Endless pits of icy sludge, daunting challenges and electric shocks – an adventure race might not be everyone but if you’re up for the challenge, says gym-goer Lisa Phillips, 34, who completed her first mud run last year, the sense of pride you’ll feel is unlike anything else.
What inspired you to sign up for an adventure race?
The group aspect appealed to me. I really enjoy the motivation of teamwork, and in adventure racing you tackle the obstacles as a team, helping each other up and over or through the challenges. A work colleague suggested it and suddenly about a dozen of us had signed up. By the time the run came around six months later, the group had dwindled to six but we were excited: the emails and texts leading up to the event were hilarious.
Is teamwork a big part of adventure racing?
Absolutely. You’re only as fast as the slowest member of your team. It’s more about the group dynamics than you as an individual; no one gets left behind. The camaraderie is amazing.
Were you nervous on the day?
Definitely, but it was exhilarating too. The whole event felt like you were at a festival – music, food stalls, friendly people. It’s a real party atmosphere.
Are hard-core fitness levels required? What prep did you do?
No. It’s more about determination. I usually exercise three or four times a week – a mix of going to the gym and running. My PT knew about the run, so he introduced exercises involving bars, jumps, ropes, crawling and pulling – stuff I didn’t do in my everyday training. That helped massively on the day and was also a really fun way to train.
What to wear: any recommendations with gear?
I wore a long-sleeved tight top and full-length running leggings with dual-layer socks and a pair of old trainers. I was glad for the long sleeves: you want all the protection you can get from scratches as you’re crawling along. Blisters and bruises are also par for the course. Don’t spend money on smart trainers – old, comfy ones will do just as well. In fact, be prepared to leave them there. At the end of the run there was a charity collection for runners to donate their muddy trainers. I felt sorry for the people who had to clean them up.
Muddy lows: what were the toughest bits of the day?
I’m not going to lie, there were some pretty dark moments. Not so much physically but mentally. One of the worst challenges was a tank of iced water you had to get through by fully submerging yourself and swimming underneath a solid partition. Underwater, your head freezes and when you come up you are totally dazed, wondering where you are and what on earth just happened. Thankfully there are plenty of marshals on hand to help you. One of our teammates had a bad time in the water and had to be talked through it, but she did it and was really glad she hadn’t given up. Another obstacle had us crawling through muddy water with live electricity cables hanging overhead. At one point I came up too high and was shunted forward by the electric charge, face-first into the mud. Several times I asked myself what on earth I’d been thinking to sign up to this, but each time I looked around at my teammates, and saw how silly we all looked covered in mud, it perked me back up and kept me going.
And the highs?
The best obstacles for me were the ones where you worked together with other people, not just your own team, to help each other. The whole thing is liberating – you’re being given permission to let everything go, get completely covered in mud and behave like a big kid. Getting across the finish line and seeing the staff handing out beer was awesome. It had taken us over five hours to finish (the course was about 12 miles), but we weren’t aware of the time; the adrenaline just keeps you going.
How did you feel the next day?
Like I had been hit by a bus. Blisters and bruised elbows and knees that I didn’t even notice until I got home. The mud took ages to clean off. But there’s such a sense of achievement: you feel like you can do anything after that. That feeling is still with me months later. It has definitely given me confidence to try new things.
Leading up to the run…
Anyone can get through an adventure race – as long as you’re willing to train for it. If you’ve done a reasonable amount of preparation then on the day you can take your time and do it at your own pace, safe in the knowledge that you’re capable of going the distance.
Train together as a team if you can. Working out the team’s strengths and weaknesses before the event, both physically and mentally, will be a real asset on the day. It also helps with the camaraderie.
If you have a PT, let them know what you are doing so they can set tasks to help strengthen your upper as well as lower body.
Freestyle Group Training (FGT) is a great way to prepare for an adventure race. These 30-minute gym floor classes are taught in small groups and include lots of different functional movement exercises.
On the day…
There’s plenty of respite between obstacles to catch your breath, but you will be wet so prepare to feel cold at times.
Keep arms covered if you can, unless it’s a really hot day.
Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home. If you’ve got long hair, tight plaits work best.
Be prepared to wave goodbye to your trainers!
Originating on a (muddy) Staffordshire farm in 1986, adventure racing is big business now. A quick internet search will uncover options near you but here’s a selection of what’s on offer.
ASIA AND INDIA