After a string of fairly serious races, including a couple of killer half-Ironmans (or should that be Ironmen?), last weekend took something of a different tack. As I mentioned earlier, my wife had entered a team of us into a slightly different type of race: The Colour Obstacle Rush (COR) in Sheffield. The name of the event somewhat says it all, but for those who have not seen one of these before allow me to explain:
- Colour – Well, you may get a clue about this from the photos, and there was certainly a lot of this on the day!
- Obstacle – That’s a big Ten-Four! Plenty of these to climb over / around / through.
- Rush – Note this was not a race, but what could only be described as a crazed run around!
The event took place at Rother Valley Country Park to the South East of the city, and about ten minutes from my in-laws. I had visited the place a couple of times before, and it has a decent sized lake, surrounded by paths and woodland. You would almost never know you were just a few miles away from the place formerly known as Steel City due to its industrial heritage.
As soon as we arrived at the venue we were transported straight back to our childhoods, with the park taken over by the event organisers and now resembling a giant playground, with what seemed to be bouncy castles, slides, climbing frames and a huge stage which was booming out classic 90’s dance tunes.
This was my first ever team event (not including a triathlon relay some years ago as I still had to swim my leg alone) so I was really excited to have people to run with. We had eight in our team, aka ‘Soul Mates’, 3 chicos and 5 chicas. Alarmingly I was the most experienced racer, and although I was not particularly concerned at a 5 km yomp, this was all new to me.
Amongst the others, only one other was a regular runner at this distance, but everyone was in decent enough shape to make sure we would get around. In fact looking at some of the other teams it was clear why this was described as a rush rather than race, as many would not be getting out of second gear. To be fair once we got going I realised it was more an event to savour, and we actually found we slowed down a lot and even stopped at points to take it all in.
On registering we were given our fun packs, the main thing being a lovely clean (for now) white t-shirt, and our classy matching pink headbands and shades (essential to avoid a PJ & Duncan situation). We also received our first paint packs, having all been curious to see what these would involve. Fortunately they were not heavy paint cans, but plastic pouches containing a dyed corn starch, which covered a very satisfying are when thrown. We did hold off as long as we could before opening them, but of course not everyone could wait, and all of a sudden we were ambushed by one of the girls (it is always the quiet ones!) and from there it basically turned into carnage!
Our miniature battle (likened by one of us to the battle at the end of Zulu) was brought to an end by the announcers calling us for the warm up. Being one of the earlier waves we had not yet seen any finishers and thought we had a lot of paint on us at that point – oh how wrong we were! The 90’s music was turned up, and about 300 of us launched into a large outdoor version of Body Attack, bouncing around and preparing for this crazy event.
Warm-up done, we were ushered towards the start line, and able to have a proper look at our first ‘obstacle’. This could best really be described as a reverse car wash, with everyone being funnelled through a start chute into an giant foam pit, simultaneously being showered with orange paint by the slightly over enthusiastic marshals. The whole place looked like a massive orange milkshake!
As we emerged I noticed the marshals wandering around and trampling through the foam. As first I assumed they were making the most of the fun, but then realised they must have been looking for stray bodies if anyone fell into the abyss – who said this was an easy event?! That second, as if to prove the point, a lady on our left took a huge fall into a puddle and soaked us with the splash. After about half a second to make sure it was not too serious we glanced at each other and could not hold in the laughter, necessitating one of the fastest sprints of the day in an effort to hide it.
There were around ten obstacles along the route, so one every 500 metres or so, and the first turned out to be fairly typical: an inflatable tunnel about 10 metres long which we had to crawl through. Again, it was not quite as easy as expected, and Ange in particular broke down laughing half-way through, presumably still getting over the previous incident.
Team safely through we carried on, and proceeded to get through a series of alternating obstacles, going between inflatables such as bouncy climbing frames and a sort of maze which reminded us all of Takeshi’s Castle, and colour tents where you had to climb through or under nets, whilst being pelted with paint by more of those over-zealous marshals. We quickly learned to shut our mouths and eyes during the latter ones, as one taste of the paint power was enough to put you off ingesting it again.
As you can see I had my phone camera on me, but having had to wrap it in a plastic bag to shield it from the paint, the quality of the images was not great. A few competitors had go-pro type cameras with chest harnesses which looked great, although I if I did own one I am not sure how much I would fancy it being covered in paint, and as for the sharp edges going over those inflatable obstacles, well that was just an accident waiting to happen!
The further we got through the race the more and more of us was covered: there was literally no part of our bodies free from colour! One of the fun parts was each station used a different colour paint, so as the route was basically an out and back loop, you could see what point other runners were at by what colour they were. By the final stages of the race we were all but unrecognisable, Big Jon looking alarmingly like Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, whilst Rob was more… well… the Pink Panther, as I am sure you will agree from the above picture! Me, well of course I was Ironman again, with a big glowing circle in the middle of my chest – well that was my view, although I have a memory of one of our team being called Papa Smurf!
Around this point I think I may have also killed my Garmin, as not only did it get covered in paint (although most washed off) but the battery died in the final kilometre. Admittedly this took slightly longer than normal at around 45 minutes (to be fair we had to stop and wait for a few of the obstacles) but given I had started with 88% battery I was not too happy. It did re-animate itself after a charge, and I managed to map the majority of the race as you can see below, but not sure I want to rely on it again for a triathlon: Time for an upgrade to 920xt next year perhaps?
Anyway, we made sure we all reached the final obstacle at the same time, a rope climb followed by a fun slide down the other side and over the line. Competitive to the end we stood in a long line together and raced up to the top, but this was one of those races where we were all winners (although I reckon I crossed first of course!). We were then into the after-party, which was basically ensuring any last part of the body not covered with paint was rectified, and downing glasses of water to take away any last starch taste. Oh, and like any good race an ice cream too! I was dead proud of my team for all getting through so strongly, and everyone was so pleased with how well the day went and were immediately planning a rematch of this course as well as some more events for next year: That is if I ever manage to get this damn paint off!