The Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest
Sitting somewhere between a running race and an assault course, survival of the fittest has become a major event over the last couple of years. The event is spread over a 10km course and features around 20 obstacles (more on them later), there are races all around the country and each can feature over 10,000 runners in the day and night races.
I did the race around Battersea power station and park, in London. It’s a great location for such an event – the power station provides an ominous backdrop to the day which fits in with the “Survival” theme beautifully and the central location make it easy to get to and from. Unfortunately it also seems to add to the cost, which can be up to £50 (it’s less if you organise a large group). The organisation is very good and we had no problem registering and getting organised on the day, covered baggage areas are available and plenty of staff are on hand to hand out your race number and timing chip.
Starts set off in waves of 200 every 15 minutes. We were in wave 26 which was at the slightly annoying time of 3:15pm. It’s good to have a staggered start and the early obstacles were good – large bails of hey, rope swings, monkey bars and tunnels to crawl through, although at each obstacle you were forced to slow down and queues built up quickly. Once we had got through about 1km of obstacles we were faced with a roughly 5km run around the park (including a lap of the athletics track complete with hurdles). As a runner, I enjoyed this and was able to pull ahead of most of the group. The route then took us out of the park and along the pavement of a main road. This seemed ridiculous with the beautiful park right next to us, but it got worse: As I headed down the road I realised that we were going to have to cross the main road. I was stopped by a steward and told to wait until the next green man, I’d got there whilst the previous green man was still showing, I waited around 2 minutes until it came back to green – by which time around 50 people had caught up with me. All the hard work I’d put in over the 5km was wasted. Still – I told myself this isn’t really a race, it’s just for fun. But I couldn’t help feel like the organisation could have been much better, I’m sure most people want to compete even in a race like this.
Once over the road we headed back towards the power station and more obstacles which included running through broken cars, pulling ourselves up onto high walls, sliding down slides, carrying beer barrels through a bar, bouncing through inflatables, crawling through mud and ice and many more. Entering into Battersea power station was a nice touch and I enjoying carrying a sandbag through there and back out. However, some of the obstacles were terribly thought out – I’m all for crawling through the mud and even the ice, but why would you make people crawl through gravel? It’s just annoying to have cut knees. Also, running with a sandbag is a challenge, but putting hurdles in front of you just means everyone walks slowly over them. In addition, I found myself catching up with people up to three waves ahead of me, so there was a lot of waiting around on some of the obstacles.
At the end of the day, this is a very fun event, the obstacles are well thought out and varied, it’s just not really a race and not something to be competitive about. If you do this event you just have to put your competitive nature to one side and enjoy it for what it is. If I was in London next year, I’d probably do it for a third time, even at £50, so they must be doing something right. You get a decent t-shirt and a medal for your efforts and hopefully go home with a smile on your face.