Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Images courtesy of Muscle Acre
Muscle Acre Summer Madness Review
I reviewed the Muscle Acre Summer Madness event when I did it last year, I’ve reviewed every one since and I’m not ashamed to review this one now. This won’t lead to recycling content as the event is evolving, quickly, from a smaller scale event last year to something that is getting right up there with some of the best obstacle races I have done. What hasn’t changed is the location and distance, 10km just outside Guildford. The Muscle Acre team have managed to pull off that most rare of tricks with a growing brand, they’ve expanded it without losing any of the things that made it special in the early days.
I knew I was spent before I even got to the start line. I had landed from the USA less than 24 hours before and was still hurting from the brutal Spartan Super I had run the weekend before. That chafed, if I am honest, I normally push hard at Muscle Acre and have had some of my best races there, but I knew this time I had to run for the fun and friendship aspects. Typically, Muscle Acre sits in the tougher end of the obstacle racing spectrum, so my question was, how would it fare when I took things a little easier.
The answer, of course, was that I had a blast. Having cramped really badly the weekend before I was concerned that the same would happen this weekend, and so I hung back at the start and settled in to a trot around the field. While it is a hard course, the real secret to Muscle Acre is that it attracts a really friendly and ‘up for it’ crowd, both running and marshalling, so I found plenty of people to talk to. Obviously I was disappointed that I could not really push hard but that soon faded as I remembered what a fun course it is, fast or slow. The venue, as before, is a horse farm just outside Guildford. This really works as it means the horse jumps and farm environment form obstacles in addition to the larger set piece obstacles that are built for the event. That brings me on to the obstacles. What I have seen in the year I have been running Muscle Acre is that for each event they add a new obstacle and each one is a valid addition. Last event it was an incline wall and new monkey bars, this time we were treated to a rope climb and a substantial A frame to climb. Each one has added more to the experience and each one has been pretty tough to get over. I don’t mind saying I didn’t make the new monkey bars when they first appeared though I got over them this time. It encourages you to push yourself harder and you’re well supported in doing so by the marshals who will offer help and advice on technique when asked.
I have to make a comment on the marshalling actually. This is a review of Muscle Acre, not a comparison to the Spartan race I did the previous weekend, however, I could not honestly write this without sharing some thoughts, particularly around marshalling. The Spartan Super, in the mountains outside San Francisco, was nominally a similar thing, longer distance, yes, but designed around physical challenge and exertion. The difference was staggering. I would be entirely surprised if even 25% of the marshals at the Spartan could have done the obstacles, their sole function seemed to be ensuring that people did their burpee punishments if they failed an obstacle. Another point about marshals was that the Spartan didn’t have many of them, which on a mountainous course in 35 degree heat seemed pretty reckless. I didn’t feel comfortable or particularly safe in the Spartan race, and let’s remember, I’m not an elite athlete, I do this for fun, to feel comfortable and to know that if I get in a jam, there is help available. I felt that at Muscle Acre, its why I feel good pushing myself there, it’s fun, friendly and everything an obstacle race should be. I knew that if anything did go pear shaped, the people around and the marshals would be able to help.
So, the verdict on Muscle Acre is it just keeps on getting better. The obstacles are still tough and getting bigger and more exciting. They keep favourites like the swamp sections in and I’m glad about that because they are some of my favourite bits. The team running the event, the marshals and the other people in the field all contribute to an atmosphere in which you can have huge amounts of fun, and I did. I think it’s amazing that such a small brand can do OCR so much better than one of the established ‘leaders’ like Spartan Race, but it can. If you’re looking for your next obstacle race, forget about going for a big brand, come over to the Muscle Acre, for fun, for friendship, for the hell of it.
But next time I’m racing for position 😉