Surviving To Tell The Tale
Zeus Races have really been impressing us in 2016. They are demonstrating that they are so much more than just another obstacle course race. Yes, they have a great venue in Ashby-de-la-Zouch with fixed obstacles, lots of hills, mud and water but they are using that as a platform to provide a whole range of different events.
Their opening paragraph on the website homepage describes them as ‘Themed obstacles races for all abilities’ and ‘The only OCR provider in the country to offer race places for age 6 upwards’.
They put on regular OCR’s on their 8km route but also provide events for canicross racing (running with your dog) aptly named ‘Dogstacle’, races for runners with disabilities- they held a team wheelchair event recently and on New Years Eve they are holding the first ever OCR event to run over two years!
As well as all this, on Halloween weekend they hosted a Zombie Chase event, on their obstacle course, in the dark so we felt we just had to go and check it out.
Arriving in complete darkness for the 8pm start we made the short walk to the event village where spooky music was blasting out and a roaring bonfire was crackling away. Another prominent feature was a huge double decker bus which had been converted into a fully licensed bar.
On collecting our numbers we were also given a glow stick necklace each which would make us more visible to the awaiting zombies, many of whom were stumbling around the start area looking extremely menacing.
Next up all participants were gathered for a race briefing. Here it was made very clear that this run was not for the faint hearted. We were told that if anyone was too frightened they could request to wear a high visibility vest so that the zombies wouldn’t scare them as much. We were then set off in small groups with only our head torches to guide us.
In the first kilometre or so there wasn’t any frights but there was a boggy, smelly water crossing to make. The zigzagging nature of the course route meant that we were never far away from the event village and that even though we hadn’t been scared yet we could still hear the screams of those who had.
It wasn’t long before the zombies started popping out from all angles. I had envisioned the stereotype of the walking dead stumbling towards us in groups with their arms held out in front of them as you seen in the movies but here they were hidden away behind trees, bushes and obstacles awaiting their moment to jump out when you were least expecting it. Some even used distraction tactics such as placing a prop like a severed head or a flashing pumpkin one side of the course so that your attention would be attracted to that then they would jump out from the other side causing the heart to beat at 100 miles in hour.
It wasn’t only the zombies that were offering a challenge though. The terrain and profile of the course was far from easy with lots of uneven ground and loose mud made even more tricky in the dark. There was also sections of rolling hills throughout.
The part of the route I enjoyed most was an area in the woods with lots of balance beams suspended at hight between the trees. This was a different obstacle that I’d only ever encountered something similar to on the skywalk at the famous Tough Guy. Luckily (and sensibly) there were no distractions from outside interference here.
The frights kept on coming though with a chainsaw wielding clown and a rather disturbing human pig amongst the highlights. As well as people dressed up there was also scares supplied in the form of loud explosions at random intervals, as if we weren’t being kept on out toes enough already.
One thing that really surprised me in a positive way was the shear amount on zombies on course. Other than right at the start there was never more that a few hundred meters that passed without one literally rearing its ugly head (apart from the few that were actually headless that is!)
One of the only negative points I could make was that I found the ending slightly anticlimactic. With all the surprises on the way round I was expecting a big finish but instead it was just a simple run up a hill back to the event village with no more shocks in store. This was somewhat countered though by receiving a top class medal.
All in all this was a really good fun yet frightening run. I felt that the scare factor level was just about right in that it was always apparent but there was never a point where I felt it crossed the line and was a bit too much. It was clear that the zombies has been briefed perfectly with what they could and couldn’t do or it at least felt that way. We look forwards to finding out what else the Zeus team have in store in 2017.