Today we visited the bootneck challenge in Peterborough. It’s the brain child of Matthew Doherty, an ex-marine. I never like to start a review with a negative or trying to defend an event but it IS worth noting that this was the 1st event for Matthew and he openly admitted that he was “bricking it”. So, being consistent to our readers, we went in with our reviewing caps on but mindful that it’s unfamiliar territory for him so tried to be sympathetic.
Steven was running the 10k elite wave and I had free reign of the course. The wave was due to start at 9am; we arrived at 8am to have a look around. I was particularly excited to go and see the water slide and view the build quality of some obstacles that Mark Noble of Zeus races had built for them.
They also had good engagement with potential runners via social media and did a few little video’s which got us looking forward to this race.
Price & Info:
Early bird prices started at £43 for a 5k and £53 for a 10k but went up to a staggering £74 on the day! What did you get for that? A medal, a t-shirt, (the website stated a goody bag but we didn’t get one and I couldn’t see any?) free car park and free bag drop. Oh, and a random slice of orange. Our Garmin also measured the course at 8.9k not 10k.
A bit more expensive than the average £30-£40 and a bit more than I would say it’s worth.
There was a course map on the website but none at the event – not even for marshals. I need to point out here that although most marshals had a briefing, some didn’t and the briefing was, well…brief. I stood in and listened.
There was a huge amount of confusion at the gecko walls whereby runners were getting so confused as to where they were actually supposed to be running and the marshal’s didn’t have a clue either. I felt so bad for them. It was painful to watch but hat’s off to the marshal who took it in her stride and whilst embarrassed shouted “it’s an adventure; I’m really sorry but enjoy the unknown”. I went over and spoke to the three marshals at the gecko walls who confirmed that they hadn’t been explained to about where to send runners or which way they were to tackle the walls, and one (the team leader) hadn’t been given any briefing.
Poor navigation was a common theme here throughout the course. We spoke to Matthew who said that he had been let down, last minute by his signage company (we won’t name them). Even so; there are alternatives which should have been implemented.
This event is set in the grounds of an equestrian centre and has a fantastic range of terrain. It’s got small hills, big hills, rolling hills, water, farmland, mud, woodland and more! Another event has previously used this area and included more of the woodland section but due to it being winter, we were told that it was closed off by the people who owned the land. As far as terrain went, the boot neck challenge chose a perfect location for their event!
With this being a 1st time event for the bootneck challenge, I wasn’t expecting anything amazing as purchasing or building obstacles is a costly exercise. I loved the way that they utilised natural streams and made good use of the land but found some obstacles to be somewhat uninspiring e.g. ‘Snipers’ Alley’ Where you ran up a hill and people were shooting water pistols at you.
The water slide was a hazard! There is no other way to put it. It is really hard for me to sit here and type this when of course, I want to be able to sing praise for all OCR events but when runners’ safety is compromised – there is no ‘nice’ way to talk about it. I’d heard quite a bit of hype about their waterslide and did a ‘live’ feed on our facebook page as I approached it but was sorely disappointed when I got there. It literally consisted of plastic membrane down the side of a hill, held down by some wooden stakes in the ground. There was a tractor at the top with a pipe that almost trickled water out as someone squirted washing up liquid across it. There was nothing at the bottom, no water, no barrier or anything just sloped grass that people continued to slide on. My BIGGEST issue here was the safety or lack of. In the 10 minutes I stood there I witnessed 3 people injure themselves. One man came down and took out one of the wooden stakes. One woman caught her elbow on one and a man caught his back on the remaining steak that was sticking out of the ground.
When I spoke with runners at the end about the slide, many said it was really poorly made and commented on the danger is posed. I am not here to give them a bashing but I am here to provide constructive criticism; perhaps find a safer way to secure the plastic down or make the slide much wider to avoid accidents? Also, add more water on the slide as I saw a few embarrassed faces that ended up having to pull themselves down the slide as it wasn’t wet enough.
Another talking point obstacle was the quarter pipe. This was really well made and I personally got up there, took some pictures – I’ll include them – and started helping people up. I loved the feeling this one gave runners’. The sense of achievement it gave them was incredible and right at the finish; so they ended on a high. Well done to Mark for the build quality of this one in particular!
Runners said there was a good range of easier ‘natural’ obstacles through to tougher, more challenging ones like the incline walls.
Our competition winner and his friend also noted that the net in the wooded area was unsafe. They said that it didn’t have enough tension and marshals had to hold the bottom of the net to try and stabilise it.
It’s a difficult one for me to rate because when it comes to safety, it only takes one dangerous obstacle to really damage a score.
I’d like to point out here that if some obstacles didn’t pose such a threat, I’d have rated the obstacles a 6.
The medal looked pretty cool and well made and has the year on so I assume will be the same for all 2017 events. The tee looked nice but sizing is an issue as they come up small and really quite short. Lovely colour and detail on though! No goody bag as promised by the website which was a shame.
Event Village and Atmosphere:
The event village was good. It was small but so was the event. We grabbed a delicious bacon sandwich from ‘The horsebox’ for £4 – which I really have an issue paying for 2 rashers of bacon and two slices of bread.
There were two options for food and drinks; The horsebox and the gourmet burger place. Merchandising stalls included RunFlex, MySports, Gainz and Cotswolds.
There were plenty of toilets, female and male changing rooms and floating medics.
There was a great buzz here and I think they did really well for their first attempt. The only improvement would be to get bigger and offer more, which obviously comes with their own expansion.
Good event village
Bigger obstacles were built well
Room for expansion – grounds
Compromised runner safety on the waterslide and vertical net
Works out a bit expensive compared to similar events
Poorly marked out course
Although this sounds like quite a bad review, I think they did pretty well for their 1st ever event. On paper if you look at all the things runners want i.e. the varied terrain, a good mix of obstacles, changing facilities, variety of food etc: They delivered.
Yes, there were some teething issues but there was always bound to be. This has great foundations to be a brilliant race. It just needs working on, adjusting and improving upon but I have no doubt that Matthew will do exactly that. Like I said, we are not here to bash an event and writing not great reviews is never pleasant but is sometimes just the tool they need to learrn and move forward. I would love to go back to an event of theirs in the future and see how it’s improved. For a first timer; the bootneck challenge did alright.
Overall rating: 5/10