I could sum this up in one sentence, that sentence would be ‘feck me that was fun’. But this would provide an injustice to supporting a lovely new event that clearly took lots of organisation and had certain challenges of nature that threw things slightly into chaos – let me explain.
I signed up a couple of weeks ago to Xtreme Beach with Xtreme running because it simply sound an absolute hoot and because at the time I didn’t have a knackered Achilles, but just a few short days before, for the first time I injured the one thing that I really didn’t want to injure. Thankfully with a lot of effort and a lot of ice I managed to drag myself to start line in Bradwell on Sea in Essex. The first thing we noticed was that the emailed out directions to the event were very good and we arrived in very good time with the added bonus of free parking. Awaiting us was signage to indicate we had arrived and there were runners and race organisers floating around directing people over to the start line – all good so far. I even noticed that the couple of toilets weren’t in bad condition either – although I was there early and didn’t use them but the good lady did and she wasn’t too distressed by them.
I nipped over to the registration tent where I remembered that I had left my ‘Waiver form’, say on the printer at home, but the guys resolved this problem pretty easily for which I was grateful. I was asked how many laps I intended to do and I offered my usual – all of them please answer, the full 18km. I had decided that I would keep running until it was no longer safe to do so and therefore I needed to make sure I had the right amount of distance signed up for.
I was a little distressed as my feet had taken a soaking in the long grass on the way to the registration but there was nothing to be done about this now and although I had now seem a much drier path it was too late – perhaps a little directional signage would have helped here? I have to say though it was a rather jovial atmosphere though and by the time a few dozen runners had arrived and the music was in full swing, one could of mistaken this for a bit of rave had it not been for the early morning setting and the amount of trainers and Lycra on show. Sadly it then turned a bit miserable when the first obstacle hit home – the hail storm, this was well and truly beyond the organisers control but being in the long grass of the field with no cover meant that we pretty much all took quite an unpleasant soaking and the race was still 45 minutes away. I was freezing and contemplated pulling out as what looked like a load of fun now looked like being pretty miserable but I’m glad I didn’t.
10.30 turned up and the race should have started but over the PA system we heard it was running a few minutes late and that the warm up would take place soon. This was fine as at least they kept us informed and the warm up was okay although I felt some of it in the long grass might have led to potential injuries and given my already knackered state I took this section rather easy. So despite a few teething problems, mostly caused by Mother Nature the registration was pretty smooth.
At the start line we all ganged up together and readied for the off, I started in my customary place at the back and would work my way forward, the first kilometre was fine although bereft of any really nice scenery or challenges and I used this to move up the field a little bit. Then we saw it, the first of the challenges, we crossed into what can only be described as a very long stream of glorious shit, chest high in places and filling all our crevices with black mud. My Speedcross 3 with their gloriously grippy grip kept getting caught in the mud and refusing to come free but I powered forward as only a runner can! I slipped at one point and my head was dunked just below the surface and this was the bit where I knew I was going to enjoy this. After what felt like an age we came out of the mud and many of the runners simply started to walk but I pulled myself out and started to run for the monkey bars, it was a great disappointment that I saw a number of the runners avoiding the black pool of filth because if you weren’t going to do the adventure element of the race then what was the point? Anyway I digress .. I managed about 2/3 of the monkey bars and then hurtled past a dude called Gary who I had met earlier, I jumped under the first of the netting and used my head as a guide (getting friction burns on my scalp I think!) coming out of this was a delight until I crossed onto the beach and the lovely Marshall advised we were going down on hands and knees again. I adopted the same routine and came up for air quickly, holding the netting for my fellow competitors. Pushing onwards and upwards I came to the tyre lift and hurled some abuse at a lovely chap who was offering comedy support, into the water once again and then back out hurling my tyre on the rack. I was now tiring, more from a lack of training and being injured than the course but it was taking its toll and I hoped to simply make it to that second lap. I threw myself over the double wall they had erected and then onto the bag of stone lift – it was here I decided on doing just a single lap as the weight of the stone make breathing difficult and while I recovered once the weight was off me I wasn’t sure I fancied it again and my Achilles was feeling tighter than I had hoped. I therefore trundled beyond the turn, thanking the Marshall and organiser at the turning but deciding to go to the finish. I did give the finish a bit of fizz as is my usual way and I sprinted straight into the final obstacle of two large gentlemen brandishing large cushioned batons to beat me with! Ha, wonderful.
I was cut, bloodied and bruised but I felt rather wonderful at the finish line and this was a great event.
Perhaps a few things to consider though, I run for the bling … I suppose I’d rather have a medal than a t-shirt, the goody bag was decent, banana, hot soup, T-shirt, water (although would like to have seen the logo on the T-shirt). The registration area would probably have been better in the car park, or on slightly more even and drier ground given the autumnal setting and then we could have been led to the start line.
The marshals were excellent, giving clear directions and lots of lovely support, so many thanks to them. I imagine that as the event gets bigger and better the organisers will add little tricks and touches to the route and the obstacles but I thought they made great use of the landscape and terrain in developing complex challenges. The choice of 6,12 and 18km on the day and as you are going round was also very welcome and that option to stop when you needed to meant I was actually able to participate despite injury.
I would certainly do this again, although the normal entry price of £40 seems reasonably steep – even things like the Grim and Beast in the East manage to keep it a little cheaper than this but the discounts via Twitter (and I imagine Facebook) made the cost more sensible – infact for the £22.00 I paid I thought it was a bargain.
In conclusion I can say a few things, the first is that while this is not on the scale of the Mens Health Survival of the Fittest, nor Grim Challenge it has an epic charm all of its own and if they manage to tweak some of the very minor problems in registration then they have a winning formula and coupled with a great attitude and a listening ear this event will become a regular on many peoples calendar. Finally I would like to congratulate the organisers for their hard work because without them we wouldn’t have places to race and they seemed so genuinely passionate – plus the thing I really loved was that they wanted the runners feedback – this is the kind of thing that will make this event stand out as it moves forward. So thanks very much and good luck for the future Xtreme Running and I look forward to seeing you for the 18km next year.