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Ultra Warrior – Yorkshire’s OCR Gem

Total Warrior can be described as a Northern power house of OCR; they have been putting on races since 2010 and despite a shrinkage in the market show no signs of slowing down.  In previous years, they have hosted events in Edinburgh, The Lakes and Leeds, however, they have now consolidated their races into The Great Northern Mud Run which this year took place between June 21st and June 23rd at Bramham Park, a few miles to the east of Leeds.

Over the course of 3 days runners could take part in a 12-km course with circa 25 obstacles, a 6-km course with 15 obstacles or the Ultra which consisted of as many laps of the 12-km course as could be achieved in 5 hours.

Here, stolen from the Total Warrior site is the low down on the 3 races:

Total Warrior ’The Original’ is now going into its 10th year and is still the biggest and most popular event of the year. As ever the 12K course gives you the full Warrior experience and it comes packed with the world’s best obstacles. Expect classics like the ‘Human BBQ’, ’The Plunge’ and ‘The Shocker.’ But also come prepared for brand new obstacles like the awesome ‘Waterfall’ which made its debut in 2018.

After a great success in 2019, the Friday night Total Warrior Half format (6k) is now going to be a permanent fixture in the TW calendar. Get ready for 6km full of world class obstacles and mud like you have never seen before. This is going to be no ordinary mud run. The Total Warrior Half is not timed, this is for groups of mates wanting to do something different at the weekend and have an experience they will never forget. Once you have crossed the finish line you can kick back with your beer and enjoy the music, fun and games. The Total Warrior Half is going to be on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. 

The Ultra course has one check point at the start/finish and one at the halfway point, so you can complete half and full laps. The winner is the participant who completes the most number of laps, or half laps, in the fastest possible time.

I’d attended the inaugural Leeds Ultra in 2018 and came 3rd overall completing 3 laps in the 5 hours allowed, this year the weather was cooler and I was fitter so the plan was to add an extra half lap to the 2018 tally.

As the event is only 30 minutes from my home it was a gentle start to the day, time enough to feed the dogs,  have a decent breakfast and drive to the venue without needing to be up at stupid o’clock.  Arriving on site I paid my £5 and parked a few meters from the site entrance, a bonus considering how tired I expected to be later in the afternoon.  Registration was a doddle, show my ticket, handover my waiver and in exchange receive a timing chip, race number and a headband.  Race packet in hand I wandered through the event village to find the transition tent and see who was around.

In 2018 there were, according to the results 16 participants, I thought there were more but it was hot and by the end of the race I was too dehydrated to see straight, this year there were 98 racers, clearly we needed a bigger tent.  Seems TW  had spotted this and to accommodate the ranks and masses had provided a large marquee with transition benches, free water, snacks and a fantastic team of marshals.  At the end of each lap you made your way to the tent where the marshals would give you a new coloured lap band and sign you you in on the timing sheet, daub your face with coloured paint and should you require it, douse you in sun cream.  Looking around the marquee it was great to see familiar faces, many from established OCR race teams, including but not limited to Cliff Lakes, Elements, Mudstacle and my own team Okhane, hi JJ.

09:30 came and it was time to head down to the start pen for some rules, regulations and as is culturally appropriate for the North, some verbal abuse.

At 09:45 prompt we were let out of the start pen to the thunderous sounds of the Prodigy, RIP Keith and into the parkland of the Bramham estate.  The first section of the course is just under 1 km and is a straight forward run across the grass to the first official obstacle Leg It, a series of switchbacks.  Being lap 1 and having fresh legs I ran the switchbacks bottom to top, a trick I would not repeat in subsequent laps.  After Legit it was back into the parkland and a steady kilometer climb to the next obstacle, Trump Wall, a set of 8 ft high walls that had to be scaled.  So far, so good.

Leaving the walls behind it was a sharp left turn into the first woodland section, here the ground was softer after the recent rain, but in no way muddy or slippy, like last year most of the course was going to be dry and firm under foot, several hours later I was grateful for the cushioning my X-Talon Ultras were providing.  Descending through the woods led to the next obstacles Cement Mixer, Human BBQ and Mud Moguls.   Cement Mixer is a short wade through thigh depth smelly mud, really smelly, a real contrast to the grass and trails so far encountered, out of the mixer it was a short trot/slip/slide to Human BBQ.  Take a pile of burning logs, a run up and a deep water/mud pit and you have your first dunk and photo opportunity of the day, I love this obstacle.  After climbing out of the BBQ pit it was into the Mud Moguls, which were horrendous.  The heavy rain in the days prior the race and the several thousands of feet that had passed through the moguls on Friday and Saturday made for mud of biblical proportions, deep and sticky enough to stop you in your tracks, Tough Mudder had nothing on this filth.

