Woods Obstacles Lakes Fields
WOLF Run! Being involved in obstacle course racing for 10 years now, this series has been around for as long as I can remember – probably predating that by a bit, countless amounts of obstacle racers have had WOLF Run as their first one, many still regularly go back, and in that 10 years – as OCR brands have risen and fallen – I can’t recall a bad review or negative comment towards WOLF Run.
Considering this I figured it might be worth giving one a go!
I got my place in the Spring WOLF from someone who was unable to take part, it was thankfully very easily switched over (always a relief) and the WOLF Run website even has a nice little login section to check you details/start time etc so you don’t have to scrawl back through emails to find something you received months prior!
It was nice to drive past some of the obstacles on the way to parking the car to have a little look at what’s on offer (£5 car parking fee for the field though, I hate parking charges) as well as being greeted by a large event village – registration in a marquee, a heated tent, changing rooms, and loads of food & coffee vendors (also some cash machines!). Essentially everything you could want from a race base (even a bar in the marquee for those desperate for an alcoholic drink in the mid-morning/early afternoon) including a few obstacles in sight to make it worth bringing a few supporters and spectators along!
As for the course itself, we were immediately thrown onto a long stretch of different-sized tyres to clamber over before heading out onto the fields. The route made good enough use of the terrain to never be too challenging – mainly around the edges of fields with the occasional short woodland run after some water sections, staying relatively flat the whole way.
The obstacles came at finely spaced out intervals, getting us scrambling over climbing walls, large cargo net frames, dragging ourselves under nets, and balancing over pontoons in the ponds. As a mixture of obstacles these all were just what you would want or expect from a run like this – nothing so tall or crazy that you couldn’t possibly manage it by yourself, but a few ditches or climbs that having a group of friends around you will certainly make a little more doable.
Among the highlights were a long, cold swim down a river finishing with climbing a cargo net up onto a bridge (for those who have been around OCR for a while, think Ram Run’s Bridge of Despair..), deep (deep!) muddy ditches, pontoons onto monkey bars over a pond (at this point, monkey bars that have nothing but ground beneath them are surely pointless or just lazily placed), and WOLF Run’s signature slide – the only slide in a race I’ve seen where it’s mandatory to go down head first, which builds up quite a speed!
All of the obstacles were built big and built strong to receive the large waves of people getting thrown at them over the course of the weekend. The WOLF Run branding covering some of the larger structures showed that this wasn’t just thrown into place, these are WOLF Run’s obstacles.
WOLF Run is an event series aimed at groups completing for a challenge to to get out and have some fun, with this in mind and after seeing what they are all about, I wonder why WOLF Run isn’t absolutely massive when you compare it to the famous events eg. Tough Mudder or Spartan. The obstacles here are much more accessible than both Tough Mudder and Spartan, with nothing too over the top but still offering a challenge for the first-timers, WOLF Run offer a special t shirt to collect by doing all 4 events of the series similar to Spartan’s draw of the Trifecta, and as for the price of entry, merchandise, and other fees – you can probably do the whole WOLF Run weekend for less than the cost of just a Spartan Sprint entry (I can’t even bring myself to look how much Tough Mudder costs).
Don’t get me wrong, WOLF Run is very popular, there were more than enough people to fill out a whole weekend of running, and is obviously standing the test of time but the fact that they are not on the same fame level as Tough Mudder seems unfair. My guess is it would simply come down to marketing, Tough Mudder and Spartan have marketed themselves and particular obstacles very specifically and very well, and a headband or medal is easier to show off at work than the t shirt/wristband that WOLF Run reward you with.
What it comes down to is this: WOLF Run is great fun and a really good OCR. It’s clear to see why they have people returning year after year to complete all 4 runs and earn Alpha Wolf status, they don’t sell themselves as an actual race but clearly have no problem with people who want to go for a fast time but of course they are mainly tailored for people to take part as groups and teams. I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to take part in one but I’m happy that I now have because I can honestly recommend them to first-timers who want a fun and challenging event!
The route was set out and signed perfectly, there were marshals EVERYWHERE (directing people to the registration tent, handing out waivers, a few on every obstacle), and there was a nice goody bag at the end with food, water, t shirt, and wristband. It’s left me pretty keen to try out their other venues.
Oh, also I hate it when you have to buy race photos.
Similar to taking part in Battle of Lansdown a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to come along to WOLF Run for a chance at a quick run and a few obstacles that wouldn’t leave me destroyed so break up all the long runs my training has consisted of recently. The fact that WOLF Run isn’t a highly competitive type of run was nice, knowing that I could run as hard or as easy as I wanted without having to think about much else.
After trying (and failing) to hide away from the mass warm up, there was a predictably fast start with everyone launching over the tyres at breakneck (breakankle) speed. Plodding along and trying not to get caught out by this too soon I found that as usual the pack spread out over the first mile or so.
At the big WOLF Run-branded climbing wall I found myself alongside a guy named Harry, he was getting over the obstacles quickly and was going at a similar pace to me so after a bit of chat it appeared we’d be loosely running this together with a definite last-km push to the end.
Having this kept the pace fast, keeping me from ever really being able to let up or being lazy in places where I definitely (100%) would have otherwise been lazy, all the while maintaining a conversation and pretending that doing so wasn’t killing me. We found ourselves trading between who was in front or behind fairly regularly, with me taking some obstacles a bit faster, Harry taking others much faster. When we hit the swim (about 6 or 7k in?) Harry pulled ahead by quite a bit and climbed out of the river looking strong. I dragged my cold, limp body out probably a good 30 seconds to a minute later, and oh my! It’s been a while since I’ve had to run hard immediately after a swim and being freezing cold!
It looked like Harry was a fair bit ahead now but I kept pushing on and somehow ended up beside him after a few more obstacles. We hit some muddy ditches that I managed to scramble out of quite fast (probably due to a little more OCR experience) and at 8k I decided that I had plenty left in me and picked up my pace, feeling like I was pulling away nicely.
Somehow, and somewhat frustratingly, while I had picked up my pace and thought I had got way ahead, it turned out that Harry was right behind me and I had never really shaken him! All I could do was keep up the pace and get through the various muddy ditches that we were given towards the end of the race. On the big log-climb thing towards the end Harry overtook me again leading to a very fast push for the last few hundred metres. We hit the traverse wall and the marshal, giving commentary, pointed out that I was ahead but I guess I stumbled or just made some clumsy foot placings as Harry jumped off just before me, sprinting together to sprint up a hay bale ramp & crawl under some more before the end, Harry finishing just before me.
Running the race like this was so much fun that it’s hard to describe, to feel so evenly matched with someone, or to feel like your strengths have given you a big lead only to find that person right on your tail kept the whole thing entertaining and definitely spurred me on to push through areas where it would have been very easy to let up. The fact that Harry was a super nice guy helped also, and finishing so close with it coming down to the last obstacle was crazy fun – had Harry not been there I guess I would have finished by myself a fair bit ahead of the next person but as it stands I’m glad I finished 2nd the way I did rather than 1st in that way!
Also, I was FREEZING at the end, I bought a coffee but spilled it all over my hand and legs from shivering. Well annoying. Thank god for that heated tent!
Next up: Forest Warrior weekend!
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.