Tough Mudder London North: New Venue, New Obstacles

Considering the venue had a last-minute attack of the English disease that is NIMBY’ism (not in my backyard).  The local council decided to pull the plug on the traffic management arrangements, 48hrs before the event was due to start.  Add all this to the fact England was playing in the World Cup quarter-final, it is fair to say Tough Mudder HQ really had the odds stacked against them.

Believe me, the knives were already being sharpened by a few, as we rocked up and faced a 15-minute walk to the Tough Mudder village in temperatures already 77 at 7 am.

Podium PlacesCredit Tough Mudder

Once arriving at the village, the atmosphere was surprisingly light, there was a buzz of anticipation that only a new venue can create.  Rumours had already been circulating that the venue had laid down the law.  No holes to be dug, no mud brought in and no fun to be had at all (that last one is me being petulant but accurate nonetheless).

This led to a bunch of unheard obstacles listed on the course map, Hydrophobia, Kinky Tunnels, Next Level and hanging out.  Oh and the return of the dreaded Electric eel.  Not forgetting the return of electroshock therapy at the finish.  Tongues were most definitely wagging all the way to check in.

So, checked in by the usual awesome Volunteer crew and of to the warm-up and start line.  Where we were warned against the heat and told to hydrate at the water stations regardless of thirst.  Truly good advice, in fact, I was wearing my marathon vest with 2x 500 ml bottles and iso gels just in case.

We were off and on our way to my 16th and Julie’s 3rd TM full.  The first half Kilometer sprint was a nice warm up to kiss of mud followed a similar distance to skid marked.  The usual suspects followed bail bonds, water station, hero carry, Water station and Everest.

 TMHQ really had not left anything to chance with the water stations.

Water station Number one was sensibly giving out 500 ml bottles, not a cup full.  I was beginning to realise I was dragging my vest and water round for no actual reason.  Still, none else had one so I must be the cool one, right?  Right?

Yours Truly Focused on EverestCredit: Tough Mudder

Before we knew it mile 2 and Boa constrictor.   Which if you’re knocking on the door or in my case over 6 feet and built like a Greek god (so I’m told by my ego anyway), is a real struggle to get up the other end of the two angled pipes. Added to the deeper than normal water this was a real test and was welcomed.

A real treat was to follow though,

I honestly think I skipped like a kid would with excitement the last few feet (Greek god for real).  Face to face with the new hydrophobia, which is a 40-50 feet pool 15 feet across.  With three half submerged plastic sewer pipes which you had to duck down and swim under.  Now I’m a real water baby (Poseidon clearly), so this was a breeze, in fact, a lot of fun.  I was surprised however how many had a real fear of going under the pipes.   I found myself stopping at each pipe reaching under and joining hands, with more than a few nervous mudders and pulling them through.

Cooled and buzzing from hydrophobia, we plodded on through miles 3 and 4 passing 5-6 other usual obstacles and at least 3 more water stations.  On to Next Level which is Giant A hole parachuted in from the 5k events.  Love this obstacle. Who doesn’t love a 25 feet high cargo net with a 15 feet cargo net roof to traverse I know I do and again the fear factor was introduced to a lot of my fellow mudders.

Blue lap done we were into the Orange loop and fired over Cage craw and Arctic enema we hit the dreaded electric eel.

Which I am sad to say courtesy of the metal holding me together, following a motorcycle accident I am medically exempt from.  Electric eel back with a BangCredit Tough Mudder

Stood watching mudders being stung from the audible cracks, each time a wire bit them.

Sounded like a really pissed off wasp, followed by at best a yelp.  Or at worst, language your grandmother still doesn’t know you use.  I can promise you just watching was making the fillings in my teeth on edge.  Aside from hanging out, which is a longer lower version of Kong the last 4 miles flew by with Funky monkey, Kong infinity amongst the highlights.

Stunning Location For London NorthCredit John Donnelly

So, what am I reporting back to you?

First and foremost. I was magnificent obviously! even completing the head shoulders, knees, and toes challenge, before touching down on Funky Monkey and Kong infinity.  The course you say? Apologies, well it was it must be said it was short, 8.5 miles.  The ground was rutted and a real ankle twister  Plus the weather was punishing.  All of that is an aside if I’m being brutally honest.

TMHQ really knocked this out of the park.  Great new improvised obstacles, the return of a dreaded classic.   All nicely buried deep into 24 great obstacles.

All shoehorned into some stunning English countryside.  The course truly felt like OCR not a run with a few obstacles thrown in.  [Read more…]

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Wembley, London

This month’s race was the Rat Race Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. Based around Wembley, UK, the 10k obstacle course was 100% man-made and 100% tough. Rat Race is known in the UK for their incredible atmosphere, base areas, and impressive obstacles… and that’s exactly what we got.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Keg Bars

The first thing you saw as you approached the start zone was a tower of shipping containers, three stories high with people climbing up and down them. There were also some enormous obstacles around the finish line, but we’ll get to that later. The registration process was simple and there were no queues. The bag drop was secure, as well as having a separate valuables drop-off point which was free of charge and could only be accessed using your password.

