It started with a text message; a plea for my best friend to join me on The Stampede—a 5km obstacle course which organisers claimed would ‘push you to your limit’.
The Stampede is an epic challenge for you to test yourself, help others along the course and have a laugh with your mates.
On Saturday afternoon—as the hot sun beat down on our shoulders—Rish and I were side by side in a mud pit, trying to drag our heavy, coated limbs through the thick sludge.
You probably think we’d be crying, bitching and even moaning but I was grinning from ear-to-ear … at least, I was at that moment.
My desire to challenge myself with this kind of endurance test began last year when I gleefully watched the contestants on The Biggest Loser struggle and cry their way through The Stampede’s original obstacle course in Sydney’s Glenworth Valley.
As the participants climbed over cargo nets, crawled through mud and slip and slided their way to the finish line, I knew it was something I wanted to do and immediately added it to my Bucket List.
Unlike Tough Mudder which is spread over 20km (and usually requires some form of pre-event training), The Stampede offers both 5km and 10km options—far better for the uninitiated and the unfit (hooray for us!).
I smugly assumed that if the Biggest Losers could do it—carrying more than twice my body weight—so could I.
When it came to our start time of 1pm (so it was nice and sweltering) Rish and I joined a crowd of people wearing far more neon and lycra than should ever be seen outside a gym. (In order to prevent a frenzy of runners trying to get onto each obstacle, waves of participants leave every 20 minutes.)
With a blast of fire from above the start line, we were off and running.
Two minutes later I was red-faced, dusty and wondering how exactly all the Biggest Loser fatties made it up the first hill when I was struggling.
Thankfully I wasn’t alone as most of our wave of participants slowed down to tackle the first incline and then we hit the first obstacle—the mud pit with a cargo net cover, just to make sure you didn’t try to keep clean in any way.
For the next hour and a half, we ran (okay, I walked) up hills and ran down the other sides, we slid down a fireman’s pole, climbed over cargo nets, rolled across the oiled-up bonnets of cars, raced across aqua lilypads, were dunked in an ice-bath (with a toasty temperature of just six degrees) and bolted through 10,000 volt electrical wires.
It was hot, sweaty, challenging and really good fun—for people of all ages; I was overtaken by a girl who had to be about 15 and a man who looked to be in his 50s.
Because the Stampede isn’t a ‘race’, there is no set time participants had to complete it in; they could walk or even crawl if they so desired. And if you want a trophy, you have to bring your own!
While the obstacles were fun; the hills were not.
For some reason I thought that the location—Woodfordia at Woodford in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland—would be a flat parcel of land where the obstacles would break up a nice leisurely jog; instead I was doubled-over, gasping for air and red faced as I staggered up each incline.
“Enough with the f***ing hills” said one participant as she struggled behind me. She took the words right out of my mouth.
And then it appeared, almost like a mirage … the giant slip and slide; the downward slope to the finish line and the obstacle I was most excited about.
After being squirted with detergent for extra slip, I launched myself face-first Superman style and quickly became a human missile—even becoming airborne after the first bump.
With a smack and a thud, I landed back on the ground and continued my descent (squealing as I picked up even more speed), ending with a not-so-glamourous army-roll style dismount into the pool of water at the end.
I emerged soaking-wet; a lump on my elbow and half a boob hanging out. It was hilarious. And painful. But mostly hilarious.
Ten minutes later—after a jump over some fire pits and one last crawl through the mud—Rish and I crossed the finish line together.
The dark mud which coated our bodies only seemed to highlight our bright white smiles at having completed our first obstacle course; our bumps and bruises now war wounds to be shown off with pride.
The big questions:
Is it a race? No, it is not a race, it’s an endurance test. So you can take as long as you like to complete the course and you can also stop for a breather along the way.
Was it hard? It was certainly a challenge but I think it’s something almost anyone could do, regardless of age or fitness levels. There were some 60yos running in our group.
Were there bathrooms? Yes! There were portaloos at the main arena (along with food and drink vendors) and also some along the course.
What about hydration? There were water stations along the course at almost every second obstacle.
Did I feel safe? Yes. At no stage during any of the obstacles did I worry about my personal safety. Although if there are any obstacles you are no keen to do, you can just walk around them.
First Aid? There were volunteers stationed along the course and there were First Aid officers on site.
What about kids? This year’s event featured a new 2km Junior Stampede option for children aged seven to 14 years.
Would I do it again? Hell yes! We are already talking about doing the 10km event next year. Want to join our team?
My recommendations for next year’s event would be to have a larger post-race shower area because it took us almost an hour to make our way to the top of the shower line; more shady spots for spectators and also to sit under before/after your race; and a little more guidance on where spectators can go to watch the different obstacles.
But other than that, I had an absolutely brilliant day and big, big thanks to Rish for literally dragging herself through the mud—and take an electric shock to an area no one wants to be shocked in—for me!
And thank you to her awesome fiancé Liam who was our photographer on the day!