The Wolf Run (April 2014)

This was my third time at the Wolf Run in this location.  I had run it previously in April 2013 (which you can read about here), and in September 2013 (which you can read about here), so I was feeling like something of a veteran.

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 0830 wearing my short-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front because the sun was out, my 2XU compression tights, a pair of running shorts and my Merrell Trail Gloves running shoes.  The journey to the location near Leaminton Spa was an easy one and I made good time, before being well directed to a parking space in the field which was near to the end of the tyre obstacle.  Spotting that as I walked away from the car made it much easier to find when I came back from registration.  Parking had cost £5 per car this time, but the money was going to charity and I got a voucher I 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, after noticing that they now had a screen showing video footage from around the course, went back to the car to eat my muesli and pin my race number to my top.  As I have said, I felt like a veteran of this Wolf Run now, so I was in no hurry to leave my car and get over to the start, leaving just in good time to drop off my car key at the key deposit tent, eat a couple of excellent samples from the Clif Bar stand, then made my way over to the warm up area to be taken through a warm up routine by Outdoor Physical Training, as we were given a final safety briefing.  Then we moved over to the start and after a countdown we were off in a group, in good weather conditions, running towards the first obstacle

1. Tyred Already

and through the tyres we went, this time with me running over them rather than walking or putting my feet into them, and I found the balancing to be relatively easy, before I jumped over the final row of tyres to complete the obstacle.  I did that with a bit of a spring in my step and was feeling good.

It was a run over open ground from there, round the outside edge of a field, and the ground was hard and pretty dry.  I was running at a reasonable pace, not wanting to set off too quickly, and not finding many people were overtaking me.  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, like last time, so it could not have been as deep as the first time I encountered it.  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 until I started to walk into dips in the bed of the lake.  The lake bed was uneven and slippery but because the water was not so deep this did not cause me many 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 along ground that was slippery, but not too slippery.

Not before long we came to a brook, which has not been one of the listed obstacles before, but now I believe may be

3. Ditched

and required us to either jump across or slide down into the ditch and climb up the other side, which is what most people did, and I followed suit.  I spotted a rope this time and after scrambling up the far bank I passed the rope 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 which seemed different to previous races but still 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 out here was also different this time around, seeming to bring us much quicker towards

4. Belly Scraper

which meant very low crawling in deep, wet, stinky mud under netting.  I do not remember the mud stinking like this before.  I got down and crawled through on my hands and knees, keeping my back and bum down.  The mud seemed more watery and there was foliage hanging down from the netting over the wooden structure, but while I was able to keep some of my upper body dry as I crawled along through the mud, I still came out both covered enough in it and smelling of it.  The run continued over muddy, slippery tracks, and I was being careful not to fall over, passing the 2km mark before heading back into the edge of the woods and

5. Deadwood

which 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, and I was very soon back out on the course, running along a pretty straight track, and wondering where the wall had gone from last time.  Instead we had a pile of mud, which turned out to be

6. Entrenched

and just how difficult could a pile of mud be ?  The pile of mud was hardly difficult at all, especially with some footholds already in it, but once I was at the top I saw that I was not even half way through this obstacle.  I slid down the slope and carried on until I was in the water in the ditch below, so now all I had to do was get out, which was very much easier said than done when the wet mud walls on the other side of the ditch were as slippery as ice.  I grabbed hold of the rope which was hanging there but whenever I tried to move my feet up the wall they just slipped back down, so in the end I reached up and accepted a helping hand from one of the marshalls.

I continued running through the fields, I think on the other side of a hedge from last time, and soon I passed the 3km point and was heading down a leafy enclosed track on ground which had a bit more bounce and moisture in it without being too wet, but it also contained stones which were aggravating my hurt left heel, so I was hoping to get off it as soon as possible.  This stretch crossed a track and eventually led into a wood which gave me a far better surface to be running along, even if it was a little slippery in places, and I very soon came to

7. Arachnet

which had been changed from my previous times.  Before now it had been netting to crawl under but now it was a combination of ropes providing a spider’s web to get through, and once you were through the track rose uphill, winding through the wood, adding some steep drops and then climbing again, following a different route to last time, and slippery on the surface at all times, although thankfully it was just a surface mud and nothing deep.  It carried on like this through the wood, passing the 4km point, until it flattened out in time for

8. Equilibrium

which involved a balancing walk over a couple of fallen trees, and while usually I find this surprisingly easy, this time my running shoes simply had no grip and as I slid off with my legs either side of the log, I was glad that it was lying so low to the ground.  I gathered my thoughts and ran off from the obstacle.

