Not to be mistaken for an obstacle course race The Reaper is advertised as 5.5 miles extreme cross country race with 20-30 obstacles thrown in.
It is the 30th March 2013 and I am driving to the awesome Pippinford Park Estate in Nutley, East Sussex. Spring should have arrived, however as I am driving to The Reaper I am watching my in car thermometer plummet down to 2.4°C, and with windchill it was now -1.6°C. Not only that it is snowing!
Just as well I had done all my cold weather and cold water acclimatisation training for Tough Guy at the end of January. This left me in good standing. I arrived, the cars were lined up with contenders wary of even exposing themselves to the chill until they needed it. I could see that there was only a small marquee for shelter so I changed in the car and waited until the last moment to register.
Got my timing chip and race number. Time to go for a warm up jog. 5 minutes to the start the sun revealed itself and boy it felt good. I had realised when I arrived that there were only a small quantity of cars so it was no surprise that there were just 45 contenders. The race director got everyone rearing to go and we were off.
What sets this race apart from most cross country events was the the harsh terrain that Pippingford Park. It was relentless. We had a long downhill run with quite a treacherous terrain under our feet from the start. This downhill start was to be our climb for the end of the first lap and the finish line. We will save that for later.
A lot of the obstacles were natural such as river & stream crossings. Most of the man made obstacles were a range of overhanging and upright 6- 8 ft walls. None were that daunting but it added another element into the course. Being that it was only 5.5 miles it was a sprint race and the terrain was tiresome. So many climbs!
The ground cover was testing as there was so many natural obstacles from stumps, logs, tree limbs and boulders that you couldn’t afford not to be keeping your eyes on the terrain. It was the technical parts of the course that I came into my own and started to take out other contenders. There were a few natural obstacles that required rope traversing, short rappels or climbs due to the steepness or muddy and slippery terrain.
Other stretches were really boggy and or muddy. I was in my element. Challenging but fun all the way.
One obstacle that nearly took me out, and a number of other contenders was a stream crawl under a net. The net caused you to go low and bear crawl as I did. Others just ripped their knees up. It was a large tree limb that spanned the stream that was supporting the net that I went head first into that nearly took me out. I had words with Colin Spafford during and after the race who was most apologetic. There could have been a serious injury particularly as this obstacle wasn’t marshalled up to this point.
After that we had to follow the cold, slippery stream in a gulley for a few hundred meters. It was a great section of the course which I loved. You really had to be clued up and practised in order to handle it as you could really easily go over on your ankle. Today I was wearing my Five Finger Spyridon’s and they were great on this terrain.
It was good to get in and out of the water as there is so much of it here at Pippingford Park. Some were shall crossings others were chest deep. Definitely kept you sharp. The big climb at the end of the first lap was a challenge plus you knoew you had this as the finishing assent.
By the second lap the sun had definitely retreated but the terrain kept our hearts pumping. The 2nd lap came and went and knowing what was ahead enabled me to pace myself.
The final climb was in sight. I held onto my position for a good stretch of the race. I was chasing down these 2 other racers and they were in my sight and the gap was narrowing. I also had realised that for about 2 miles I had this other runner on my tail and shoulder but I wasn’t going to let him take me. I was being continually pushed and tested by him. Then we were on the climb and we were both pushing and encouraging each other all the way to the top. It was a great finish, he took me out but I took the other 2 runners so was still up.
Having caught up with Colin I let him know my feelings on the net hazard over the river and lack of marshalling it was time to pick up my medal at the race marque. The caterers had not turned up so they were giving a way free burgers and hot dogs which was a result for the contenders.
All in all The Reaper was a great extreme cross country event with some obstacles thrown in. It was fast paced and Pippingford Park’s relentless, harsh and rugged terrain really tested you. It would have been great to see more contenders and supporters as the event organisers had put a lot of work into planning the event. Saying that how many would have been put off by the weather! Us die-hards stood up to the mark and raced hard.
I would definitely recommend it if you are into extreme cross country and you want to be tested. However it shouldn’t be mistaken for an obstacle course race.