This was my second time at the Wolf Run. I had run it previously in April and you can read about that here.
Let me just remind you that 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 – we got them all this time !
I left St Albans at 0815 wearing my short-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front because the sun was out, my 2XU compression tights, my Ron Hill running shorts, my Bridgedale CoolFusion Na-kd socks and my Merrell Trail Gloves running shoes. I was travelling up with Mark Pigden, a fellow participant at Regiment Fitness, and was collecting him at Hatfield. Once we got over the satnav trying to take us to Hemel to join the M1, the journey was an easy one and we made good time, arriving before 1030, then being well directed to a parking space in the field which was near to the Final Straw obstacle. If only we had spotted that the first time we walked away from the car it would have made it easier to find when we came back. Parking had cost us £5 per car this time, but the money was going to charity and we got a voucher we could use on the day in the Wolf Run shop, so that was not an issue. I registered, which was a very smooth process and testament to how well organised this event is, and then we waited for the rest of Mark’s Wolf Pack to arrive (which had been organised by and included, Corinne Punter, another one from Regiment Fitness). Whilst we were waiting I spotted Strictly Come Dancing’s England Rugby Hero, Ben Cohen, who was running for Stand Up Against Bullying, so fair play to him for doing that, and everyone who reads this blog should support him through Strictly !
Once Mark was sorted we put everything we did not need for the run back in the car (and we knew where it was this time) and I saw them off as they were in a wave before mine. I dropped off my car key at the key deposit tent, then ate my banana and tried some excellent samples from the Clif Bar stand, and hung around, waiting…wondering how I was going to do today. I really did not have a firm idea at this point, although I was pleased to note that while the sun was out it was not too hot, and the weather was pretty much perfect for doing something like this. I was due off at 1235, and not before long we 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. It was a very familiar active warm up for me now, after all my sessions with Regiment Fitness, and that familiarity helped to calm my nerves over what was about to come. Then we moved over to the start,
were told that the Lake obstacle was definitely happening and was not heated, and that if we did lose a shoe over any part of the course it would be helpful if we could also lose the other one because they could donate pairs to charity. And then, after a 5 second count down, we were off in a group, running towards the first obstacle
and through the tyres we went, this time with me walking over them rather than putting my feet into them, but 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. I did that with a bit of a spring in my step.
It was a run over open ground from there, and the ground was hard and pretty dry. I was running at a reasonable pace, not wanting to set off too quickly. We were running along the edge of fields before we ran up a slight hill and came round a corner, passing 1km, to find a gentle slope down into
2. The Black Lake
which did not appear to have any canoes on it this time. I knew what to expect and strode in and very soon the water was coming up to my waist but not threatening to go any higher. It was definitely not as high as last time. The lake bed was uneven but because the water was not so deep this did not cause me any problems, and my legs and feet were fine in the water, not finding it to be too cold at all. It was not a hard exit out of the lake and into woodland, and we had grouped up again as we ran along the edge of that 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. After scrambling up the far bank I spotted a rope, and passed it to the person coming up behind me so that they had something to help them. The run continued through the trees, going along a track and over the natural obstacles of fallen trunks and raised roots. I was feeling very good running along at this stage, and as I came out into the open I noticed the route was slightly different this time around, winding along a path through the open ground and included some logs across our way which needed to be hurdled, and I was enjoying this steeplechase as we came towards
3. Belly Scraper
which meant very low crawling in deep, wet mud under netting. I did find these crawling obstacles the most difficult last time, but I was good with it this time. The mud seemed more watery and there was foliage hanging down from the netting over the wooden structure, but I was able to keep a lot of my upper body dry as I crawled along through the mud. Not that that mattered, because as I came out with a couple of other runners they remarked about how dry and clean I had managed to keep myself, and when one of them insisted on a hug to even things up I could hardly refuse her suggestion.
The three of us ran along together over the muddy, slippery tracks, being careful enough that none of us fell over, passing the 2km mark before we headed back into the edge of the woods and found
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, still with a spring in my step.
5. 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. I think I must just be the right height for it because it was not difficult for me, while others seem to struggle with it.
As I ran away from the wall I felt something flicking around my right ankle and looked down to find that somehow my laces had come undone. I managed to avoid becoming one of those who donated their footwear to charity ! We continued running through the fields and soon we passed the 3km point and were heading down a leafy enclosed track on ground which had a bit more bounce and moisture in it without being wet, and I found that I was overtaking other runners and that certainly felt good. It is not that I was running so fast that I was going to set a course record, but I was clearly doing a lot better than I had done the last time, and that was good for me from a personal point of view. This stretch crossed a track and eventually led into a wood
and some more netting but on drier ground and loose and high enough that I could just bend down, put my shoulders into it and walk, before the track rose uphill, winding through the wood, adding some steep drops and then climbing again, and unlike last time I was able to run through all of this section, and actually enjoyed the uphill parts. It carried on like this through the wood, passing the 4km point, until it flattened out in time for
which involved a balancing walk over a couple of fallen trees, and I found it surprisingly easy – I was really feeling good right now, and ran off from the obstacle.
