At our recent event, the Royal British Legion Major Series South, British Military Fitness (BMF) Instructor Sam Kyte, crossed the finish line in first place, before heading back out on the course to repeat the route, this time bringing up the back runners. We caught up with him to find out how the two loops of the courses compared.
The Major: Congratulations on the win. How many times have you run this event before?
This was actually my first time ever competing in the Major Series, and I’ve never been to the South event before (so before anyone thinks it’s unfair for a BMF instructor to take part, I’m as new to this as everyone else!). I’ve been with BMF for just over a year, running BMF classes in Victoria Park, Leicester and also covering Nottingham and Birmingham but I fancied a road trip so headed to the South event!
The Major: So what encouraged you to sign up?
I have been involved with the Majors Series events since my Park Manager got me along in Autumn last year, forming part of the Leicester dream team – we’re a tight bunch and work well together. Although I’ve never been to the South event before, I’ve helped out around the course at the other venues. I’ve been positioned on a few different obstacles including the burning building and stench trenches over the past year, though I think it has been made clear that the final obstacle The A frame is right where the Leicester team belong (…something to do with having the most photogenic Instructors to give the final shots on camera a bit of a lift, apparently…)
It was always only going to be a matter of time before I raced at a Majors event myself. I knew there was a good standard out there and didn’t want to embarrass myself too much on the first one I took part in. I agreed to race this one about a month prior, with some persuasion from my manager who is heavily involved in the set-up of the Major Series.
I was fairly easily persuaded as I love my job, and the Major Series is just another great aspect of what BMF offer – it’s outdoor fitness for all abilities and fitness levels. I was keen to be involved and find out more about it.
It was the end of my race season back home so the idea was to have a couple of weeks rest then get back on with training. Easier said than done! Having suffered a couple of injuries (Achilles tendinitis and an abdominal hernia) I wasn’t feeling in top shape, but after 2 hours sleep the night before and a 3 hour drive I was well up for it! What I enjoy and love most about BMF is the whole thing it represents and offers; outdoor fitness for all abilities and levels, combined with a huge social element. In BMF I thrive off watching members hitting new fitness levels and moving up bib colours, so I knew I’d see similar looks of determination and achievement at this event too. I slipped my trainers on, I had had my coffee and some MOMA porridge, I was raring to go!
The Major: How was the first wave you took part in competitively?
Almost immediately after the start line, after hopping through some tyres, I was at the BMF zone. Here, I had to complete burpees, squats and push-ups in a zone manned by a BMF instructor – all of a sudden the roles had been reversed and I began to question my decision!
I’d spotted BMF Race Team’s David Hellard. He was a marked man and I told myself just to stick with him. At that point, another guy shot off ahead but I decided to let him go and stick with a group of 4, including Hellard. The route was well marked but amongst the chaos of one of the stench trenches I jumped out and ran the wrong way (which I put it down to tiredness) so had to race back to the group – not a strong start!
Fortunately, part way round I had some great encouragement from BMF Leicester Park Manager, Tony Dandy, who told me in an amused voice, “this is not where I was expecting you to be, Sam!”
Every time I reached an obstacle I’d ask the instructors (known as the Major’s Troops) for an update of how far ahead the lead runner was. It sounded like he was pulling further away, with me and a few others still fighting for second place. Then, as we reached the Log carry zone, there he was, The Target! This was it, it was time to start reeling the fish towards me. I knew I had to just keep chipping away as no matter how hard I was finding it, everyone else would be struggling too. It worked and soon I caught up with him, dropped myself into 2nd gear and pushed out to the front. Running is a gift and racing is the prize – it was time to race!
As I came down Sowerby’s Slides I was still in the lead, and with the buzz and support from the crowd I gave a big push for the final hill.
I spotted Rob and Gav on the A-frame, and from here I could see the other runners were quite a way behind me, so I had plenty of time for a high-five. They were like peanut butter in porridge – work well together and gave me a great boost! All I needed to cross those final few metres to the finish arch.
Within moments of crossing the finish line I was told, “there’s some good news and there’s some bad news. The good news is that you won, and the bad news is that…you have to run it again, as the sweeper for the 10k wave”. Fortunately, I was still ecstatic from the win and raring to do it all over again – plus it would be a great way to stretch my legs out after the race.
The Major: Did you do the second lap on your own too?
No, for the second lap I was with a group of ladies. They explained that they weren’t competing for any kind of time – their only aim was to finish. We started at a comfortable pace and I was able to enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere of the race much more – it felt very different the second time round and a much more relaxed surrounding.
The Major: How did the second lap differ for you?
When I ran in the first wave, everyone around me was quite competitive and going for the win. In the later wave, the general conversation was about when to stop for a rest, and how to get their shoe out the mud where it had got stuck! We had a good laugh untying and retying shoelaces (my years of military training and time on the battlefield proved invaluable in helping – I couldn’t help them keep their shoes on but I knew all the best words of encouragement for when it happened again…and again…!).
By this point in the day, about 1,200 runners had been across the course so it was much muddier than when I’d run. It definitely added to the fun and everyone was just soaking up the atmosphere…and the mud!
They say a photo says a thousand words…I barely cracked a smile in my whole first race, but in the second loop it barely left my face!
Another big difference was the amount of teamwork. All the obstacles were so well managed by the Major’s Troops who are there to help everyone out along the course.
Even other runners would help each other out too – the sense of camaraderie and teamwork was second to none.
Some participants had never attempted anything like this before, yet they just embraced it and pushed through their comfort zones. It made it really special for me and reminded me why I love what I do.
It was potentially even better than the first time! I’d been with Naomi around the whole course and as she reached the finish line and accomplished what she’d set out to, tired, muddy, aching but still smiling, it was amazing! Her family were there to cheer her over the line and we had a big hug at the end!
Whether taking part to compete or simply complete, visit majorseries.com to book your place.