This was at the new regular location for the Wolf Run which they had first used for the Winter Wolf Run in 2013 (which you can read about here) and it was pretty easy to get to from Junction 18 of the M1, with more than ample parking close to the main enclosure. According to their website “Stanford Hall offers a wide range of challenging terrain, vast woodland and stunning scenery. There is an abundance of mud and water.” Yes, that pretty much sums it up, as I recalled from last time.
Registration was a very simple and well organised process, as was the bag drop where I left my car key, and then I just had to wait until my start time. Except that this time things were different for me, because this time I would be running in a Wolf Pack ! Stuart Messenger (who will be known as Stu from now on in this blog) from the Regiment Fitness bootcamp sessions at Welwyn Garden City had decided to put together a Wolf Pack for this one, and although I had already signed up I was able to be added to the Wolf Pack (in a very simple and straight forward process, so many thanks and congratulations to the organisers for that) which finally also included Mark Cowell, Adrian Carroll, Stuart O’Connell and Julie O’Connell. Big Bad Wolves was a very strong Wolf Pack. Apart from myself.
We were all there in good time and after Stu and Stuart had taken the opportunity to lock Adrian into one of the portaloos, and I had got some photographs of the Smurfs (but not photographer Smurf, who was positioning himself on the other side of Serpentine Lake)
and happened to meet up with Jim Macleerie, we headed off to the area near to the start line, where we were taken through a very sharp active warm up and I was feeling very good as we moved into the starting pen. Just as at the last Wolf Run in Leamington, they now had a big screen showing scenes from around the course, so it is probably best to set off feeling very good. We had the short safety talk during the warm up and then we were off, straight into the Serpentine Lake, which was not too cold, was obviously wet and came up to the waist. Running straight into this did not have quite the adverse effect it had on me in the Winter Wolf Run but it still slowed me down as we got out the other side of the water. We were out and running across grass until we went through a muddy ditch and continued along the grass which was becoming ever more muddy itself, on to the edge of woodland, following the track through there as we went over
Deadwood Hurdles, which were a series of fallen branches and logs, all over wet, slippery mud which was beginning to get a little deep around my Merrell All Out Rush. Yes, I had bought myself a new pair of running shoes for this type of event and this was their first outing – so far I was very impressed, and I knew from my previous running of this course that this was only a light covering of mud, which meant they would be well tested by the end of the course. I was already running at the back of our Wolf Pack, with Mark really bombing off at the front, and we ran along the edge of the field until we came to another section of fallen trees, and then we were out into the open and running along a mud track, heading towards the woods. But before we got there we had
Tyred Already which again was much longer than the one at the Leamington site. It started with much bigger tyres and then we hurdled a wall of tyres before going over another few sets of laid down tyres. I was in a position to be able to help Julie towards the end and then we continued on into the woods again. We followed a very well-marked track through the woods, which was mostly flat and gradually became more enclosed and went on for some way, passing the 1km mark before it brought us to
Forest Maze which gave a left and a right option, and I went to the right, following Stu, which meant almost doubling in half to get under very low branches. There was another junction a bit further on and I must have taken the short cut because I managed to emerge ahead of Stu. We came out of that on to the woodland path again and some logs to clamber over, some deeper mud, and lots more running with me pushing to keep up with the Wolf Pack before we reached
Ditched and a muddy ditch filled with water, with branches falling down into it and a very wet and muddy slope up the other side. The mud was easily up to my calves, was not a short stretch by any means, and there was no easy route through it. I was very pleased with the grip I got from the new trail running shoes. We continued on through the wood, often having to duck under branches, going past the 2k mark until we came to
Hard Yards with the path taking us up and down through a seemingly never-ending series of ridges which got progressively deeper until we were back on to flatter but still muddy ground again for a short respite before we reached more ridges, the up and down really working the legs, and especially as I was driving along trying to keep up with the others. It was good to have them there, encouraging me along, keeping me going. There was no deep mud here, just a slippery surface and my new running shoes were still serving me excellently ! Then we were back in the open again and running for not such a short distance across a grass field towards
Equilibrium which was a lot of fun as we had the choice of a number of different sized logs to run up at a slant, then running along an adjoining log, before running down a final log on the other side. My running shoes had provided excellent grip through all of that, depsite the mud on them, and now I had caught up with the others and we were off and running again, downhill through more fields, going through 3k before we reached
Boggy Oaks which was a bog among fallen oak trees. The mud was wet, thick and deep and just to add to that we had to get past the fallen trees in the middle of it all, and stretching through to the end of it. There was no easy option with this one either, you just had to go through the mud as best you could. All of which allowed me to catch up with my Wolf Pack and struggle through with them. We took all routes, and I tended to hug the outside, trying to find as much firm ground as possible, but always ending up having to go through some mud. And the mud continued as we ran away from this obstacle, going up and then across the brow of a hill.
