The Wolf Run – the race !

If you go to their website, the organisers of this event say that “the Wolf Run is Wild Running – a unique combination of three kinds of off-road running: mud runs, trail runs and obstacle runs. The only Wild Run in the UK, it’s a hardcore 10k run across raw natural terrain, including open ground, woodland, lakes & thick mud…you’ll tackle a series of seriously tough obstacles – both man-made and natural – designed to test your mental & physical strength, skill and stamina. You’ll run, climb, jump, wade, crawl and swim through a course designed to challenge you on every level.”

Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields.

They are not wrong, and this turned out to be brilliant fun !

I left St Albans at 0730 and the temperature was -3 degrees.  I was wearing my long-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front in case I got too hot (yeah, right), my 2XU compression tights, my Ron Hill running shorts (with a proto pure orange flavour energy gel in the back pocket), my Bridgedale CoolFusion Na-kd socks and my Merrell Trail Gloves running shoes.  I ate a proto pure endurance bar and drank water containing Zero High5 citrus tablets during my drive.  You can see from my previous two training blogs that my exercise regime had largely collapsed due to the weather, work and how I had been feeling, so I was approaching this with a sense of trepidation.  The journey was an easy one and I made good time, arriving before 0900, and being well directed to a parking space in the field which was right next to the main event area.  It could not have been more convenient.  The temperature had risen to 2 degrees.  I registered, which was a very smooth process and testament to how well organised this event is, then took a toilet break before going back to my car to attach my number (3153) to my baselayer, and get my Outdoor Designs layeron gloves.  I ate my banana and then hung around, waiting…and I took some time to walk past the first obstacle we would encounter, as well as the last four, because they were next to the car park.  Then I dropped off my car key at the deposit tent.  I was due off at 1010, which meant there was one group heading off before me.  They were called over to the warm up area and taken through a warm up routine by Outdoor Physical Training, before going off to the start for a final safety briefing.  The PA had played Do it Again by Steely Dan earlier, which I always enjoy, and as I was waiting for my group to be called to the warm up area they playing Wagner’s Ride Of The Valkyries, and now I was ready.  It was an excellent active warm up, even if I did wonder if I was already exhausted by the end of it, then we moved over to the start, were told that the Lake obstacle had been withdrawn for health and safety reasons because of the high water level, and after a 5 second count down we were off in a group, running towards the first obstacle

1. Tyred Already

Tyred Already

Tyred Already

and through the tyres we went, at times stepping inside them, but as they got bigger we had to walk over them and some of them were not as firm as they looked, so balancing was not easy, and then we had to climb over the final row of tyres to complete the obstacle.

It was a run over open ground from there, and the ground was hard and dry.  That would not be the case very often on this course.  We were running along the edge of fields before we ran up a slight hill and came round a corner to find

2. The Black Lake

which certainly came as a surprise to me because when they said the Lake had been withdrawn I naturally assumed (hoped) they meant all traces of any lake whatsoever.  I strode in and very soon the water was up to my waist and threatening to go higher.  The lake bed was uneven and my legs and feet were already freezing before I was half way across.  There were a few guys in canoes looking out for us, and it is worth noting that all the obstacles were very well marshalled.  It was not a hard exit out of the lake, I asked the marshall if he had a towel but he told me he only had one for himself, and we had grouped up again as we ran through the edge of woodland.

Not before long we came to a brook, which was not one of the listed obstacles, but still required us to either jump across or slide down into it and climb up the other side, which is what most people did, and I followed suit.  The run continued through the trees, coming out into the open and

3. Belly Scraper

which meant very low crawling in deep, wet mud under netting.  I had managed to keep my gloves dry up to this point, but now they were immediately soaking wet and covered in mud, while my fingers were frozen inside them.  I did find these crawling obstacles the most difficult, and I clearly need to loosen up my joints and get more used to moving my body down into a prone position and back up again.

I was back out into the open again as I ran along the track, wondering when the next obstacle would arrive.  And the grouping had disappeared at the last obstacle, so I was running alone.  I got to a corner of a field and could see the next obstacle at the edge of some more woodland.  I asked the marshall if he had a chainsaw, but he did not and so I had to deal with the obstacle in a different way

4. Deadwood

and that meant clambering over and under and through and just do it in any way you can to get past fallen trees and logs, which I enjoyed.

