Before we begin, we’re going to assume that you’re aware who British Military Fitness are. You know, those big groups of people running around in parks doing press-ups at command of a military-looking instructor. If you’ve never heard of them, you can can read our overview of one of the classes here (you get your first one free, just so you know. They’re pretty damn good as well).
The Major Series is the logical of offshoot of a company with such a dominant presence in the UK fitness scene; a series of 5k and 10k events where people can test their hard-earned fitness improvements against a whole bunch of obstacles. It’s a set of challenges designed to complement, not only the format of the training sessions, but also the community element as well. You don’t have to be a member of BMF to take part though, FYI.
It’s been a long time since we’ve taken part in an event that includes obstacles. Largely because, as competitive runners, we always find the inclusion of things in the way somewhat upsetting. We like the momentum you see, the ability to effectively pace ourselves across a longer distance without having to constantly stop along the way. We know that not everyone is like that though, and we’re always open to trying new events. So when we were invited to head down to Tunbridge Wells to test out one of the series, we agreed, obviously. When have we ever turned down a challenge?
If you’re going to put on an obstacle event, you may as well do it in a place where the landscape forms a part of the challenge. Eridge Park in Tunbridge Wells is pretty much perfect. As well as the rolling hills and woodlands, there’s also a pretty impressive expanse of streams a ditches, which, although meaning you end up pretty wet, make for a consistently interesting terrain. We’ve done obstacle events before where the majority of the challenges have been entirely man-made, the problem there is that it all seems a bit fake. You want to generate a sense of human vs. the elements.
After a short pep talk from the team about the event, a bit of shouting and some general bravado, we headed off onto the course. Our first obstacle was basically a reminder of how the events came about in the first place; a series of exercises carried out to the jeers of BMF instructors. Burpees, press-ups squats, that sort of thing. Based on the fact it was cold and rainy, this was actually pretty welcome. Most of it anyway – burpees are generally always a step too far.
After that we headed out to make up the miles, heading through the various obstacles along the way. Although there were a fair few dotted across the 10k route, we were pretty pleased to find that they were the kind of challenges that didn’t have a massive impact on the flow of the event. A log carry, cargo nets, tyres – all things that don’t mean you end up queuing up for ages whilst still being challenging enough to add an element of difficulty.
The next bit was the really fun part, a section of the route covering a couple of kilometres called “The Marine Zone” (the whole event is broken up into different military-named zones. Something we didn’t really pay much attention to at the time). For a fair while we jumped in and out of various muddy streams, until we were largely covered head-to-toe in mud. To be honest, based on some of the events we’ve done in the past, where the water section was little more than the odd puddle, we were actually surprised at how relentless the series of water obstacles were. Which is good, if you’re going to do a race like this, you really want to get muddy, there’s not much point otherwise. Especially considering it’s called a mud run.
The last section of the race covered wasn’t too tricky where the obstacles were concerned. The real tough bit came at the scaling of a few painfully placed hills leading up to the race village. We’d forgotten that we started at the highest point, which is probably why a lot of the running sections felt relatively easy. But you know what they say: what comes down must go up.
As obstacle events go, it’s a nice change from some of the more extravagant courses. You know, the ones where you end up queuing for ages in order to jump into a massive pool. The team have rather nicely created a series focussing on fitness instead of “scary things you don’t want to do”. It’s kind of half way between a trail run and an obstacle race, which is pretty much what we want; something challenging that means you have to push yourself physically, instead of some sort of adult playground.
It’s not the toughest race out there by a long shot, which is probably the aim of the whole things. BMF caters for all levels of fitness, so they’ve ended up with something accessible, but just tasking enough for those who want to start at the front and really push themselves.
The events take place across the year at various locations, with prices ranging from £35 to £55, depending on whether you do the 5k or 10k, and when you book it. To find out more info, head over to the website here.
We took the opportunity to test out a new pair of Men’s Terrex Agravic Boost trainers during the race, and thank heavens we did. Not once did we slip over, and trust us, a fair few people were falling all over the place. We’ve actually ran in them before in less hazardous conditions, and to be honest we weren’t really expecting to give them a real test during the BMF event. With 10k of sliding mud and hills we were pretty pleased we did though. The grip seemed to hold out perfectly for the whole race, as well as the fairly important aspect of them being waterproof, which is a pretty prominent factor throughout. Trust us – don’t wear normal trainers for a BMF Mud run. Seriously.
Oh yeah, and sorry about the unnecessary photos, but to be honest the photographers at the event knew how to take a damn great shot. There’s no way we were going to waste these. Here’s a video as well:
Picture Credits: British Military Fitness