Around this time last year I did my first obstacle race. I’ve done a couple of different events since then and two weeks after the Warwick Half Marathon I was back in Melton Mowbray for my second crack at Farmageddon.
Not wanting to make things easy for myself this year they were offering a 20k course so we duly signed up.
Just to make it a bit a clearer as I’ve glossed over that.
That’s the same distance as the Warwick Half Marathon but off-road terrain and with a variety of obstacles to overcome.
I can safely say this was an incredibly difficult thing to do!
Having said that the difference a year makes is noticeable. This is my fourth obstacle course and my fifth event overall including Warwick and while I’m not saying it was a walk in the park I was barely able to get round last year which was half the distance.
The extra distance is made up of an extra lap. Once you got within touching distance of the finishing line you carried straight on!
As with last year there was a good atmosphere and lots of friendly banter before, during and after the race and with a newly added 5km option the turn out was much larger. Over 500 people I believe in comparison to around 280 last time around.
The course was largely the same as last time but with some minor tweaks which really helped with getting a correct pace as well as providing various talking points on the way round such as;
“Remember when you dropped that log on your head?”
“It was around this point I would have eaten my right arm”
“That cold water that’s coming up soon will do wonders for my cramp again”
So overall I enjoyed this just as much as last year and the extra lap pushed me really hard. The previous year the 10k took us 1 hour and 32 minutes so having set a realistic goal of three hours to actually finish in 2 hours 46 minutes was brilliant – especially when we got delayed quite near to the start (I’ll come back to that). Overall standing was 18th out of the 27 20k runners so pretty happy with that too. It also meant that even with the two laps we were faster than last year.
Since this was my second year it did give me the opportunity to compare both events.
In terms of improvements…
One issue with obstacle courses is getting the placement correct so that as the field starts to spread out people hit the obstacles at different times. When this doesn’t work out it can mean waiting in a queue while people in front navigate the obstacle. If you have a few people that struggle to get past it then makes the problem even worse. On an event called X-Runner we did last year this actually meant out second lap was considerably faster than our first lap as we got held up considerably on a single obstacle near the start.
One of the first obstacles was a cargo net to climb up and over. Because it was so near to the start everyone basically hit it at the same time causing a large queue. Not great.
Either more of them were needed or it needed placing at a different section of the course.
Lack of consideration
At the bottle neck a few people decided they didn’t want to wait in the queue and came charging over regardless. This was while people were still on the obstacle. The marshals were only letting people on two at a time (for perfectly good safety reasons) yet these guys thought it would be ok to throw a few more bodies on. One poor girl who was just going over the top somehow managed to stay calm and avoid getting pushed off. Their excuse as they clambered past was "We’ve already had a 15 minute delay". No-one in the queue wanted to wait so their inability to understand we had waves and chip times made the blood boil.
The 20k field was considerably smaller than the 10k and 5k (understandably so) but we went out at the same time as the 10k entrants and the two waves after that weren’t too far behind us. This meant when we finally finished there was hardly anyone about. The big crowds to cheer you on to the finishing line and the loud music that was played throughout were nowhere to be seen. It meant that once we’d collected our finishing packs there wasn’t much point in hanging around. We stayed quite a while last year cheering on other competitors and soaking up the atmosphere. Even the burger van was packing up!
I’d probably have started the 20k wave about half an hour earlier than the 10k wave so we finished around the middle or end of the 10k field.
Maybe it’s just me but in my eyes doing the 20k was a big deal and I thought this was reflected in the smaller numbers who wanted to give it a go. But since there was practically no-one about when we finished and we got exactly the same finishing pack as the people that did 5k and 10k it felt like a bit of anti-climax as we crossed the finish line, collected our stuff and left. Maybe it’s just my ego that needed massaging after all that hard work but in comparison to my memories on how it felt at the end last year this year felt very low key.
I’m not complaining about all of it though! Some things I did like included
I do like collecting the t-shirts we get after completing events and the blue one provided this year looked even better than the one we got last year – which I was more than happy with too!
This was new.
At the end of the race as well as the standard post-race swag we were given a can of lager (or cider). While it wasn’t straight from a fridge or a fancy continental brew at the end of the 20k it was one of the greatest tasting beers I’ve ever had.
They were great, especially some of the younger kids who were helping out. It was especially nice to still see them patiently waiting for us on our second lap when everyone else had finished and gone home!
Sometimes it’s the small things that count. As you reached the end of the first lap it was a left turn to the end for the 10k runners and straight on for the 20k runners. Just before turning into the first bend was a small, unmanned table with some bottles of water, some plastic cups and bunches of bananas. Taking a minute to refuel and rehydrate as well as contemplate going round a second time was just what was needed.
Having now completed a few events I can easily say this is one of the most physically demanding I’ve personally done (over 10k and then 20k). There were several comments on the Farmageddon Facebook page that said there should be more obstacles and less running. I couldn’t disagree more with them. Each event I’ve done so far has it’s own unique challenge. Part of this particular event are some of the long runs. While at the time having completed the hill climbs and then having to face a 3km run felt horrible it’s part of the signature of that particular course. Please don’t tweak that too much.
The good largely outweighed the bad I’m pretty confident of shaving some minutes off that time so I’m already looking forward to 2015!
Thanks to the organisers for putting on such as great event again.