There was a long queue for Landslide and according to Mark’s watch we actually stood in line for 9 minutes before we climbed up a couple of hay bales to the start. I now have excellent technique for this so I was baffled by what happened next…I stopped about half way down. Just came to a stop. We had been sent down in pairs and right from the top I lagged behind, and then came to a stop. The person behind me crashed into me and asked if I was wearing velcro. I tried pushing myself on but it would not work, so I got to the side of the slide and ran down the hill to join the others at the bottom. Of course, it was muddy at the bottom because of all the water being poured down the slide, and the others had all slid into a pool of water at the end of the slide. We continued on, running towards some more woods, through a ditch filled with water which was very slippery up the other side before running through more thick mud to get us to
Wild Springs, with the water coming up above the knees towards the waist and I waded through it, coming to more mud at the other end as the muddy slope made it very hard to get out before there was more mud to climb up to take us to a slippery, muddy track which finally led higher to the next grass track, and another long stretch of running. We past 4k and I was trailing the Wolf Pack again as I had to run through another pool of water and up a muddy slope, then it was over the top of the slope and we were going downhill, with me catching them up as we were following a track for another long running stretch which took us back into woods, more muddy ground and fallen trees over pools of water. The course was not getting any easier. And then we reached
Mud Sucker which was a lot more thick, wet, sloppy mud, almost impossible to get through, and certainly impossible to just walk through. It was certainly a scene to behold as we got there because there just seemed to be an endless queue of people stuck in the mud, and the mud appeared to be going on forever. I had got there after the rest of the Wolf Pack and headed off to the edge, noticing that Adrian had chosen to go down the middle, and was now going down and further down into the mud. I got level with him and looked across as he put his hand out. For a moment I thought he was planning to pull me in, and then I realised he was actually stuck. I reached down, grabbed his wrist and pulled…and thought this was going to end up with me down in the mud with him ! Fortunately, one of the great things about the Wolf Run is how everyone helps out everybody else, and there were immediately three of us pulling Adrian out of the mud to safety. I say safety, but we had only just got started through all this mud. I actually switched sides to try to find a better path through it and found myself behind Julie.
We could see Stu struggling through the middle towards a tree stump as we continued round the edge, using the branches from trees to keep us out of the mud. This took us round the corner to the left before we turned to the right to find a ditch filled with muddy water. It was sloppy and came up to my knees and was like walking through treacle, with a slippery slope at the far side. Just to the left of that was a pool of wet mud, which was suddenly filled with a large runner. He came up completely covered with a grin showing his sparkling white teeth – it was definitely one of the images of the day ! Now we were back out into a field. Which meant more running.
The 5k mark came just before Hit The Wall, which I have to say I find easy. The footholes between the logs which make up the wall seem to be ideally placed for me, so I was up and over in no time, and able to help another runner behind me. Last time running here the drinks station was just the other side of the wall but now it was some distance the other side, down at the bottom of a hill, so at least we had done some of the running by the time we got there, and we carried on through fields before we reached passed 6k and reached a big stream, or as they call it
Turbine Stream which was a wide stream. It was not very deep to begin with, but it was slippery underfoot and it was long, and got deeper as it went on, finally coming up to my knees, then briefly the top of my legs before going down again, and it was not too difficult to walk out of this one. I had caught up with the rest of the Wolf Pack at this time and was able to give Julie a hand to get out of the water as Stuart was already on his way running along the wet, muddy track which took us to more water, another stream which was deeper this time and came up to my waist from the beginning. There was a photographer towards the end, so we came together for a Big Bad Wolves photo, before Adrian was splashing off to get us running again.
