Nuclear races are one of the most talked about obstacle course race companies out there. No matter where we go, we can almost guarantee that at least one person we speak to will refer to Nuclear which is usually when they’re comparing that OCR’s slide to Nuclear’s famous ‘Death Slide’.
James Parrish is the brains behind Nuclear Races and the Parrish family have owned and farmed the land for three generations, acquiring the secret nuclear bunker in 1991. James was formerly an equal partner of Adventure Race Essex and has extensive experience in organising OCR’s.
Steven and I were both running this event (Fallout) this time. I was a newbie ‘Nuker’ and wanted a fresh perspective on the race considering that Steven is a seasoned ‘Nuker’. Foolishly, I signed up to the 12k – I say foolishly as this was my second OCR after having our daughter 3 months ago. For anyone reading this…don’t underestimate just HOW tough Nuclear races can be in mid November with mud like I’ve never experienced before.
Sign Up, Price & Info:
Sign up is uber easy through active and prices start from around £60 (early bird) and can go up to over £100 with offers to purchase a Dryrobe along with your race. I paid £75 and honestly think it was worth every single penny. I’ve always viewed Nuclear’s prices as extortionate which was the main thing putting me off but after being nagged by my friend David (who absolutely loves them and happily travels from Lichfield to Brentwood for them) I thought i’d give it a go.
The website is really easy to navigate and full of useful information for participants including how to get prepared, kit etc.
Just a quick mention here about marshalling for Nuclear; Nuclear has a waiting list for marshals and is renowned for how well they treat them. You can get a dry robe or a free race in return for marshalling at one of their races.
I was due to marshal at ‘Rush’ in May but I had to be there very early in the morning and it was a 3+ hour drive I asked about camping there due to not wanting to drive 6 hours in my day and marshal while 6months pregnant and I was told that it was not an option so I withdrew from marshalling. A friend of mine who was also due to marshal asked about camping and was allowed to do so which left a very sour taste in my mouth and I felt discriminated against for being pregnant. Other than my own negative experience, I have not heard about anyone else who has had any issues or anything bad to say about marshalling for them.
Car Parking was FREE, bag drop was FREE, hot showers were also FREE and they had heated changing rooms!
Depending on what time you got around the course depended on what type of terrain you got. Steven and I both went off in the same wave but he is obviously ALOT fitter than I am so he said that the terrain was good, twisty turning through woodlands, grass, fields. “Where they don’t have mud, they make mud”. Crossing fields became an obstacle as the mud sucked you in and was very sticky.
By the time I had made it around everywhere and everything was covered in mud. EVERYTHING! I don’t think I saw one blade of grass but that was due to the weather as it was raining and had been for quite some time. Taking away the ridiculous amount of mud everywhere then the terrain would have been really good. There were woodland sections, fields and hills. It has a good mix of everything and the water sections are great.
It is difficult to review the terrain as the weather had a massive impact on it which wasn’t Nuclear’s fault but I have to say that I have never known mud like it. It absolutely zapped all of my energy and while people were chanting “Love Mud” I was grunting “F**k Mud” under my breath. The sheer amount of mud made it near impossible to actually run sections of the course and most people walked it which was when the low temperatures became an issue.
Due to the cold temperatures and risk of hypothermia Nuclear had taken steps to prevent harm to participants so much of the water sections were removed. There was also a pitstop which consisted of a fire to huddle around, some warm squash and sweets. Perfect and I was really, really impressed (and thankful) for them making runner safety paramount.
Packed FULL to the brim with a great mix obstacles both manmade and natural. The obstacles here are made for a range of abilities and are made to be fun and challenging. It is no wonder that Nuclear have won so many awards, especially the Mudstacle award for ‘Best Obstacles’. With a permanent location for races, it means that obstacles’ can be made to be very sturdy and you’d have no issue throwing everything you’ve got at them. They really are unlikely to break.
I genuinely lost count of the amount of ditches I got dragged out of and Ebenezzer was the almightiest of ditches: Thick, black sludge that you had to attempt to cross with the most ungodly smell to it.
Obstacles were technically demanding but really good fun and ensured you got a full body work out.
There were slack lines which were simply hilarious to watch and I had to have a little rest half way across when the photographer said “that’s the first picture I’ve taken of someone that looks like I’ve just photographed a dead body”. Luckily, I have a great sense of humour and have even decided to share the horrid picture of my lardy ‘dead body’ with you all.
