Everyone has got one, a friend of a friend of a friend who has completed an obstacle course. And while is hasn’t quite reached kale proportions in terms of being all the rage, perhaps you’ve seen the before and after shots gracing your news feeds of friends jubilant, impossibly muddy, and fresh from the course at Tough Mudder, Mud Run or Raw Challenge.
Eager for a new challenge after the training and completion of my first 5 km run, I signed up myself and a friend for The Stampede obstacle course, an hour outside of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley’s Wandin Park. After a brief three weeks of training to get ourselves to the point we could run the 10 km course (didn’t happen), we arrived for our day of bog wading, hurdle jumping, wall climbing, ice bath drenching and, yes, electrification from running through a tent with live cables dangling from the roof. Fun.
From the moment we arrived the air was electric and the event well organised. Teams roamed the grounds in matching fancy dress, families sporting three kids under eight years old lined up to register for the Junior Stampede (2 km, mini obstacles, adorable) and spectators lined the course, cheering on the runners who had already set off.
We lined up for the 10.30 start, counted down from 30 seconds, and were off. After our initial worry at not being able to run the whole way, within 300 m it became apparent that only a certain few had this as their goal. It made me realise anyone can do this, and maybe everyone should at least once, to feel the sensation of being pushed in an epic challenge in a supportive atmosphere. So we ran for 10 km through paddocks of hay and over Aussie bush hillsides, punctuated with an obstacle every 500 m, seeing kangaroos along the way and remarking more than once how tremendous it was to be happy and healthy and running through spectacular countryside. It was that kind of day.
And just like everyone has a friend who’s done an obstacle course, everyone doing an obstacle course has a horror story about a friend who’s done an obstacle course. Surrounded by the crowd lining up for the tyre wall climb – which was very high, might I add, and we smashed it – we were being regaled by overheard conversation pertaining to ‘My mate Toby’ who tripped coming down the wall last year and did his ankle, or Sarah, who ran through the electric shock ropes and one caught on the mud around her neck. Ouch.
But injury aside (because that is basically what you are signing up for in your decision to conquer an army-like training course – you don’t want that business to be easy!), The Stampede was a tremendous load of fun, and the satisfaction from completing it was far better than a kale smoothie. I remember seeing two men, friends slick with mud, running up a hillside. One was struggling, and the other has his hand on his mate’s back softly urging him up the hill. This gentle kindness and support, this camaraderie and partnership, is often the feeling people are left with when the course is done and dusted – and the reason people say that once you’ve done one you become addicted, like the cult of Crossfit. I don’t know about that, but I would definitely do another. Why, do you know of one? I’ll do it. When? Let’s go!
Tips for getting the most out of an obstacle course
- Leave enough time to park and register, about an hour before your start time.
- Covered knees are your friend.
- Wear sunscreen – lots of it
- If you’re serious about running the whole thing, sign up for the earliest start time so you don’t have to wait at some of the congested obstacles.
- Your runners will be punished; don’t wear your new ones.
- Take a change of clean clothes and plastic bags to put your muddy clothes and runners in. (My car boot learned this the hard way.)
- A congratulatory beer afterward is mandatory. The Stampede were awesome enough to supply a free drink to all who registered.
- Don’t organise to go out the evening after the race – you’ll last 45 minutes. Apologies Marion’s hens night!
The Stampede is an Australian owned and managed obstacle event series which proudly supports CanTeen, Kokoda Youth Foundation and The Heart Foundation as official event charity partners, raising over $100K this year. Early bird pre-sale tickets to the 2015 Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney events are available from The Stampede website.