Obstacle Races in London - Are You Tough Enough?
With a few 5k or 10k races under your belt, maybe the odd half marathon, you might be looking for something different to your average road running race. A new challenge to mix up your routine and bring a bit of variety to your training. How about a race where you don’t just run to the finish but climb, crawl and wade your way there? Welcome to obstacle racing.
Obstacle races have been steadily growing in popularity over the past few years - there’s even a World Championships. I’ve clocked up plenty of regular running races in that time, and although some of the obstacles involved didn’t look appealing, in the name of research I thought it was time to give one a go.
Never one to do things by halves, the race I chose - the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest - was at the end of November. As I turned up at Wembley with my friend Chris to register, I spotted one of the obstacles - an enormous paddling pool full of water. That would be refreshing later on.We were in the first wave and around 50 competitors lined up alongside us. More would be set off at regular intervals throughout the day. The first obstacle came quickly and involved us climbing over bales of hay that had been stacked up. The route made use of the stairs of Wembley Stadium and saw us running up and down them more times than our legs would have liked before sliding down a water slide. This bit, admittedly, was a lot of fun, if a little chilly.
The route then took us off away from the stadium to add a few kilometres to the distance. Chris and I had a disagreement before the race began about quite how far it would be. I assured him it was a 5k while he protested that it was 10k long. He was right.
The second half saw us climbing under cargo nets in the mud, shooting a basketball into a hoop, doing a set of monkey bars and climbing over walls. I’m pretty comfortable running, but my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired. Luckily there were lots of friendly people taking part who were more than happy to give me a leg up on some of the more challenging walls.
Before heading back to the stadium there was one more obstacle to contend with - half a mile running along a river. I’d been dreading this all morning, but once we were in and moving it wasn’t too bad.
As we got towards the finish we were rewarded with another couple of laps of the car park, scaling increasingly bigger walls and carrying a beer barrel before we could cross the finish line. The race took us nearly twice as long as I’d usually expect to run a 10k, but the obstacles made it feel much shorter. Despite being sceptical, I’d really enjoyed my first obstacle race. But not as much as the hot bath I’d be having later.
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Laura Fountain is a writer and running coach living in London. She’s run 15 marathons, a couple of ultra marathons and a few triathlons, but not that long ago she couldn't run 400 meters. She's the author of two books 'The Lazy Runner' and 'Tricurious', and the blog Lazy Girl Running. Laura is a qualified running coach and personal trainer, and uses her experience to help beginner runners work towards their goals.