A few obstacles to mention here are the Gorilla bars which total an enormous 119meters! Don’t let that put you off, not many complete them but if you do, you get a FREE dryrobe. If you complete the monkey bar then you don’t have to do what feels like never ending ditches that run alongside them.
Nuclear’s Death Slide has won an award for ‘Best Individual Obstacle’ and is one of the most talked about obstacles in OCR. I absolutely love slides but I really struggled to get myself to do this one. It looked amazing and looking back I don’t really know what I was terrified of but I sat at the top of the slide for what felt like an eternity, getting annoyed with myself for holding up the line and being a scaredy cat but thanks to encouragement from the marshal, a random woman and her also petrified friend, we did it, together and had a high five, a hug and a warm cup of squash after.
There were some obstacles that I simply didn’t even attempt which has never happened to me before but being short, I found that I couldn’t even reach some obstacles without someone holding me up like a daddy helping his daughter at the park and as they were absolutely covered in mud by that point I knew full well that I’d just slip off them and wasn’t willing to slip from that height when I knew I wouldn’t complete the obstacle anyway. One of these was the spinning monkey. I said to Steven (who found them too low as he is well over 6ft tall) I think that Nuclear could have made one side higher and one side lower to accommodate for all heights. We found this with Helix also.
There were a few obstacles that I found difficult because I am short. I found some of the obstacles that required me to climb to the top before coming back down, made me feel really uncomfortable and genuinely scared because the step up was too far for me to reach and I relied on someone else pulling me up on a very slippery surface. I think the obstacles would benefit from some sort of grip on them as I felt that I was really putting myself in danger because of this issue and the mix of mud making everything so slippery.
It’s so hard to critique Nuclear for their obstacles as they really are outstanding but constructive criticism is what helps races improve.
The bling is awesome, so much detail and a great design. You must be looking at this picture thinking why the hell is there parts missing? Well, I am not ashamed to admit that this was my first ever DNF (Did not finish). I completed 10k of the 12k and was pulled off the course for chest pains and being SO cold that they struggled to get a reading using their machines or even find my pulse. The medics (who were great by the way) gave me a polite telling off for attempting a 12k in those conditions 3 months after giving birth. People have varying opinions on whether or not to take a medal if you didn’t fiish a race. My opinion is this; I was only 2k short so I earned that medal minus the 2k so I clipped my wings. That’s a reminder for me of how hard I tried, what I achieved and that next time I will get my wings.
I got given a T-shirt which ironically says “survivor”. Great quality though and I am told that finishers also got a FREE cup of tea and a ‘Trek’ bar which is just what you need after such a cold and tough race.
If you are stupid or brave enough to complete rush, blast/blackout and fallout within one season you earn bragging rights to “The boss medal of all medals” (as our son calls it). This is the almightiest of medals and is bigger than the palm of my hand.
Event Village and Atmosphere:
The event village seemed a little small for such a huge race but suffers because of weather. I am told that at other nuclear races, the event village is bigger and better.
There was a good variety of food from duck wraps to burgers. One of our friends got a double burger with bacon and cheese for about £8.00. Toilets were clean and well managed and the Mc’s were full of energy and offered a good warm up.
The only thing I would have liked to have seen is for more things for people to do, entertainment activities or something to keep your mind off the horrid weather.
The upbeat atmosphere was felt across the course and whenever I questioned what the heck I was doing there and my body felt like giving up, there was a fellow runner or marshal there spurring me on shouting “Love Mud”.
Great mix of terrain
Huge amount of fun and technically demanding obstacles
FREE bag drop
FREE hot showers
Runner safety is paramount
Give participants discounts codes for future races
Some obstacles do not cater for different heights of participants
Being honest, I had a bitter taste in my mouth after how I was treated by Nuclear in the past but overall they have great customer service so feelings aside; this race was fluffing brilliant!
It’s been hard to find any faults with it no matter which angle I tried. It is no wonder that Nuclear has won so many awards or that it seems to be the one that people often refer to.
Looking back, I should have opted for the 6k rather than 12k but even though it was my first ever DNF, this one will always hold a special place in my heart as it took me on my own personal journey.
Nuclear gives you everything you look for in an OCR and more, so at first the money may seem too much but trust me, it is totally justifiable and excellent value for money. I look forward to attending one of their future events to see if they can keep up the good work.
Overall rating: 9/10
Published by Keren – Mudd Matters
*photos courtesy of nuclear races.