The steep sides to this part of the river made it much harder to get out of and fortunately there were ropes on hand to assist us. More running followed as the route took us out of the woods again and through the fields, and while I was finding the running tiring, I was determined to keep up and not slow everybody down too much.
Even at the best of times I am not going to get over their Monkey Bars, so there was no hope here. Instead I got to watch Mark, Adrian and Stuart giving it a really good go, and Stu getting all the way across ! Julie also made it across, with a little help from Adrian. I did not manage many of them, and was soon off and away with the Wolf Pack, going over 7k and running over the open ground until we came to more water. Another muddy track across the fields followed, going through a number of open gates along our way until we came to
The Vault which was another wall made out of logs, but a lower one this time with no footholes. So it really was a matter of vaulting over it. I was running with Stu and Julie by this stage, and went over just before Julie got to it. Then there was more running through more fields over more muddy tracks until just after 8k we reached
River Swim where the water was immediately up to my waist and while I could have waded through it I decided it was far easier to just swim. It did not feel particularly cold and it did not go on for too long as I progressed with my very basic breaststroke. The exit into more woods was not too difficult either. Another enclosed muddy track took us to some more water, only just above the ankles this time but on top of a very muddy surface. I was still getting great grip from my new running shoes. Another muddy track, and then more water. The formula is very clear.
Bridge Too Far was another swim, this time in deep water under a brick bridge. Julie asked the marshall how deep it was and although she was told it was less deep to the right she stuck with her line on the left, to the complete bafflement of Stuart. We came out of the water on to a track through light woods, crossing a smaller stream and continuing on through the fields until we got to the next obstacle
The Last Straw which had been modified from last time, so this time there was a slope to run up, a gap to jump across and tunnels to go through, before we were up and running off again. Now we passed 9k, ran towards another clump of trees and very soon we waded and swam over to
Survivor Island through the water which came up above the waist and sometimes to the chest, crossed the island through the trees and then swam from the island to the shore. Out of the water and we were running together as a Wolf Pack along a muddy track by the edge of the river, taking a long loop to get back to the start, which brought us to
Sheer Face, another obstacle familiar to me and a wall which I got over very easily by using the rope, with the new running shoes providing perfect grip. I knew we were close to home now. Running over the grass brought us to a pathway and we crossed that to take me to
Acrophiobia the big climbing net. I know how to do this so I was up and over with not too many worries about how high it was, and then I was off again, running over the grass between the trees, although I could still not see the finish I knew it was close, so I knew I could keep up with Mark’s pace for this final stretch. It was a last push along the grass track to get to the edge of the Serpentine Lake again. We gathered together and walked into the water and waded across to the other side.
We had done it, and finished in 1 hour 45 minutes and 24 seconds (not taking into account the 9 minutes at Landslide), which was faster than I did it last time. We posed in the water for the finish photos, then adopted the Mark Pigden pose in front of the Wolf Run board, before standing for another photo, taking our goody bags and I headed off to the bag drop to get my car key.
Usually that would be it for me, get changed and drive home, but this time I stayed around with the others, tried to get some water out of the hoses, got changed into some fresh clothes despite not managing to get much water, and then we headed over to the little village, enjoying the company, enjoying the hogroast,
when suddenly the word went round that a guy was at the Finish preparing to propose to his girlfriend and would welcome some moral support, so, of course, we all went across to cheer him on. He had a couple of friends carrying a banner for him and when she was approaching the far bank of the Serpentine Lake he waded out to pop the question as they met in the middle of the water. She said yes ! And that seemed like a good time to head off.
This had been another brilliantly organised Wolf Run and this new location is a completely different proposition to the Leamington site. There is a lot more water, longer distances to run, and there was even more mud than last time. I would certainly say it was a harder course, but it was still excellent fun being run in the right atmosphere, and it was great to run in a Wolf Pack. I will definitely be coming back for more, and I am pleased to say that even though I was at the back the whole time, the Big Bad Wolves are having me back next time !
You can see more of my photographs from the day here.