Now, I'm all for new races, but with so many seeming established races dropping by the way side, my initial thoughts, if I'm honest with you were dubious to say the least.
My opinion very quickly changed as this seemingly new face had appeared on the OCR scene and BOOM, he and his wife wanted to be RD's and so The Elements was born. From that moment on, every event I seemed to go to, bang, there they were. Either racing, volunteering or just supporting but I guess what you don't often consider is that in each of these outings you experience, you are learning from the good and the bad.
Not only do you realise what works, you also, if you're looking for it and paying attention, soon work out what doesn't. These guys seemed to fit in like a glove. Kids and all.
Often seen marshalling as a family, these faces were soon recognised everywhere I went. I have to say, their online presence was remarkable, as was the opportunity to advertise their event wherever possible, and so it seemed the marketing for this race had very much a daily presence in some form or another. The Mr Smevs pose has become a trademark and a household name down in the south, and the team colour, yellow, complimenting nicely the Mudstacle boys and girls.
Initially down to do 4 laps, I was excited to be doing this brand spanking new event. Then a last minute cry for extra volunteers made me feel guilty about my entry free gratis so I offered my services and reduced the laps to just 1. More than satisfied that I get to experience the whole thing from all angles, besides, I like to do my bit in the community. Race day arrived and I had everything crossed for a successful first race. If anyone deserved success after all the hard work that was apparent then it was Mr & Mrs Smevs and I wished them all the very best of luck for the day. Their social media and magazine involvement meant I felt like most of us have watched their journey and shared their experiences along the way.
So, onto the race itself, everything was just superbly done, minor details which others may not have covered such as the laminated strips with phone numbers for the volunteers to take out in case they needed additional contact. Major obstacles and check points had radios but phones are a good back up just in case. On the whole I would say the volunteers were very well looked after with lunch, plenty of water and enough cake to sink a small battleship. I'm not complaining! Staff tshirts get a big thumbs up from me, meaning that crew are easily recognisable. Clear explanation about our roles and what action was necessary in an emergency, safety procedures, self care and advice about the day, ourselves and our obstacles, as well as the all important thanks. However cliche it may sound, without volunteers, races really cannot take place and it's nice to know that is acknowledged.
Directions and parking both easy. Registration tent, big white thing, can't really be missed. A really good variety of stands in the event village which carried a fantastic family vibe. A bar, food, clothing, cream teas, sweets, massive foam fingers and more, what else could you want?
The start, I thought was cutting it a bit close on time but Emz Watts did her funky stuff and the first wave were off through a billow of yellow smoke grenades and Mr Smevs was hi 5'ing runners as they set off. I whizzed round to my obstacle which was also covered by 2 other wonderful volunteers and between the 3 of us it meant if we needed the loo or a break or were called to help elsewhere, we were covered enough to not be pinned to our post all day without a breather. All waves of the day set off successfully and with few hiccups, all returned.
I'm a people watcher at the best of times, it could actually be a full time hobby for me as I'm constantly on the look out trying to read peoples expressions and nothing was different this day. Of all the faces crossing the line and around the village that day, they all had a similar story to tell and that was a sense of achievement whether you ran 1 lap for fun or all 4 gruelling laps. The course itself was pretty tough. The ground was hard due to the recent hot weather which was a strain on the ankles, but after the first downhill and uphill, it tended to not be quite so rutty. (Is that even a word? You know what I mean though) I hope. I really think there were some good, challenging obstacles on this course, all achievable by most but still a challenge. Even the frisbee into the drum, doesn't take strength but a little bit of skill and probably more luck than judgment I think but still a fun element to the race. The classic "there's a hole in my bucket" was a welcome cool down if you carried it on your shoulder although just out of the water myself, yes I fell, jumped, laughing, (you can picture it I'm sure) off the pontoons so was already wet anyway. Not sure how I'd like it in December though. The route through the woodlands is always my favourite part of a race, time to let the mind wander, find your rhythm and just focus each step in front of you, planning your route letting the brain interpret the terrain for a safe landing on each strike. I'm normally a lone runner but on this occasion I ran with an excellent choice of sidekick. You might know him as the Muddy Highlander but today he was my laughing partner, my chatterbox and my mud sliding king. We crossed the finish line together , caked in mud, much more than anyone else, you'd have thought we'd face planted every bit of mud at every opportunity?!!!!!
We went off in search of some form of wash down which we successfully discovered in the shape of a plastic drum which we just climbing in and washed off as best we could. A quick change then time to exchange banter, stories, opinions and eat cream tea with all those around us who had already conquered The Elements. I take my hat off to Matt and his team, Carly, kids included. This was a brilliant first event. If I had to grumble about anything I'd like to see some more toilets next time please or at least a volunteers one or two so we're not queueing when we make that last dash before heading out on course. Stuart Amory did a fantastic job of MC'ing over the entire day and I truly hope that future events only exceed what this one was as I believe it is a race to be reckoned with
Wishing you all the success for future.