get to have another go after having such a good time as this really had been a entertaining evening.

If I got another opportunity I’d definitely go back and do it again. This race is everything Quirky Races looks for in an event. Completely different to the norm, at a unique venue where people don’t normally get to run and a huge amount of fun.

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Doughnut Dash 2016

5 Kilometres, 5 Doughnuts.

Review by Jon Chatty.

Arriving in Castle park, Colchester and seeing the course all set up brought back memories from running in this race the previous year and reminded me that I hadn’t eaten many doughnuts since.

The format is simple. Run 5 KM consuming one doughnut after each kilometre. You get a sticker on your race number for each doughnut eaten, once you have all five stickers you can collect your medal at the finish line.

At registration, I was handed my race number (where the all important stickers would go) and a sick bag! No chip timing here, this was all about having fun and trying to keep the doughnuts down

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This event is for all the family and first up was a junior dash over 500m or 1 KM. Just in case all the sugary treats on offer weren’t enough encouragement there was a very energetic warm up provided by PT Emz. The kids course was around a square close to the event village and they were required to scoff down two mini doughnuts each lap. Their chocolate covered smiles showed what fun they were having.

It was now the adults turn. I had put in the training this time (eating a doughnut on Thursday counts right?) I set off at speed along the fast grassy route arriving at the first kilometre to a chocolate covered ring doughnut in the first group of runners.

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All the day’s doughnuts were supplied by Gregg’s. I normally like washing these down with a coffee but as a hot beverage wasn’t on offer here I chose to take small bites trying not to think about the tact that I still had another four ahead of me. Once completed and sticker on my number I was allowed to continue on.

I flew through the next kilometre as the course went from grass to pathway but the dreaded sprinkled doughnut awaited. Last year I’d really struggled to make my way through this one but this time it went down ok (all the training must have paid off).

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Looking at the expression on other racers faces of ‘what are we doing’ I still wasn’t convinced that I didn’t have chocolate all over my face from the first one.

Striding around the pond and past the boating lake I began lap two whilst being handed a much needed bottle of water. Next I was running up a hill then a left turn took me back down. It was at this point I noticed a marshal chasing me to tell me that I’ve taken a wrong turn. After making my way back on course it wasn’t long until the glazed ring doughnut at 3 KM. Just being glazed was great and it went down a treat but I was in total awe of another runner who ate it in one go. Legend!

With sticker number three collected thoughts of what was coming next were making me regret not taking up the offer of that sick bag but the slight of a toffee topped ring doughnut came with great relief. It was really sticky but tasty and knowing only one more sweet delight stood between me and the finish helped me consume it using the tactic of smaller and longer bites.

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Running around the final kilometre enjoying the sun on the lake and hearing the music from the event village I approach the last stumbling block. The old faithful jam doughnut. With the finish line in full view and jam pouring down my chin I eat it down as fast as I could. One short sprit and with sugar coated lips I proudly showed my five stickers and had the medal hung around my neck.

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This event is definitely one staying on my annual calendar. It pumps the fun back into running with no real competition and just good laughs. Saying that I can honestly say I’d rather an incline wall over a doughnut when in a race any day. The Doughnut Dash is a very well ran family event and its all in aid of Kidney Research UK.

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