The 2018 OCR season is drawing to a close but hundreds of runners will gather in Kent this weekend to pay tribute to those that paid the ultimate price serving their country.
Taking place over the Remembrance weekend, the Commando Series is a testing 6km course around the grounds of Hever Castle.
Its founder is an ex-Royal Marine and the obstacles replicate modern Royal Marine Commando training. The event is marshaled by Commando instructors, it raises funds for the Royal Marines Charity and there will be a Remembrance ceremony held both on Saturday and Sunday.
As well as being a great way to pay your respects, the event is great fun. I was lucky enough to have a go last year and I genuinely feel it caters to a wider range of people than any other OCR event I’ve done.
From 8-year-olds to Commando wannabes, you can choose whatever suits you. The 6km course now features 24 obstacles after 3 were added for this year, and you can do 1 or 2 laps.
There are also 3 difficulty levels you can choose beforehand, namely ‘Treat Me Like A Commando’, ‘Just Get Me Round’ and ‘We Are Family’, and the marshals at each obstacle treat you accordingly – if they can spot what colour band you’re wearing for all the mud! Yes, even though much of the castle grounds are pristine, the course features plenty of mud and water you must wade through – but not too much – as well as a surprising number of slopes to scramble up and slide down.
Uncharacteristically, I struggled with the Monkey Bars, but there was plenty of encouragement from the marshal before I made it 4th time lucky. There was then a small wait to go through the Catacombs of Doom, a 30m cave system, and since I had a ‘Treat Me Like A Commando’ band, the marshal told me to drop and do a Commando crawl.
‘That’s a lovely bum you’ve got there, but get it down lower and go again!’ he ordered. I wasn’t going to argue, I was too busy laughing. So after a much-improved effort he let me pass. This is the perfect way to marshal. It IS possible to boss people about and still have a laugh. The sergeant major types I’ve experienced at other military-marshaled events should take note.
The rest of the obstacles are a good mix, making great use of the conditions and terrain available, dipping in and out of the lake before we reached the Sheep Dip, a 2m submerged pipe. Now that did wake me up! But the marshals took great care helping us through.
After emerging from the bitterly cold water I had to pick up the pace to warm myself up but that meant I finished my 1st lap strongly. On my 2nd the mud was much thicker, and that was only after a few waves, so by the time I came back round to the last 2 obstacles cramp was starting to bite in my legs as I hauled myself over the Gate Vault – five 2m-high gates – and a 12ft wall, which was a great way to finish both a testing and fun race.
The military-style showers were more than welcome and there was a great atmosphere in the event village, outside the military-style tents, as we watched the other runners clamber over The Wall and cross the line.
Everyone looked like they’d had a great time. Even the ones who had opted to carry the extra kit – 21lbs of marine webbing and a wooden rifle (pictured above). There are other extras too, such as survival and bivouac experiences, as well as camping.
The only downside was having to wear the free t-shirt. It was great for branding on the photos and for creating a team atmosphere, but it was cotton and after going through a race like that, I just couldn’t get it clean again.
Adult tickets (16+) are £75 while the Adult Gold Ticket (£105) includes your race entry, the extra kit, 2 laps and a 3hr survival experience in the castle caves. The full package is worth £145.
Junior tickets (8-15 years) are £40 and Family Tickets (2 Adults & 2 Under-15s) are £150 so will save you £50.