When is comes to interesting new race concepts, the team over at Red Bull have got a pretty good track record. I’ve only ever done their massively successful Steeplechase event in the past; a ridiculously tough trail race that sees hundreds of people desperately trying to make their way through a series of four stages, where the slowest participants can’t move on to the next section. Other events they’ve created include the Neptune Steps, where people swim through a canal and clamber up a series of locks, and the Red Bull 400, which involves racing to the top of a ski jump. Yeah, pretty cool stuff.
The latest event from the team is no less impressive. Called Red Bull Quicksand, the concept is relatively simple. An 800-metre, 2-lap course that takes place on sand, with about a dozen obstacles dotted around the route to make it ridiculously hard. The inaugural event took place on the beach at Margate and it was one hell of an experience. Over 400 people turned up to take part, with participants of all different abilities giving it a go. Here’s the course layout in case you haven’t seen it.
How did it work?
The race was broken down into waves, with each person taking part in one of three (or two for the female waves) initially. With about 100 people in each wave, the horn sounded and everyone had to complete two laps before picking up one of a limited number of flags at the end. If you got one, you’d take part in the semi final waves later, if you didn’t, you’d go into a second chance qualifier stage before the semis. A bit confusing to begin with, especially if you just turned up without reading the website explanation in full…
How hard was it?
Sweet heavens. I’ll be honest, when I saw the first wave running around the course initially, I said to my friend “doesn’t seem very competitive – looks like they’re all just jogging.” When I actually got onto the course in wave 3 I realised that sand is pretty damn hard to run on (1.6 times harder than normal apparently). Every step you take seems to move about a bit when your foot hits the ground, the result is that you have to push harder with every movement. By the time we got around the first 150 metres I was already feeling it.
And that’s before we even hit the first sandcastle. There were about half a dozen climbs throughout the course, each varying in difficulty. The first was relatively easy, a slight incline made trickier due to the terrain, but the second hit me hard. Suddenly I realised why everyone looked like they were running slower. Clambering up steep, moving sand absolutely depletes you of energy. By the time I’d got past the third castle, which was by far the steepest, I’d slowed down massively.
The rest of the first lap, save for a trench and a final big climb (although not as steep) wasn’t too bad. However, having to repeat the whole thing was not a nice prospect. Bear in mind that we’d only done half a mile’s running so far and you kind of get the idea of how tough this course it. For lap 2 my pace took another dip and the climbs seemed significantly harder.
So yeah, it’s hard. Some people at the end were bent over coughing, others were stood wiping sweat off their heads like they’d just finished a marathon, and that was only after the first time they ran. Every participant has to take part in at least two of the waves in order to carry on competing, so it gets harder each time you do it.
Who’s it for?
The mix was so varied with people taking part from a variety of fitness backgrounds. There were some really fast athletes there, but at the same time there were people who just thought it looked like fun and headed down to see what it was about, which is one nice thing about it being just a mile. I’d say that the set up and the general vibe of the race means that anyone can take part. With only 100 people in each wave, there’s plenty of space to move round. Although I did see a few people who may have underestimated it even more than I did.
How was the organisation?
For the most part, really good. There was a big queue at the start for collecting packs, which seemed to go on forever, but once that had died down everything seemed to run really smoothly. They had Commonwealth Games gold medallist and London 2012 competitor Louise Hazell doing a commentary throughout the day, Run Dem Crew were there doing a warmup, and a Red Bull DJ was churning out garage music for the whole day, which were all nice touches. The location and set up of the course were also really well done, with a holding pen in the middle for athletes to watch the race from.
How much was it?
Early bird entry was £25 but went up to £30 nearer the date.
What do you get?
Well, aside from race entry (chip times as well), there’s a really nice looking medal and a rather impressive T-shirt from the crew over at Dare2b. You also get to drink as much Red Bull as you like.
It’s a great idea and a really nice implementation. Like most of Red Bull’s events, it’s designed for participant and spectator enjoyment alike. The fact the crowd can see you and cheer the all of the time makes the whole experience seem quite special and it’s really easy to get photos. I’ve also never really seen anything like it before. It’s not the kind of thing you get to do often, so just giving it a go is a pretty cool thing to get involved with. Unlike most races, it’s more of a full day event as go into the various waves.
Hopefully Red Bull are planning to do more of them in the future, it’s definitely worth heading down for. Ruddy good value for money as well in comparison to most other races.
For more information and to find pictures and results from this year’s event, head over to the website here.
Picture Credits: Red Bull