Back 2 the Trenches, a punishing obstacle course that combines steep, hilly terrain with over 70 military-related obstacles, advertises itself as a tough, yet achievable race. With runners offered the choice of 5km, 10km and 20km routes, the event offers something for almost everyone.
Admittedly this was my first obstacle course race, and as I took my starting place in the trench, I could feel a mixture of anticipation and nervousness pumping through me. The whistle blew, and as I dived under the wire and ran into the woods, I wondered what the course had in store for us all.
When choosing an obstacle race for my first attempt, it tooks hours of scouring the internet before I decided on B2TT. Some were too ‘macho’, others seemed to put barely any effort in the obstacles, and some still were so eye-wateringly expensive I had to click off the screen to stop myself wincing. B2TT on the other hand appeared to offer the right combination of fun-loving and serious obstacles that could appeal to a large variety of entrants.
On arrival to the site, it appeared my assertions were correct. Families, groups and individuals such as myself were all stretching and casually waiting for their wave to be called out. The staff on-site were cheerful and helpful, even lending me safety pins for my race number after I had forgotten. Overall the waiting area had a relaxed, ‘community’ atmosphere as everyone prepared for the race.
The warm-up area was entertaining, with a mixture of cardio exercises and stretches to get all athletes excited and the blood pumping. Admittedly some confusion arose over the mixture of wave times all joining this section, but once everyone lined up for their turn in the trench and disappeared into the woods, it returned to smooth sailing.
Almost immediately you are faced with the first obstacle – hills. Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, those hills. As I struggled around the steep, slippery bend of another vertical wall, I now understood why the folks at B2TT said their hilly routes were famous. Ropes were helpfully placed around hills that particularly induced calf-shaking fatigue, and downhill sections at times became makeshift slides.
Having slipped, slided and somewhat ran the first couple of kilometres, the route descended into a literal mud bath. Brown water came up to my chest in some ditches, and it was struggle to heave myself over the banks to the rest of the course – if you are short like me, you will struggle at this obstacle! Soon after that, you are faced with various military-themed obstacles, including carrying sandbags around a course, clutching for dear life to mud-crusted monkey bars, tiptoeing through tyres and crawling through gravel and mud under metal poles.
After a brief interlude of more wooded trail runs, the majority of the obstacles wait for you on the last few kilometres of the course. Pulling and pushing tyres up and down multiple hills is rewarded with a slide into a mud bath, and immediately followed by more tyre antics, including carrying a tyre over two hills and clambering over a tyre heap. In addition to this are many instances of crawling through pipes, under metal sheets or live electric wiring that made several entrants slow their storming pace to a steady crawl.
The obstacles tested your endurance, strength and flexibility, and I found the course overall exciting and more energising with each obstacle completed. Of the 70 total obstacles however, some stand out as particularly exemplary. The fire-jumping was a welcome change in the course from crawling and heavy lifting (not to mention a good photo opp!). My abs were screaming by the end of the slackline shimmy, but it gave my arms and calves a brief respite at least from their exertions on the rest of the course. The various walls entrants had to climb or jump over was also an inviting change from the numerous crawling and lifting obstacles on the course. The small lake entrants had to swim through to reach the end of the obstacle race was also a surprising and welcome change, particularly from the heat of the day.
More obstacles that tested your flexibility and balance would have added more variety to the obstacles, but since B2TT change the route with each new event, it is possible these were featured more prominently in previous obstacle routes.
Upon reaching the finish line you are immediately rewarded with a quirky medal and some coconut water. A cool-down area with someone running exercises to help manage the come-down from the race would have been helpful, but the queue to the communal showers became a makeshift stretching session.
Overall, the course was managed very well and the marshalls were very enthusiastic, cheering everyone on and handing out sweets. I was particularly pleased with the water stations at regular intervals, and litter around these areas was well-contained. For spectators, it would have been nice for them to see more of the course than the last few obstacles, as waiting an hour or more before everyone emerged from the woods with little distractions made the wait a tad tedious.
Back 2 The Trenches might not boast the high-scale obstacles of other OCR routes, but that is reflected in the modest price B2TT charges for entry, and the obstacles they create are ones that anyone of any build can complete and enjoy (with lots of training of course!). The atmosphere in particular was friendly and inviting, with all entries helping each other out and cheering each other on at the end and offering congratulations. For anyone looking for a challenge and an enjoyable day out, then B2TT is a top choice.