The course stayed in the trees only for so long as the obstacle lasted and then came out onto an open track, but this track was not as dry as others in places, including one part which suddenly became very muddy and slippy (and has come to be known as Muddy Creek) and the runner next to me fell face-first into the mud, and no-one can prove that I had anything to do with that.

Oops

Oops

Soon we were heading down a leafy enclosed track on ground which had a bit more bounce and moisture in it without being wet, and this led into a wood

5. Arachnet

and a crawl under some more netting but on drier ground before the track rose uphill, winding through the wood, adding some steep drops and then climbing again, until it flattened out in time for

6. Equilibrium

which involved a balancing walk over a fallen tree, and I found it surprisingly easy, even though I had said to the marshall that the last thing I needed right now was trying to balance, after having run up the hill.

It was downhill from there, running through the woods, and to be honest I should have known that was leading up, or down, to something, and sure enough it did.

7. Ash Hole

More water, more wading as it came up to my waist again, and this was more boggy than The Black Lake, certainly less firm underfoot, and most definitely a lot harder to get out of at the other end.  It was not a short stretch of water but I was used to being soaked by now, and at the other end the edges of the bog were sloped, muddy and wet.  Before I got to the other end I was persuaded to reenact Chariots Of Fire, in the water, rather than on the sand.

More likely Shineback than Vangelis

More likely Shineback than Vangelis

Thankfully there were ropes available to aid an exit, and as I finally got out after sliding first one way and then the other, I just dropped my rope at my feet and prepared to set off before the runner behind me asked for the rope !  I apologised profusely, threw him the rope and helped to pull him out.  He was happy enough and it had all been very friendly – I am sure he could see I was knackered !

From there we came to the water station, and I took a cup while saying to the marshall that the last thing I needed right now was more water.  I wonder how many more last things were still to come…  The water station was out in a field and the run continued through fields and up a big hill, and if that was not enough then at the top of the hill

8. Lac-Attack

first a series of wooden posts to weave through, and then some rope obstacles to go over and under and through, all of which is designed to make you feel the effects of the hill climb in your legs and lungs.  Well done, team, it works !  I had got talking to some of the other runners at this obstacle and one of them made the comment this was more like it…no water involved !

There was more running along the edge of fields from there and from a distance I could see the next obstacle and so was trying to work out what it entailed as I approached.

9. Lupus Pits

It turns out to be a series of solid earth waves, as you go down one earth slope into the pit and then up the other side, then down off the top again, with each slope seemingly getting steeper, and each pit seemingly becoming harder to get out of.  I found I was able to cope well with this obstacle and enjoyed the climbs out of each pit – clearly my time trekking does have its benefits.  What I enjoyed less was

10. Sloppy Hollow

which was more boggy water, getting progressively deeper as the channel ran under a fallen tree, and another hard exit with the edges very smooth and muddy, and lots of people sliding about and struggling for grip with either their feet or their hands.

11. Alpha Lake

is the lake which did not happen.  Instead there was some more netting to be crawled under, with the other side of the netting exiting into wet mud, naturally, before heading up a hill and turning right along a track to the crest of another hill and the very inviting

12. Land Slide

which I took head first, lying on my front, sliding down the plastic strip and carefully manoeuvering between two female runners

Pardon me ! Coming through !

Pardon me ! Coming through !

I encountered on the way down.  I kept going at the end of the plastic and was finally brought to a halt by the mud.

Glorious

Glorious

My number had lost one of the safety pins and was torn in places but still secure.  I wanted it to still be there at the end.  It would have been so easy to have gone back to the top and done it again.

Instead, I was up and running in the open again, coming around another corner to find

13. Hit The Wall

a wall made up of a number of horizontal logs, with gaps between some of the logs to help with climbing over.  It was not difficult for me, and once I was on the other side I was able to offer some encouraging words and assistance to one of the female runners I had overtaken on the water slide.

It was not far from there to

14. Acrophobia

a very high rope net.  I was fine climbing up because I know the necessary technique, and I was fine to start with going over the top, but then my dislike of heights kicked in and I almost froze, taking it very slowly indeed to get over and descending at a far slower pace than I had gone up, which was disappointing.