Hauling your legs out of the Ebenezer like gunk it was on through the woods to Claustraphobe, a crawl through tunnel of tires partially submerged in water.  Once the knees and elbows were suitably skinned it was back to the parkland and Hangover, a large inverted wall, easy enough on this lap as we were the first runners of the day to scale it, later laps would prove more challenging.  Once you had recovered from your excesses it was across the grass to the halfway timing mat and should you feel the urge a sprint to a second mat to try and win the TW Sprint King, thankfully as an ultra-runner I was excused such tomfoolery.

Another hard left brought us to the Plunge, a full submergence in iced water, it was cold and it was wet and it stayed that way all day.  Post dip it was a steady trot through the woods to Spiders Web and Back It Up.  The first of these two was an annoying web of cords you had to pass through before jumping into a small lake and scrambling up a up a sandy bank without getting snagged in a cargo net.  A short section of  a lake shore trail and  it was back into the water for Log Bog Jog and finally High Jump, another TW favourite.  Last year I managed to ring the bell that hung over the water pit on every lap, this year I failed every time, I blame Brexit.

Straight after the High Jump it was Pasadero, a narrow floating pontoon that had to be traversed without taking a dip in the water beneath, happily I stayed aboard the pontoon.

Leaving the water section behind it was off to the undocumented obstacle at TW, the flies.  For some reason, they congregate between the obstacles You Tube and The Trenches following the runners as they amble from one to the next, the trick is to find somebody who smells worse than you do.

The Trenches are a miniature version of the Mud Moguls, equally muddy and equally sticky, straight after it is quick clamber over Waterfall then onto to Cement Mixers baby brother, Mud Bomb and finally the knee destroying Worm Muncher.

A quick stop at the Active Root water station and it was back into the grass and across the park to Log It, where the marshals were saving the light lumps of wood for the ultra-runners, which was nice, but not essential.

Following the switch back of Log It came a very steep but short incline that led to the Alps, a pair of sloping walls that had climbing holds to aid your ascent, once over the walls it was a short downhill section onto an estate road that led to everyone’s favourite Shocker, after all who doesn’t like being electrocuted on a Sunday afternoon.

After setting fire to your hair it was a gentle jog back to the hills that started the the course at Leg It and the course’s pièce de résistance Slide Away.  120 feet of slippy fun and this year the TW team had brought an inflatable version with a splash pool, perfect for getting clean before the finish line.

Slide Away marked the 11km point on the course, so just not far to go before sanity checks could be skipped and another lap commenced, however, this last 1 km was on a gentle incline and had the final two obstacles, Hang Tough and the photo opportunity of Peaks Of Pain.  Hang Tough is a set of monkey bars over a pool of water with a trick ending, the bars finish and you are left with rope loops to finish your traverse, it isn’t too hard, but the bars are square so you can really mess your hands up if you are not careful.

Finally, you reach the peaks of Pain, a large sloped wall with a short rope to aid your ascent, perfect for being a camera whore, case in point below.

Dropping down the straw bales that made up the reverse side of the Peak Of Pain it was over the finish line and life choices, straight on to claim glory and your prize, a T-Shirt, a Medal and a bottle of beer or turn left and head to transition to look at the clock and figure out if you have time and the fortitude to try another lap.  With this being the end of lap 1 I headed off to transition for some food, fuel and a rub down with a damp cloth, it was getting warmer.

As I mentioned above the marshals and support staff were incredible, helpful in every way, I’m sure if I’d asked they would have mopped my brow, checked my shoe laces and tousled my hair.

On to lap 2

Leaving the transition tent it was a 50 or so meter run to the start pen and the beginning of the next lap.  The pen was full of runners getting ready for their wave to start and as I ran past the pen erupted with applause and encouragement, brought a tear to the eye and an inflation to the ego.

Lap 2 was much the same as lap 1, with the exception of more runners on the course.  There is a rule at TW and other ultra-events, if you see a multiple lapper you get out of their way, they are without doubt having a rougher day at the office than you.  Last year the marshals and other runners did not seem to have grasped this rule and several terse words were exchanged as navigated the muddy throng, this year the message had been delivered and understood, as soon as your red race number was seen a cry of “Ultra Coming Through” went up and the path cleared, cheers guys.  The best example of this was at High Jump where the water safety team used whistles to signal to their colleagues that an ultra was coming through, at times I felt like Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea.

Lap 2 ended like lap 1, a left turn and quick pit stop before pushing on to lap 3.  My pace was holding and that extra 1/2 lap was looking like a given.  The course was really busy now and the mud sections horrendous, but as with lap 2 paths were cleared and obstacles made available.

Heading towards the end of lap 3 and another pass-through Hang Tough I caught sight of Mrs W, she had inferred that so long as The Hoard (the collective name for our dogs) were settled she would come and see how I was getting on, she was a sight for sore eyes, figuratively and physically.

