So to the Wolf Run.
The Wolf Run is an off-road, muddy, obstacle-strewn 10k running event. And it is muddy. Really muddy. Trainer-losingly muddy. And Wet.
There are four Wolf Run weekends each year, two in Warwickshire and two in Leicestershire, and they’re named after each of the seasons. WOLF is actually an acronym for Woods Obstacles Lakes Fields – which sums it up pretty well.
Did I mention the mud?
I have undertaken two such runs to-date, one in each location. I did the Autumn Wolf in Warwickshire in September as a lone wolf, and the Winter Wolf in Leicestershire in November with some friends.
Let me run you through the day, according to my experience!
You don’t have to be super fit to do a Wolf Run. It’s a 10k race with obstacles. You could do the entire thing and not partake in any of the obstacles, but what would be the point of that? You could pick and choose the obstacles and challenges you face – many do. Or you could do them all. That pretty much sums up the range of fitness levels required to do a Wolf Run. I would say to really enjoy it and make it worthwhile you need to be able to comfortably do a 10k road-run, have decent upper body and leg strength, and be a confident swimmer.
A key part of preparation for any race is what to wear. It’s a particularly taxing question ahead of the Wolf Run. And it changes depending on which one you’re doing. The winter and spring Wolfs are cold, the others aren’t (usually). However, no matter which one you do, you’re going to get wet and cold anyway. Take your older kit with you – maybe trainers that are coming to the end of their usable lives. For the colder runs many light layers are better than one big one, you don’t want to be jumping into an icy cold pond with a big jumper on! Some people wear running tights. I don’t for Wolf Runs as there’s every chance they’ll get ripped, and they won’t really protect your legs from the bumps and scratches you’ll get along the way. Skin-tight gloves are also a good idea for warmth and for grip.
As ever, you get all the instructions and advice about what to wear and people still turn up looking weird and wonderful and everyone seems to get through it.
You also need to think about what to wear afterwards. Take a *complete* change of clothes and more layers than you think will be required as it can take a while to warm-up afterwards. Also take dirty kit bags and a couple of bin bags.
Your favourite running watch may not survive the ordeal, be warned!
It’s safest to arrive around an hour before your start time as there is stuff to do before you can run. You need to arrive by car as these runs are really in the middle of nowhere. Parking is in a field and costs around £5.
You have to be comfortable in getting changed in full view of everyone at the start or end of a Wolf Run. There are no proper changing facilities. You’re in a field. But so is everyone, so join in!
There is a festival atmosphere throughout the day with various mobile food and drink outlets dotted around the warm-up and registration area.
On arrival you need to drop your bags, or at very least, your keys (all kept securely) and register in the registration tent where you’ll receive your number which you need to pin onto your shirt (safety pins are provided).
After that, you hop from one foot to the other, warm up your muscles and watch the people ahead of you set-off.
It all starts with a warm-up with around 200 other runners in your wave. Pumped up music and pumped up warmer-uppers get you in the mood and give you some basic safety instructions.
Various running and stretching exercise are undertaken and then it’s not long before we’re on all fours in the mud crawling around. Might as well, as this will be a significant feature of what you’re about to do!
Time is taken to speak to a few people to find out if they’re raising money for a charity, and everyone shows their support. It’s a fantastic atmosphere.
Then the count-down….and we’re off.
The course involves, as the name implies, woods, obstacles, lakes and fields. It can be slippy and slidey from the off depending on the weather and also on how many people have gone before you, so no-one is going too fast.
Obstacles range from fences that you need to vault, walls or logs with ropes you need to traverse, to pipes you need to crawl through, barriers you need to climb over, netting you need to scramble under, and ponds / lakes you need to jump in to and swim through.
Obstacles tend to appear every few hundred yards which breaks up the run.
Many of the obstacles you will need help with. Either from the off, or as you run into problems whilst trying to complete them. Everyone genuinely will help each other. One of the biggest areas people need help with is getting out of lakes or muddy ditches, as, no matter what brand of trail running trainer you may be wearing – wet mud is wet mud.
At the Winter Wolf I was not prepared for the sheer bogginess of some aspects of the route. There were areas of ‘quick-mud’ where you could get sucked in and be rendered practically immobile. This happened to me. You feel like a beached whale. I couldn’t move my legs at all and it took four people to hoik me out and back on my feet with me all the while saying “don’t lose my trainers!”. Many a trainer has been lost to the Wolf Run mud.
You go from wet to dry, warm to cold, exceptionally muddy to nicely washed down. And then repeat the cycle.
You make friends, help people, lose your friends, and then find them again.
Luckily, the course is very well-marshalled and fellow runners instinctively keep an eye out for each other as we all know that any one of us could run in to trouble at any given time.
Quick shout out to the marshals at Wolf Runs and all races and sporty events. Everyone appreciates what you do – thank you so much for volunteering your time; these things simply could and would not happen without you.
Finally the end is in sight. You can lose your bearings on how far you’ve gone during the run. This is because you’re going slower than a normal 10k run, so your race clock is all out, and also you’re probably not wearing your running watch, so you really don’t know how far you’ve gone. Marshals will tell you, but in my frozen brain mode, I was still expecting the finish to come around 20 minutes before it actually did.
It is a feeling of elation and exhaustion as you cross the finish line, have your photo taken, and collect your medal and goodie bag.
No time to hang around though….your next obstacle is the bag-collection and the outdoor cold showers. Oh yes! Grab a hose and wash down yourself, your trainers, and anything else you can see.
Then you can ply on the multiple layers and go hunting for food.
Exhilarating, exhausting, exciting. Try it. You might just like it.
The next Wolf Run, the Spring Wolf, takes place over the weekend of 4th and 5th April 2020.