The Nuts Challenge August 2014 Sutton MENCAP

If an OCR race could be compared to a Hollywood action star, then perhaps Tough Mudder would be Jean-Claude Van Damme. Tough, good looking, slick and well produced. Back To The Trenches – Sly Stallone. The excellent Judgement Day – Jason Statham. But The Nuts Challenge would undoubtedly be Chuck Norris. A course so tough it could grow its own beard. So, an ambitious event with which to break your duck. Sutton MENCAP had pulled together a sizeable and virginal OCR team and was certainly up for the challenge. Sort of. Several months ago when it was all booked up, I asked whether any of them had been in training. “Training?” was one incredulous reply. “We have to train?” She nearly choked on her cigarette.


Never the less, the day arrived and we all convened at the venue with no fuss. Parked up. Again, no fuss. The porta-loos beckoned, so as soon as we found the MENCAP tent I made my customary dash and it being the summer event, no injury-risking struggles with a shortie wet-suit. Having learnt nothing more about social media tech from the last Nuts Challenge in March, I didn’t even attempt a tweet myself and just handed my phone to my girlfriend who did the honours. Registration was quick and easy and as far as organisation was concerned this event was flawless. So with pre-race team photos done we made our way to the start for the warm up, which this time seemed to be Zumba based.


Not a big fan of Zumba. Too much rhythm required. So instead I hopped around self-consciously like a Dad on the dance floor at a wedding. The rest of the team were not as curmudgeonly as me and threw themselves into the spirit of things.


While we were at the front for the warm up, when the gun went, we (I) realised that we were at the back of the queue for the start. Not to worry, we all started off together on the approx 1000k cross country run before we hit the obstacles in earnest. We had all chosen to do the 1 lap 7k, but as most will know, there are 2 lap (14k), 3 lap (21k) and 4 lap (28k) options. As we came to the first obstacle, a jump into water and a climb out again, it became clear that there were vastly differing levels of fitness and we weren’t going to run round as a complete team. As I waited at this obstacle a few of the team ran by. The second group appeared several minutes later and I was advised by this group that the rest were some way behind. I hopped around Zumba-like for another few minutes or so, then decided to just move along at my own pace. Certainly on a course like this, and especially if you are doing multi-laps, keeping to your own pace is essential. Trying to keep up with a faster runner is a dangerous tactic as you could find yourself blowing up and having little left for the rest of the lap(s). Waiting around for a slower runner can be equally perilous, you would just get too cold. So, off I went on my solitary way. As I ran, the course took on a familiar look. The climbs down into the stream and the clambers out again. The wall climbs, cargo nets and fire-mans poles. I was really enjoying myself and with the tips I had picked up from the training day 3 weeks earlier was managing to clear the obstacles quicker and with less effort. However, concentration was still needed and as I approached one drop into a stream I saw one poor guy at the bottom. He had apparently broken his ankle. It was quite early into the lap and he looked, quite understandably, pissed off. Now I certainly don’t want to put people off doing these races, but taking part obviously comes with some risk. These courses are hard and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially this one. But I have been doing these kind of events since late 2012, about 2 years, have completed 9 of them and have only been witness to two injuries.

Then I came to a serious bottleneck. It was for the uphill tunnel climb. The queue stretched back for about 40 metres and was hardly moving. After what seemed like 10 minutes the cold was beginning to set in and as I slowly approached the tunnels I didn’t relish the idea of standing around for another several minutes, this time in ankle deep water awaiting my turn. For the first time ever I deliberately side stepped an obstacle, scooted up the side and got on it again.

After a long running section, well I thought it was long (I hate running, have I told you?), I came to the tyre carry. Good fortune was on my side and I picked up a tyre that weighed as a tyre should. I since found out that one of Team MENCAP had picked the heavy one. I’m sure Nuts deliberately play tyre-Russian-roulette on that section. Through the zig-zags then onto the water slide. I had ear-wigged in on some other runners earlier who had mentioned that taking the right-hand side was the best option as the left had a huge bump in the middle. Thinking I was being clever (a dangerous occupation) I climbed up the right hand side and, you guessed it, hit a massive bump half way down, lost control, picked up speed and I imagine had a look of terror on my face that it looked like I was being chased by my Mums cat. Again.


Another short running section, over another cargo-net then over and under the logs. Hit the water section, (the floating pontoons, across the inflatables and the wade/swim across the lake) and a quick sprint finish over the hay bales and across the line.


I was absolutely buzzing when I finished. Bouncing around and full of energy. Doing the multi-lap run in March was (obviously) more difficult. Dealing with the pressure of trying to do quick laps because of the timed cut off point and starting each subsequent lap tired I found mentally draining. And it was this psychological strain than contributed more to my hissy fit and flounce off the course more than the physical effort. This time though, I had a massive grin on my face the whole way through.


I received my bottle-opener medal and made my way back to the logs to watch the rest of the team come in. I also grabbed a burger and conspicuously ate it in front of the other runners who still had about 1500 hard metres in front of them. This seemed to be a popular place for crowed to gather and shout support. Although when one woman hollered “Come on girls, you can open your legs wider than that” I nearly choked on my food.

An absolutely massive well done to the Sutton MENCAP team who all completed the course and raised about £2000. A great and successful day for all the individuals and for MENCAP.

For more pictures see BareBonesFitness Facebook page.

MENCAP is the leading UK charity for people with learning disabilities. For more information visit

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