This time last week I was still fishing Dorking dirt out of my earholes. Mud had managed to make its way into my unmentionables and it just kept appearing. My legs and arms were black and blue and hell, I was wearing those bruises like badges of honour, I’ve turned into a walking poster-child for masochism and I’m ok with that. I’d completed the 21k NUTS Challenge and in a slightly disheveled state back in my van after the race, I was already Googling more adventure military style races I could participate in. Whatever addictive chemical this event had emitted, it was airborne and I was infected.
I’d been contacted by 2013 NUTS Challenge sponsors Betway to take part in the event which offers a seven kilometre obstacle course, with multiple laps available to those who want to increase the level of difficulty: 7, 14, 21 or 28km. The 60 permanent obstacles are transformed for the event to include the imposing ‘Hell River’, ‘Hamburger Hill’, ‘The Bunker’ and ‘The Somme’ – all created by ex-Parachute Regiment soldiers.
3,500 people were scheduled to take part and having chosen to try my luck at the 21k (3 laps) I was banana, peanut Tracker bar and Maltesered up and ready to rock ‘n’ roll on Sunday, 10:30am sharp, no dawdling and no backchat. I took somewhat of an enemy stance towards the other competitors, I was running this thing alone so my attitude was ‘it’s me or you’. For the most-part the enemy stood at least a foot taller than me and had muscles that a ramshackle group of local kids could swing from. You ain’t seen the gun show until you’ve been to one of these shindigs that’s fo sho. There was one brooding looking fella who I’m convinced could wipe out a group of rebels with his thighs alone, one particularly angry flex and they’d send out a shockwave which killed everything in its path.
The fastest time recorded on the seven kilometre course is 42 minutes (September 2011). The majority, however, manage one lap in about one hour to one hour 20 minutes. The fastest time over the 28km course distance is recorded at three hours and 24 minutes. I had my work cut out.
Founder and Director of The NUTS Challenge Wayne Monkman told me “I tried to create a military feel to the course, I have used my experience of the Parachute Regiment training with the recruit cadre to create this tough and renowned event – hopefully without destroying too many people – although some do turn up to compete totally underestimating how hard it is, surely the fact that its run by members of the Parachute Regiment should send out a warning?!
Our course was originally built to train a group of young people as WW2 military combat infantry and turn them into Paratroopers. The objective was to train them then drop them from a WW2 plane ( a Dakota ) by parachute on to the DZ next to Pegasus Bridge on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.”
Whilst competing, I saw quite a few folk injure themselves whilst out in the forest for the most part it seemed, where the ground is uneven, covered in roots, mud and lots of areas where mother nature will insist that you facepalm the dirt. It’s at that point that the heart stuff comes to the fore (something that I think is found in many military men and women, an awareness of the individual as well as sense of overwhelming togetherness, simultaneously). Although you want to push yourself to the limit and run a phenomenal time, you also want to reach the end knowing that you’ve done right by everyone and haven’t been a fucking tit. There was no pushing people out of the way (as there is during triathlon races for example), once you’ve managed to haul ass over a particularly gnarly obstacle it’s decent to turn and check that the man or woman behind you is gonna get over it too and if they’re struggling you help ’em out. I like that.
I also noticed that through the physical exhaustion, new injuries and aggravated old ones, everyone was here because this event was giving them something – the opportunity to test yourself and enjoying feeling your body’s limits (and then pushing it a bit further) as well as running alongside people to whom this wasn’t madness, but people who felt that adventures like this should be part of their existence…
The aforementioned Googling turned up some exciting results and I’m planning future adventures. It’s simple. I’m hooked.
Thanks to Betway for the hook-up and M.L.W for the photos of Liv. The next NUTS Challenge will be in March 2014