From there it was more running through fields, taking a run up the edge of one before cutting across the top to get to the outskirts of the car park, to see the first of the obstacles I had seen while wandering around before setting off.

15. The Swamp

The Swamp...looking all lovely and beautiful and sweet and cute

The Swamp…looking all lovely and beautiful and sweet and cute

This had not looked like anything much when I saw it this morning.  Now I realised how long it was and how deep it would become before the end.  The base was uneven and slippery and there was no easy way out at the other end.  I resorted to leaning into the bank and jumping out, in the same way you can exit a swimming pool, but generally the swimming pool is not pulling you back like this muddy water was.  I scrambled out to find the next obstacle immediately ready and waiting.

16. The Last Straw

The Last Straw

The Last Straw

I dragged my tired legs to the straw bales, told the marshal that this was my sprint finish, and leaped up and over the initial rounded bales.  Then it was a matter of climbing over a rectangle bale, crawling through a tunnel under the others, climbing out of the tunnel and falling to the ground before going over another rectangle bale.  Then push it on, get around the corner and find

17. Sheer Face

Sheer Face...daunting enough without the eyes

Sheer Face…daunting enough without the eyes

a pair of eyes painted on a black wooden wall.  Well, it was black, but right now it is covered with mud.  The footholds are too slight to allow a free clamber up the wall, so I used the rope to assist me until I was near the top, then threw myself over and lowered myself down on the other side.  There had been so much water on the course already that I really did not care that there was more to finish, and that I was about to hit it.

18. Mud Bath

Mud Bath...just the beginning

Mud Bath…just the beginning

I walked into the first pit, lost my footing, and ended up floating on my back.  I got back up and out of the pit, climbed to the top of the earth mound, made sure I was clear for a photo opportunity and slid down into the second pit before steadying myself to walk out of it, triumphant, finishing the course in a time of 1 hour and 23 minutes.

Done it !

Done it !

I am happy enough with the time although I know I can do better.  We shall find out if I really can, because I have already signed up for the September Wolf Run.

I picked up my goody bag and the excellent tshirt, made my way over to the hoses to clean most of the remaining mud off my clothing and running shoes, then collected my car key and went to my car to dry myself off with my towel and get changed.  I still had the energy gel in my running shorts because my fingers had either been too cold or too wet or too muddy to even consider trying to get into it.  I went back to the main area to soak up a bit more of the friendly atmosphere, to listen to the band and to buy a hog roast roll, which was more than delicious.  Then all too soon it was time to head off home, being excellently directed out of the car park and enjoying another easy journey back to my house.

The Wolf Run was very well organised, brilliantly marshalled and very friendly and welcoming.  It really did have a relaxed feel to it, which allowed everybody to have some fun.  The course was achieveable while challenging, diverse and interesting, well spread out, and I never had to wait to attempt an obstacle because the timings of the waves had been properly worked out and the obstacles themselves were wide enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to hit them at the same time.  I should also make the point that I contacted the organisers to check on some elements of this blog, because my memory was playing tricks on me, and they responded immediately and very helpfully.  I would recommend this event to anyone, I honestly could not fault any aspect of the day and am looking forward to coming back for more – and I am sure I am not alone in that !

You can find more of my photos here.  They include all the stunning photos from Peachy Snaps.

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8 Responses to The Wolf Run – the race !

  1. Catherine says:

    You nutter!

  2. Karen Archer says:

    Hi James,
    What an awesome blog – thanks so much! Really enjoyed reading about your experience and look forward to welcoming you back in September…
    Best wishes, WR team.

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  5. Nikki says:

    Thanks for this, doing the Wolf run for the 1st time this weekend, and have a feeling of dread and excitement. Not sure if I should have looked at your blog or not, as it may have made me feel worse, but a little bit less apprehensive about some of the obstacles, even though I know they mixed them up from event to event.

    Good luck for this weekend!!

    • jamesa says:

      Hi Nikki – you will be fine ! I was not very well prepared when I ran that Wolf Run and still ended up loving every second of it. Everyone around you will be very supportive, whether they are part of the organisation or another runner, and you will find it all very relaxed and friendly. There will always be someone there to help you with an obstacle if you need it.

      I will be writing another blog once I have done it on Sunday, so come back and let me know how you get on !

      Best of luck, and just enjoy yourself 🙂

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