Today, we catch up with Michaela Brice, Race Director of The Royal British Legion Major Series. As someone new to the world of obstacle races and mud runs before joining the team, she was perfectly positioned to re-focus the event for beginners, recently winning the Mudstacle awards for the UK’s “Best Event for Beginners”. Here’s her take on The Royal British Legion Major Series, and why she thinks it is a top event for first-timers:
How would you describe The Royal British Legion Major Series?
The best kind of surprise! If someone suggested getting up early doors on a Saturday to wade through streams and cover yourself head to toe in mud, you’d probably question their sanity…but in practice, this is exactly what makes the event so hilarious, freeing and empowering. It really brings out the kid in you and makes you realise just what you’re actually capable of.
It was one of my first ever mud runs and I had NO idea what to expect, but I’ve gone on to do loads since – it was a great reminder of what I could do and it even gave me the kick I needed to do a half marathon last year too. For many people it’s the start of a lot more; people are often surprised at how much fun they had, and what they can do when they set their mind to it, so I’d say it really opens up the doors to more beyond just The Royal British Legion Major Series itself.
Who do you expect to take part in the event?
It’s honestly suitable for anyone – we had an 80-year old British Military Fitness (BMF) member take part recently! We really do see all sorts of people taking part; a few people race around the course on their own, using it as training for tougher events, but mainly we see groups of friends taking part. For some it’s a huge challenge and they’ll raise a lot of money for charity at the same time, whilst others rally together for a great day out; helping each other around the course and having a giggle!
How do you ensure everyone completes the course?
Whatever the motivation for taking part, you’re in safe hands because we have around 40 of the Major’s finest troops – volunteers and our very own BMF instructors – around the course to give you a helping hand, muddy hug or shouts of encouragement if required. They are never far away…even if some of them are camouflaged in the undergrowth ready to pounce with water pistols! We also have sweepers that follow the back of the last wave to check that no one has got completely stuck in the mud, but mainly to support those most in need – sticking with them through thick and thin to get them over that finish line. As BMF instructors, it’s their job day in day out to help people achieve their fitness goals and push them to succeed so you really couldn’t be in better hands.
You won “Best Event Series for Beginners” – why do you think you won this award?
The Major’s troops, mentioned above, really do make all the difference, I believe. Having taken part in lots of events, you really notice when the support is lacking both from a motivational and safety aspect. At the Royal British Legion Major Series, we are lucky to have some really enthusiastic volunteers to keep and eye out and cheer you round and to top it off, our instructors can literally pull you from the water or push you up a hill! Knowing the help can be literally ‘hands on’ is incredibly reassuring to someone new to an event like this.
What else can we expect this year?
If the love of the BMF instructors around the course doesn’t make you feel all warm inside, then our new coffee provider CaféPod will do. They are kindly handing out free coffees at the finish line so no matter how wet and muddy you are, you’ll feel warm through!
Another decision I made was to remove the chip timing. The biggest thing I enjoyed about taking part for the first time in a Royal British Legion Major Series event wasn’t that I finished in 323rd place overall, but actually just that I crossed that finish line after more than a few years with no more than an occasional trot round the park. I wasn’t thinking of the seconds ticking by as I had a leisurely swim in the sheep dip, I was just enjoying the atmosphere, trading a bit of banter with the instructors and generally messing around. I think it’s safe to say that this is true for the majority of our participants – they want to finish, but more than that they want to ENJOY it. We completely appreciate that some people will be taking it more seriously, and want to know how they’ve done, and for them there’ll be a clock at the finish line where they can work out their time by deducting it from their wave start time, but by losing the timing chips it hugely reduces the pressure of finding out what ‘position’ you finished in, and I think offers a lot more enjoyment to all.
Why do people return time after time?
Well, apparently just one turn down our slide is simply not enough! More than that, I think it’s just a great chance to get out there and act like a big kid. Everyday life takes over when you grow up and this is an opportunity to let loose and remember what you’re capable of. Those climbing frames in the school playground used to be great fun, so why should it be any different now?! People come back just for giggles, because they are up for trying a longer distance or because they’ve convinced their mates that being covered head to toe in mud is actually good fun rather than just a stain remover brands worst nightmare!
Where do we find you on race day and what’ll you be doing?
I’ll be onsite from the crack of dawn (coffee in hand – CaféPod, get the kettle on!) making sure everything is ready for the off. I’ll brief all the staff (volunteers, BMF instructors and our event team) and suppliers to ensure everyone is in place and ready for action.
Then, I’ll be hidden away in Event Control, ready to concentrate on the event radio and log what’s going on. This is based in the medic tent, but don’t let that worry you – this is officially because it’s nice and quiet there, although it’s no bad thing that they have a great supply of custard creams too!
When everything quietens down, I’ll take the opportunity to go on a wander around to see how buzzing the Event Village is, chat to staff and I try to grab time to head to the slide to catch the hilarious reactions from people sliding down. I always make sure there’s a great atmosphere for that last person over the line and before you know it, it’s debrief and pack up time.
What do you personally love most about The Royal British Legion Major Series?
Do I have to pick just one thing? I can’t pick one, so we’ll go top two…!
From a participants point of view, when I took part I was pretty astounded by how much complete strangers chatted and helped each other out. The atmosphere is so friendly; I guess because you’re all in something (probably very sticky mud!) together. From someone who’s spent a fair amount of time commuting in London, this attitude is quite unheard of!
Secondly, from an organiser’s point of view…and I know this is such a cliché…but just seeing people cross the finish line, the comments on our Facebook page after the event and those that take the time to email in telling us how they got on. For most people, it’s the first time they’ve run that far, let alone doing it whilst wading through mud and over a 3m high A-frame! It can be a real effort at times getting everything ready for the event but honestly it’s all forgotten (well, bar the bags under my eyes!) when our team gets that feedback from people who’ve taken part! It reminds me why I do the events, and makes every late night and early start totally worth it.
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