A review of the Nuts Challenge – a 7k obstacle course in Surrey where no one will notice if you wet your pants from fear.
“I hate you so much right now.”
It was a phrase that I heard several times during a two hour period last Sunday 2nd March. To be honest, when someone turns up for a 14k ‘little obstacle course’ and ends up head to toe in mud, eating cow shit and wading through tit-numbingly cold streams, they have a right to feel a little miffed.
The Nuts Challenge
Tim and I were doing the Nuts Challenge. The Nuts Challenge, for anyone who’s not come across it yet, is actually nuts. Don’t let the 7k lap fool you. For a start, whilst a 7k jog would normally take just under an hour, add in some tyres, mounds of mud, a series of streams and rivers and cargo nets (not to mention hay bales, pipes and beams) and you’ve got a course that is guaranteed to take most people twice as long. There are those who are superhuman of course, and they seem to have magical abilities that let them skip through the chaos like frolicking mud bunnies. This is not normal.
Thinking it would be a good idea to test out some obstacle races before committing to something a little more terrifying such as Tough Mudder, the Nuts Challenge seemed to tick all the boxes; it was a quarter of the length and there was no electrocution. However, I overheard many times during the course the phrase, ‘this is much harder than Tough Mudder’, often said in gasping disbelief from fellow mud-stricken runners as we encountered yet another freezing muddy river obstacle.
The first sign that everything wasn’t going to be a jolly little field day was when Tim and I walked up to the starting tents. “Agh, my trainers!” I squealed, ineffectively trying to walk on my toes and avoid the 6 inches of churned up, sticky coffee-coloured mud. Having received our race numbers, race tattoo and dumped our bags in a very basic (unheated) tent, we lined up to race. Pre-race preamble was rather fun and we all had a little dance to cheesy music to get us warmed up.
At 11am, it started. Tim and I were in the 14k 2 lap category. Everyone sauntered off fairly slow. Never having done it before, running in mud is perilous for ankles and I had numerous visions of Tim having to drag me back to the car with a twisted ankle. If only.
From mud to worse
The obstacles start off fairly friendly – a little mud bank to slide down, followed by a splash through a shallow river and up the other side. I clearly remember after what seemed like 30 mins in, clambering over 10 metres of tyres and coming across a 2k sign. ‘HA! Tim, look! We’ve only done 2k,’ fully thinking we only had 2k left. What a foolish mistake; those markers tell you how far you’ve gone, not how much further you have left to go.
40 minutes of waist-deep river wading, scrabbling desperately at mud banks and ice-cold clothes and I was seriously thinking this was a foolish idea. ‘Dad’s going to be so angry,’ I thought. Being a doctor, dad cannot fathom why putting your health at risk was considered ‘fun’. All I could think of what that I’d better not get ill from this.
To be honest, the whole thing is a bit of a blur now. I have flashbacks of all the worst bits – jumping into a stream that was deeper than I anticipated and swallowing cow-scented murky water, face-planting into a 45’ mud-mountain and sliding back down 2m, trying to crawl under heavy tarpaulin with it straining so much on my neck I was using the top of my head to push my way through, the weird sensation of not being able to feel my legs, only heavy objects pounding relentlessly to keep me going, miscalculating a fall leap onto a line of rubber rings and going head-first into the water (thank you to the man who saved me – I’m sure it slowed you up dragging me out), the burn on your hands as you swing over yet another cargo net, the mud that stings your eyes, the thought that you’re never going to reach the end – the thought that you’ve got TWO rounds of this to go.
As it happens, we never did two rounds. “It’s not a bad thing you know, that some people only do one lap,” Tim shouted as we painfully slide down a root-infested mud bank into knee deep water. I didn’t answer.
That was, until about 5k in. “Fuck this. I’m only doing one lap.” I’d had enough of the cold and was, quite literally, hugely fed up. My decision had little impact on Tim – I’m pretty sure no amount of money would have convinced him to prolong the torture any longer than needed and there was no way 2 laps was even a serious thought.
The last obstacle was a wade through a neck-high pond (this really isn’t a good course for height-challenged people like me) and I know Tim hated it too. By the time you finish, you’re almost in a numb sense of disbelief yet there’s little joy. Your teeth are chattering and even though you run off to the changing tent to put on dry clothes, you’re soaked through, your hands don’t work and you end up wanting to cry as you tussle with your disobedient clothes.
It must be like childbirth – in that you forget all the pain you went through and strange thoughts come into your head. ‘Hmm, there’s another coming up later this year… could be fun…’ Would I do it again? Hell yeah. And I’m going to bring you guys with me.
As for my trainers? They spent 3 days soaking in the bath and are still mud-ridden. I’m saving them up for the next challenge…
The next Nuts Challenge takes place on 30th and 31st August 2014 at Squires Farm, Dorking. You can choose whether to do 1, 2, 3 or 4 laps. The Early Bird price is £35.
Want to join my team and do it with me to raise money for a charity?
A big thank you to Richard and Ashlie for taking photos and cheering / laughing us on over the cargo nets and tree logs. It really helped. I think. And giant congratulations to your hard-as-nails brother for being amazing and completely not one, not two, but FOUR laps. I saw grown men cry on their third lap.