We seemed to be following a different route to last time, running through the woods, passing 5km, and now the mud was starting to get deep rather than just being on the surface of the track.  A few times I felt the mud sucking at my left shoe and thought it might go, but thankfully it did not and I kept on going, though not at any speed.  I caught up with a couple of packs ahead of me just as it started to rain through the trees and we exchanged comments on how we would now end up getting wet, and how the rain would really mess up our hair.  It helped to take my mind off trying to stay upright as I ran through this mud.  I knew what was coming next, although the entrance to it did take me a little by surprise as it appeared to be wider and so did not seem very familiar

9. Ash Hole

The water was coming up to between my knees and my waist as I waded through, and I could see that the exit had been moved over to the left rather than being at the far end.  I decided to head for the fallen tree which went up the middle, because I always go for the photo opportunity, and it proved to be a good very decision as I crawled up it and got out at the other end with ease.

Anything to get out of that water

Anything to get out of that water

I carried on through the woods and ran out into the open expecting to find the water station but it had been moved a bit further along, to the bottom of the long slope.  I took a cup before continuing my run up the big hill, running round the corner to another incline, then into the bluebell woods at the top of the hill, where I was surprised to find another photographer,

What a lovely setting

What a lovely setting

and then to exit and not be surprised to find

10. Lac-Attack

which was different again 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 this time some logs had been added at the end that we had to clamber over before I was off running.

Run all the way up the hill to get to this...

Run all the way up the hill to get to this…

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 not looking forward to this one.

11. Monkey Bars

I hate monkey bars and, quite simply, cannot do them.  I did watch someone else doing them all, though, so that counts.  I continued running along the edge of the field towards an obstacle which I can do.

12. 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

13. Sloppy Hollow

but this was less muddy than last time and I am not sure if I took the wrong route, but I was able to get across the first part quite easily, then avoid most of the boggy ground, hurdle over a fallen tree before crossing to the other side of the wider gap having hardly gone through anything sloppy at all, although I was now up to my knees in mud and getting out at the other side was a little challenging up the slippery slope.  I went past 7km and knew what was coming next.

14. Alpha Lake

They had said it was 60 or 70 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.  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.  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 group was just ahead of me so I hung back a bit to let them get away, even telling the marshalls that I needed to delay my start or I would crash into them, and then I launched myself on to

15. Land Slide

which I took head first at speed, lying on my front with my arms up, sliding down the plastic strip and carefully manoeuvering around the group in front of me.  That was a lot of fun and I kept going at the end of the plastic and was finally brought to a halt by the mud.

Always fun !!!

Always fun !!!

I was up and running in the open again, passing 8km and coming around another corner, and it was not far running from there to

16. Acrophobia

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 back down again.  Doing these OCRs has really helped me with my worries over heights – it was never really a ‘fear’ but it did mess with my head.  Not any more.

From there it round a few corners and was not too far to

17. The Vault

which was a quick hop over a small wall, and then almost immediately

18. Hit The Wall

a bigger 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.  There was some more running from there, coming round a corner to reach the entrance to

19. Mud Sucker

a little stretch of water, just in case we had dried off by now somehow.  It was a little slippery underfoot but easy to wade through and it was never too deep, even if it did come up to my waist.

You just get used to being wet all the time

You just get used to being wet all the time

There was a bit of running to be done now, passing close to the track which leads to the woods and Arachnet on the way out, and hopefully not scaring the runners who were heading that way too much with how we now looked.  Then the route continued up the side of a field with the parked cars in view, before running along the side of them to the cheers of the spectators, until we came round another corner to find

20. The Swamp

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 headed off to the left and managed to get a decent foothold for long enough to allow me to scramble out to find the next obstacle had changed…The Last Straw was not waiting for me…and instead I had a run up the straight and around the corner to

21. Sheer Face

a pair of eyes painted on a black wooden wall.  Well, it would have been black at some point, 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, got up with some ease, then grabbed the top of the wall, threw myself over and lowered myself down on the other side.  Almost there now, although they had switched things around so now I came down off Sheer Face on to

22. The Last Straw

and while some people appeared to need some time to consider their next move I just jumped from one level of bales to the next, because I was too close to the end to be bothered about stopping now.  It was just a few jumps before I was on the ground again, running to the first pit of muddy water which begins

23. Mud Bath

I walked into the first pit, almost slipped over, got across to the slope, holding back a little as others were having their photographs taken ahead of me, then climbed to the top of the earth mound, made sure I was clear for my photo opportunity and slid down into the second pit before steadying myself to walk out of it, triumphant, finishing the course in just over an hour and a half.

What a triumph !!!

What a triumph !!!

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 !

More of a roar than a howl - need to work on that !

More of a roar than a howl – need to work on that !

Now bring on the summer Wolf Run in June, at the Stanford Hall venue !

This entry was posted in Paras' 10 Colchester May 2014, Run With The Wolf. Bookmark the permalink.

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