I’d been idly thinking that it might be fun to do an obstacle course one day and was thrilled when Laura and Sarah got in touch to give me the opportunity to take part in The Gladiator Games, a brand new event. Of course I said “yay, yes please”, and then spent the next few weeks worrying about whether I was strong enough to do it or not.
With the choice of a 5k or a 10k, I opted for the 5k route after reading that it included all the obstacles. Andrew however is mad and opted for the 10k, despite his claims that he doesn’t really like running.
The event was held at The Woodhall Estate in Hertfordshire which was extremely scenic, if difficult to get to without the use of a car. I wasn’t expecting obstacles to present themselves until I got on the course, but London Transport and British Rail being London Transport and British Rail naturally conspired against me and I found myself killing time at Kings Cross at silly o’clock on a Saturday morning after my train was cancelled.
I spent my hour frantically ringing around taxi companies to see if I could find someone to take me to Woodhall Estate. Apparently taxi companies out in the sticks don’t answer their phones and taxi companies in the nearby towns refuse to come out to Wattan-at-Stone. Finally, I located a taxi and it all worked out well at the pick up point when I met some other runners who were stuck, so we all piled in. Result. Our lovely taxi driver also treated us to a brief history lesson as he drove us through the beautiful village and pointed out his house, which used to be a prison.
I found Andrew in the event village, which was functional and friendly. Quick bag drop in the key tent (thank you organisers!), a long loo queue (note for next year, get some more) and it was time to join the wave for warm up.
I don’t “do” group warm ups. I don’t tend to do anything involving coordination in groups. However, judging by the smiles it was enjoyed by most and we were raring to go.
I was lured into choosing the 5k option as the map and description on the course page made it seem like a fun, beginner friendly obstacle course over a reasonable distance. Although the 10k mentioned water features and hill, the 5k was pleasantly devoid of such information. Although we were told to expect to get muddy and wet, I naively thought that this would come from perhaps splashing through a shallow water feature and crawling through mud. I had my phone with me, ready to take photos like a good blogger, safely (or so I thought) zipped in my pocket.
I had no ziploc bag. This turned out to be a rookie mistake.
After a short run, we ended up at the water. We ended up going in. It was cold. Phone was shoved in my bra as the water approached my waist. Phone ended up above my head as it approached my chest. Then disaster struck. I lifted my foot out of my shoe. The mud had sucked it my shoe off of my foot. Thank you to the lady who took my phone to safety on the bank whilst others helped me out of my predicament.
Yes, the shoe was recovered.
And that set the scene for the rest of the course. I lost count the number of times we crossed the water and squelched through mud. I vaguely wondered whether we were in the right conditions for trench foot.
There were also some really tough climbs on the course and I don’t mean just hills to run up. Nope, we had to climb up steep banks, with nothing more than a rope for guidance. It’s much harder than it sounds, especially when you’re cold, wet and caked in mud whilst frantically trying not to lose your phone. On the plus side, it was a good opportunity to check if phone was really waterproof (turns out it is both water and mud proof).
The route didn’t solely consist of water, mud and climbs, although at times it felt like it. There were also some “Gladiator Zones” which were good for a giggle and involved having to cross through the obstacles without falling to the mighty Gladiator. Highlights were definitely running up the “Travelator” and then sliding down a second one. After a slow start, I picked up speed and started to lose control. After hearing a cry of “oh shit” I realised someone was about to plough into the back of me and unleashed what I like to imagine a pretty impressive combat style roll to the side. Awesome. Being dug out of a mud swamp after getting my ankle trapped under a log was also an interesting experience. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop laughing.The “Foam Zone” was pretty good fun, crawling through bubbles galore and I especially liked using the trampette to bounce across hay bales, whilst a Gladiator tried to knock us off. The fall at the end was less fun, but that was mostly because I tripped over my own feet.
Andrew caught up with me and I finally made it to the end.
After I gave up on cleaning up and changed my shoes (RIP, marathon trainers), Andrew and I walked back towards the village where we visited a charming pub for delicious burgers and laughed at the pretentious English Breakfast on the menu. Who eats egg ravioli with sausage confit and bacon foam, unless they’re on Masterchef?!
The Gladiator Games was great fun and I can honestly say that I have never laughed so much at an event. I came away bruised, battered, cut and muddy and later developed a swollen ankle, but I’d still do it again. Just a few things to note which I think the organisers could perhaps highlight for next year:
- The venue is advertised as being a 20 minute walk from the station, but it’s more like 35 minutes and it’s mostly along a busy road with no pavement. Of course, this isn’t anything to do with the organisers, but it would be useful to highlight on the website!
- It really wasn’t clear that there was so much water involved in the 5k. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be chest deep and I would have left my phone in my bag had I known.
- A few more toilets, please! It was a first event though, so I’m sure they will take note for next time.
- There was one long stretch of water. It was probably only a couple of hundred metres, but it was cold and we were in there for several minutes. I also didn’t spot any officials along this stretch and I think perhaps there should have been a pair of eyes for health and safety reasons.
There were a few nice touches:
- Water stops on the course. Appreciated!
- T-shirt provided beforehand so we had the choice of wearing them or not.
- Jelly beans handed out.
- Designated key drop for car drivers.
- A list of race numbers on the website so you could look up your number to find the race photos.
The event was friendly and a lot of fun. For something a bit different and a bit of a challenge, give it a go. If you like creature comforts, stay at home.
Thank you Gladiator Games for providing me with a place in this event – I had a lot of fun cutting my teeth on my first obstacle course!