So ended lap 3, with Mrs W reattaching my race number and me feeding snacks to Pip, my canine training companion.  I was babbled about pace, timings and cut offs, it was 13:20, I had 1 hour and 25 minutes left, barring a disaster 3.5 laps was in the bag.  I caught sight of another ultra-runner, lets call him Bob leaving transition and it occurred to me that I had no idea where I was in the overall race, I knew Bob was front runner and after a quick skim of the check-in sheets, on the same lap as me, I had someone to chase.

After nailing Mrs W with a muddy kiss and ruffling Pip’s ears (or perhaps it was the other way around) I stumbled out of the tent and into lap 4.  Halfway to Leg It I came across another ultra-racer, not Bob, he was really struggling but still moving, I wished not Bob well and continued on my way.  Moments later I saw Bob, he was halfway around Leg It, he was walking, so was I, just faster.  Exiting Legit and heading to Trump Wall I caught Bob, we had a quick discussion about his uncle where he confessed that the halfway mat was his goal, after that he was walking the rest of the course.  I checked my watch, if I could keep my current pace there was a slim chance I could make 4 laps, sod it, time to try harder.  After the walls, I abandoned Bob and pushed on to the mud and filth of Cement Mixer, Human BBQ and the Moguls, which were like a war zone, utterly horrific.

Passing over the last mogul a marshal told me that there was an ultra-runner ahead. Were they on lap 4 like me? Not sure, I needed to find out.  I caught him at Hang Over, we compared scars and yes we were both just about to complete 3.5 laps.  We went through the halfway mats and Plunge together but on the downhill section to High Jump he pulled away, so much for gravity assisted descents.  I caught him again just after Pasadero, here the course picks up an incline and it seemed my legs had more go in them than his, we parted ways with a “Good Luck” and I was back into the flies.

You Tube took the last of the skin from my left knee, the Trenches threatened to steal my shoes, Waterfall tried to drown me and with a skinless knee the crawl through Worm Muncher was a less than pleasant affair.  So far I’d run just under a marathon and my legs were really starting to complain.  As I approached the Active Root station a chap ran towards, thrust a drink in my hand gave me a simple instruction, “Keep going, you’ve got this!”  I checked my watch and I was still on target, but only just, this was going to be tight.

Log It came and went as did the Alps and Shocker, just the last crawl and slide to complete then it was 1 km to go.  As I existed the slide a marshal shouted I had 9 minutes left, shit, shit, shit, I’d lost time somewhere.  Looking back on my tracking I managed to pull something out of the bag, because at kilometre 44 I pushed my pace up to 4:43 per km, something I never want to do again.  Pounding up the hill to Hang Tough I could see Mrs W bouncing up and down, shouting that I had 5 minutes left, with two obstacles to get through, it was looking like I’d make it.

Now this late in the race I suspect the marshals were not expecting to see any more ultra-runners, so they were not really paying attention, that soon changed when a half-naked adrenaline fueled Yorkshireman bore down upon them.  Mrs W said that I hit Hang Tough at full pace and only touched the obstacle 3 times before I was out the other side, I don’t remember anything.  Just the Peaks to complete and I was home and dry, but as per the previous obstacle the marshals were napping, I’ll not repeat what I said to the marshal holding the rope, this is a family publication, but it did the trick.  One last photo op and I was done.

I crossed the line at 4:56:05.  I’d made it, 4 laps in less than 5 hours.

Mrs W and Pip helped me back to the transition tent where after a lie down and some ear licking my faculties returned and I was able to take in my achievement.  Of  the 98 who started the ultra only 3 runners made 4 laps and of those 3 I’d placed 2nd, earning myself some compression gear from Red Venom and qualification to the Pro wave at the OCR World Championships in the process, not a bad day at the office.

So there we have it 46 of Yorkshire finest kilometres done.  Ultra Warrior in not hard by virtue of the terrain or the obstacles, it is the pace at which you have to travel to make the cut off that is demanding.  Strava tells me that I recorded my 2nd fastest marathon during the event.  Oops.

Get The Details On

Ultra Warrior – Yorkshire’s OCR GemOCR Review

Event Website
When Was The Event?
23rd June 2019
Was This A Qualification Race?
What Could I Qualify For?
OCR World Championships

Your Reviewer

Richard "Itch" Ward
Reviewed By
Richard “Itch” Ward
About The Reviewer
Richard was born in the late 60’s, the consequence of a chance encounter between a one-handed truck driver and a Catholic. He finds being described as an athlete vexing.
What Age Group Was I In?
50 Plus
Type Of Competitor
Was This My First Time At This Event?
Read More By Richard “Itch” Ward

Quick Overview


Value For Money
The Pros
Virtual Goody Bag
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Event Location

Wetherby LS23 6ND, UK

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12 months before
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Up to 10%
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The Event Arena / Village

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The Course

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Was The Event Timed?
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2 Metres Plus
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The Obstacles

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3 metres
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