Team JB were buzzing with anticipation this morning at the prospect of taking part in Monster Race 2013 just a few miles up the road at Charlton Park Estate near Malmesbury (best known for hosting the annual WOMAD festival).  Considering how popular similar events like Tough Mudder and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest have become, it was surprisingly our first such obstacle race, and we were getting pretty excited at an excuse to get covered in mud on a cold November morning (can you tell we miss playing rugby??).

As we got ready, attaching our timing chips to our laces and writing our entry numbers on our foreheads, our group of 8 quickly became 9 as Kim from Chippenham joined our team.  Thankfully, there was coffee and tea available to warm us up before the race, and a handy bag-drop facility as the start was a fair walk away from the car parking area. Scheduled in the first wave at 10am, we were called to the event-organised group "warm-up" (if you call plyometric lunges a warm up!) and before we knew it we were at the start line!  The excitement was all too much for Alex, who, unable to wait for the first proper obstacle, jumped straight into the middle of the first decent puddle with both feet (surprisingly difficult to resist when you know you're going to get really muddy anyway).


After a pleasant trail run through a wood, we reached the first obstacle, "The Hurdles", a gentle introduction to the course which we negotiated with relative ease (although I did manage to muddy Sian's ear in the process with my foot - thankfully no harm done!).  Next up was one of the highlights of the course, "Monsters' Marsh" which did not disappoint! Lowering ourselves with the aid of a rope down the slippery bank, those of us who had spent our summer swimming in the Cotswold Water Park lake had a fair idea of what to expect - but it still always makes your heart skip a beat when the icy water hits your chest!  We were also lulled into a false sense of security when the water level was at first only up to waist height.  As we peered around the reeds and saw Sian and Alex disappearing up to their necks, any initial smugness at being a bit taller soon evaporated as the rest of us realised this was the eventual fate of us all (even the tall and brave team JB newcomer Karen)!

Onwards we went through the "Tyre Crawl" and "Log Carry" to the next big challenge - "The Wall".  Fantastic teamwork saw us hoicking each other up and flinging ourselves over the top, winning top marks for artistic impression on dismount!  A long interrupted run stretch followed, past a temporary film set at the edge of the estate (looking like a prisoner of war camp - anyone know what film?).  Then it was on to the "Sandbag Carry", which immediately inspired plans for a Tetbury Woolsack Race 2014 relay team, followed by the "Hay Bales Steps" where we were cheered on by star supporter Amanda, who we also have to thank for taking the awesome photos!  Only a couple of obstacles now separated us from our Monster Medals, and Alex progressed from two-footed puddle jumps to chest first swan dives whilst she still had the chance!

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The penultimate obstacle was the muckiest of all, with our mud-pit crawl under barbed-wire drawing wild applause from the crowd at the finish!  A final wall awaited, made all the more tricky by the mud which now lubricated and rendered the rope next to useless! Thankfully Hayles showed off her second-row lineout llifting skills to safely guide the team over (although by this stage Clare and our Kim were making it look easy).  All that remained was for us to proudly join hands to cross the finish line together, wondering what had happened to the "Pugil Pummel" Monster henchmen we had been looking forward to tackling (literally)! 

With no showering or changing facilities available, it was a slightly anti-social end to the event as everyone hurried off to their cars to get warm. We would encourage this to be improved for the next event, with perhaps an extra changing marquee and some buckets of water for hand-washing a reasonable expectation for an event of this size.  Nevertheless, as Team JB's first venture into the world of obstacle course events, Monster Race was an exhilarating opportunity to confront and conquer a new challenge!  See you next year then....

 

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