It was downhill from there, running through the woods, passing 5km, and to be honest I knew what was coming next, although it did take me by surprise in one way.
8. Ash Hole
From there we came out of the woods to the water station in a field and I took a cup before continuing my run through fields and then up the big hill, running round the corner to another incline, then into the woods at the top of the hill, to exit and find
which was completely different to last time. First there was a ramp, and you could either use the climbing blocks up the side or run up the middle, so I ran up the middle, and then there were hay bales to clamber over, which I did, still with that spring in my step, and I was off running.
There was more running along the edge of fields from there, passing the 6km mark, and from a distance I could see the next obstacle and I was looking forward to this one.
10. Lupus Pits
This is 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 knew from last time that I was able to cope well with this obstacle and enjoyed the climbs out of each pit, and what really interested me was how quickly I recovered on the other side of the obstacle as I ran along. What I was not looking forward to so much was
11. Sloppy Hollow
but this was a lot drier than last time and I am not sure if I took the wrong route, but I was able to avoid most of the boggy ground, hurdle over a fallen tree and then cross to the other side having hardly gone through anything sloppy at all, which made it very different to last time. I went past 7km and knew what was coming next.
12. Alpha Lake
I told the marshall that my armbands had been sent ahead but he replied that someone else had taken them, and had also taken the small boat. There was certainly a suggestion that they had paid more than me for his cooperation. That was it then, I would just have to swim. They had said it was 60 metres and it did not look too far a distance, to be honest, and there were canoes ready to save us all the way across. I lowered myself down into the water and lent forward to get fully into it. I have to say, it did not feel that cold to me. In fact, it was a lot colder when I was swimming in the sea in Le Croisic, and I had less clothing on then. I am fine with swimming, I do not go very fast, but I can go a long way and for a long time, so I did not find this to be too difficult. Clearly some others did as they rested on the canoes. I used breaststroke to get to the other side, stood up, walked out of the water and ran into the woods.
The path quickly came out to the side of the woods and I ran alongside the field which was the route for the non-swimming runners, which was the route we had run last time when the Alpha Lake was shut off. This took me round a corner and up a hill along a track, and I knew what was coming and was determined to really go for it this time. Another guy was just ahead of me so I hung back a bit to let him get away, but he was still finding his way down when I got to
13. Land Slide
It was not far running from there to
a very high rope net. I was fine climbing up because I know the necessary technique, and I was fine going over the top, and this time I refused to let my mind get to me with silly ideas about being scared of heights. I cannot help thinking that my better level of fitness also helped with that as I was in no way fatigued as I took on the obstacle.
From there it was more running through fields, and from a personal fitness point of view I was pleased that I was still running past people down this home stretch, passing 9km as we took 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 final stretch of obstacles.
This was not as long or as deep as it had been last time, but the base was uneven and slippery and there was no easy way out at the other end because it was still too slippery. I was lucky enough to find myself in the middle of another group and they helped pull me out. That is one thing which is very noticeable through the Wolf Run – everyone helps everyone else. I scrambled out to find the next obstacle immediately ready and waiting.
I took a run at the front face of the straw and jumped but could not get sufficient grip and slid down as I grabbed at the string holding the bales together, and pulled myself up as the string cut into my hands. Then I crawled through a tunnel under the other bales, climbed out of the tunnel and went over another rectangle bale, and as I came out of the obstacle I heard Mark to my right shouting me along. So, in true Regiment Fitness style, I pushed it on, got around the corner and found
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 but the rope did not have enough knots in it and was too slippery, so I ended up also using one of the wooden stantions until I was near the top, then grabbed the top of the wall, threw myself over and lowered myself down on the other side. Almost there now.
I am more than happy enough with the time because it was quicker than last time, and this time I ran the whole of the course and came away feeling much better than I had at the finish of the previous one.
I picked up my goody bag and the excellent tshirt, collected my car key, and then myself and Mark quickly got back to my car so he could get into his change of clothes before he froze to death ! He had been the first back in his wave and so had been waiting for some time for me. I made my way over to the hoses to clean most of the remaining mud off my clothing and running shoes, then went back to my car to dry myself off with my towel and get changed. We went back to the main area to soak up a bit more of the friendly atmosphere, and meet up with the others.
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.
Once again The Wolf Run was very well organised, brilliantly marshalled and very friendly and welcoming. It continues to have a relaxed feel to it, despite being so popular and busy, 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 very long, if at all, 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 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 !
Now bring on the Winter Wolf Run !