Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Jonny’s report

22Oct09

Last weekend saw the conclusion of the Tri Nations Challenge as the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest 10k came to Edinburgh. Having previously visited Cardiff and Nottingham this is a 10k race with a difference. It is essentially a 10k urban assault course with competitors tackling an obstacle every kilometre or so. The event is also sponsored by For Goodness Shakes! who enter a race team of their own. I applied to join the team this year and was lucky enough to be selected.

With over 1500 people taking part starts are staggered in waves of 15 minutes with approximately 250 athletes in each wave, I was in the second wave. The race started on the Royal Mile and we were soon confronted by our first obstacle, several hay bail walls. I leapt over the bails and ran the first part of the race hard as I knew there was a small alleyway coming up and didn’t want to be held up by a potential bottle neck. I was in second place as we passed Waverly Station and made our way to Calton Hill. We were promised a race with plenty of climb and our legs were soon tested on the second obstacle, Jacobs Ladder Climb. A series of steep steps took us up to Regent Road; I eased off slightly up the steps knowing there was plenty more to come later in the course. As we ran to the top of Calton Hill I was passed by a few racers and probably slipped down into 8th or 9th place. The third obstacle was on the top of Calton Hill, an army assault course. A series of cargo nets, rope swings and monkey bars to name a few stood between me and the descent of Calton Hill. I was fast over the obstacles (slightly disappointed when I reached the end!) and left Calton Hill back up in second place. The early leader of my wave had faded badly at the steps and the guy now leading was Matt Sutherland a fellow FGS Team member.

The course then took us to Holyrood Park but not before we had another obstacle to tackle en route. The Urban Jungle comprised of some large tyres a couple of cars and skip we had to clamber through and over before passing through a housing estate into the park. I was feeling good at this stage of the race and looking forward to getting of the roads onto some parkland. It was here we began to catch the trailing members of the first wave up, over taking some was tricky on the narrow woodland paths. The course was mainly uphill along this stretch and my legs started to feel it as I had a tussle for the wave 2 second spot. We were soon at our 5th obstacle and nearing the half way point of the course. I hit the waterslide at the wrong time and had a slight wait as some wave 1 stragglers slid very slowly down the slide. I was in third place now by some distance with fourth not far behind. I good dive off the top of the slide meant I was down in milliseconds and soon running back towards the city centre. As we passed through a large tunnel another FGS team member caught me and we ran together before he gradually pulled away from me. Slipping to fourth I was determined not to lose any more places! We faced a small ‘stocking filler’ obstacle of spider’s web ropes and a drenching from the Fire and Rescue Service before descending into Cowgate. The course was well marked and as I saw left arrow I turned left, straight into a dead end! Quickly turning and taking the next left I lost little time but it all adds up and I now had the 5th place wave 2 run alongside me. It was a welcome relief to get to the next obstacle as I felt I was far quicker over the obstacles than most but slightly slower covering the ground between them. We were faced with a construction site type obstacle course with plenty of scaffolding to clamber on. It was becoming hard to pass the hoards of wave 1 members that engulfed the obstacles but with a bit of friendly pushing and shoving I got through…it is a race after all!!

We were then straight onto the next obstacle as we entered a building and ran round a maze of corridors and stair wells, I was now back into 3rd place and feeling a real buzz. We faced another incline as we ran back onto the Royal Mile to face the Under Armour Royal Mile challenge. Rat Race flash backs passed through my mind here as we clambered over bouncy castles and up margarine covered slopes! There was a queue at one of these which, although it was frustrating, did allow me to catch my breath. I knew we were homeward bound now and so pushed on through the Grassmarket thinking there were two obstacles to go and about 1.5 k of flat road…I was wrong! After flowing through the parkour zone with ease, the race entered the West end of West Princes Street Gardens we ran towards the finish but suddenly faced a nasty sting in the tail of a series of zig zagged paths uphill towards the Castle Esplanade! These really hurt the legs and I could feel the burn in my calves. I could also see the second wave 2 runner ahead and really wanted to catch him, however was passed on the uphill by another wave 2 runner and now found myself in fourth place. I’ve always been stronger a descents and really let rip when it came throwing myself off the top. I hurtled towards the bottom not entirely in control but caught 3rd place at the bottom and we ran neck and neck around the Amphitheatre. We had one final obstacle to face, the Men’s Health Wall of Fame, and 8ft wall. I threw my self at the wall ignoring the ropes that were there to aid/hinder climbing attempts. I made it straight up and over and crossed the line, exhausted. As I caught my breath I turned to see two guys from wave two crossing the line who were in 2nd and 3rd place before the wall…I had just managed to nab second place which brought a large grin to my face!

The race was the most intense I’ve done for some time, it was over a shorter distance than what I’m used to and really felt like a sprint from start to finish. I didn’t have the speed between the obstacles I would have liked, but having never run a ‘10k’ was pleased how I managed to pace my race. The obstacles were extremely enjoyable and I think really played to my advantage. The overall winner was Matt Sutherland, the wave 2 winner, in a highly impressive time of 44.23. I was pleased to finish in 7th place overall with a time of 47.19. Incidentally this time was quicker than both the winning times in Nottingham and Cardiff, which is a surprise as they were relatively flat courses. Another interesting fact is that out of the top ten finishers 6 were from wave 1 and 4 from wave 2, I think this shows the queue build up throughout the day and definitely felt for those running in wave 6! Overall I was highly impressed with the event but have come to expect no less from Detail Events. Huge thanks also go to For Goodness Shakes! for the race entry, it was a privilege to race on behalf of such a worthwhile sports nutritional product. Next up, the Open 5 Series gets under way on the first Sunday of November; a great race series to entertain adventure athletes over the winter months.

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