Now for the fun stuff.

Men’s Health really stepped their game up again this year. I’ve done the past 3 years in a row and every time the obstacles have somehow managed to beat the previous year.

Once in the starting area, there was a warm-up video before setting off around London. Obstacles began quickly, with hay bales and hurdles before being soaked by a fireman’s hose, which was much appreciated in 29c heat, as we went on to tackle the stairs of Wembley Way repeatedly while carrying cones and sandbags.

The route back down Wembley way was a lot faster, as we slid down a water slide. Obstacle after obstacle, there were new challenges as we climbed scaffolding, did tightrope walks and leapt in and out of water before the real fun began.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Slide

The course took us down into a knee-depth river where we found a tunnel. The tunnel was enormous and seemed to go on for a good few minutes, but participants eventually made it to the end and found the light again after stumbling around in the pitch black for a while.

The next area was called the ‘playground zone’ and it was exactly as you’d imagine. It began with a space-hopper race, which may have seemed easy as a child but it turns out they are exhausting when you are of adult size. We leaped over pommel horses, went head-first over spinning barrels and made our way through a giant net full of exercise balls.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Spool Over

With obstacles to test upper body as well as core strength, this 10k was a proper workout, and left you feeling it afterwards, but had small foam mats at the bottom of some obstacles. I can’t imagine they would have helped much if you did fall, but they made it feel a lot safer at the time.  Having run through shipping containers filled with dry ice, and crawled through tunnels made from scaffolding, the course was almost over as we approached the main obstacle zone.

Leaping from a platform onto a stunt mattress, we set off up the three-storey shipping container pile, crossing a cargo net and making our way back down again, before arriving at the final obstacle.

It was, of course, the travellator. Being the second travellator I’ve encountered in UK OCR’s, this was definitely at a faster speed than the previous one, but it was one last push to the top of the obstacle and a leap down to the finish.  After collecting your medal, there was a free photo with your finishing time above your head, and a load of merchandise to look at, as well as being given a free rubber bracelet, headband and t-shirt.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Car

The only negative aspects of the race were the fact that photos had to be bought (unless you were happy with the watermarked ones) and the water stations were a little too far apart for the temperature. But if those are the only two faults, you’re not doing too badly.

For a race with innovative, fun obstacles and the perfect mixture of challenges and achievable obstacles, I’d recommend Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest to anybody, from first-time runners to the experience.

Go get yourself signed up!

Adrenaline Rush – London: 2016 Race Review

This year I was invited to Adrenaline Rush in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The event was publicized brilliantly with a lot of online hype before the race, and even Macmillan’s own Snapchat filter at the event village.

Having caught the train into Stratford, there was a walk around the Olympic Park to the event village where music was playing, and you could see a mass of obstacles… And every single one looked amazing. Registration and bag drop were quick and Macmillan staff had green war-paint for all runners, before lining up at the start line and setting off in waves every five minutes.

The race began with a lot of running, but being at such an amazing venue kept even the running fun. The course was complicated, with marshals at every single turn making sure everyone knew which way to go, and also giving the best support I’ve ever seen at a race. Before long, the number of obstacles started to pick up and as you began to hear the music from the event village, it was obstacle after obstacle. Although I’d never come across this in a race before, it was a nice change to get the running out of the way at the start of the course and then have an overload of obstacles towards the end.

Adrenaline Rush London - Slant wall

With everything from warped walls to the ‘big balls’ obstacle from Total Wipeout, Adrenaline Rush had a variety of exciting challenges. Inflatable obstacles added a fun factor and bubbly water slides had everybody sliding around, adding difficulty to the final obstacles. There was a water break before doing a second lap of the course, and it was time to get the running done and get back to those obstacles again.

Adrenaline Rush London - Inflatable

Adrenaline Rush London - Olympic Park

Lap two was just as fun as the first time round, with obstacles to test everybody. Balancing beams, cargo net crawls and rope swings broke up the running and marshals even remembered me the second time I passed them! Spacing participants out in waves of every five or so minutes also meant there was no waiting for obstacles, which is always a plus!

Adrenaline Rush London - Swinging

Back at the event village, there was one final obstacle added onto the first lap… The leap of faith. Climbing up to a 5m high platform before jumping onto a stuntman’s airbag, then a run to the finish where motion activated cameras took photos. This was another nice touch I’d not previously seen, making sure everybody got a picture crossing the finish line.

For a fun race with plenty of challenges and a lot of different obstacles, ranging from monkey bars to leaping off 5m high platforms, Adrenaline Rush is one brilliant day out, and I’d recommend it to absolutely anybody.

Adrenaline Rush London - Jump

Will I be back next year? Definitely, and I can’t wait to see what Adrenaline Rush brings in 2017!