'I understand that by taking part in obstacle running I accept the following risks... sprain/strains... broken bones... near drowning... drowning... heart attack....' Standing waiting to start my first ever obstacle race I will admit this is not quite what I expected to hear during the health and safety briefing! It was just going to be running with a few things to climb over right... and maybe a bit of swimming... To be fair I did expect X Runner Water Wipeout to be a bit more than just this, but the safety briefing still came as a bit of a surprise! For a brief few moments I did doubt whether or not I was capable of what was about to come, but looking around at the array of runners in my starting area I felt more assured, participants were of all ages, shapes and fitness levels - I could do this!
X Runner Water Wipeout was held at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham, and when signing up for the event many months ago I had pictured myself running around this venue in glorious summer sunshine, with the water being a welcoming relief from the sun's heat. The day was however grey, unseasonably cool and threatening to rain. The stretch of open water visible from the starting area looked equally as grey and extremely uninviting. I was running the race with my two friends - although we would certainly not be racing each other around the course!
Following the confidence building safety briefing (!) we were released to tackle the course. Up first were hay bale hurdles, followed by some zig-zag hill running. The run route then veered towards the grey expanse of water. I could hear the squeals of runners ahead as they entered the water - it was clearly incredibly cold. As we dipped ourselves in, the coldness hit our systems instantly, taking your breath away. The water was dense and a lot different to swimming in a conventional swimming pool. It was also a lot dirtier than a swimming pool, and the odd splash that struck your face from a fellow runner-turned-swimmer was not a pleasant experience!
Back on dry land, running was now made that little bit harder due to carrying the added weight of drenched clothes and soggy shoes. The next obstacles involved vertical walls, cargo nets and giant hurdles, before another wade through a mucky pool of water and mud trenches. A short spell of running then followed through a little woodland area with views of swans drifting on the lake. This was so pleasant it almost felt like a nice, normal Saturday run... until a climbing net appeared on the horizon. The net led up to a giant water slide, which at the bottom loomed a lake of what only can be described as black water. Joining hands at the top of the slide, my friends and I slid into the black pool of god-knows-what - it wasn't especially cold, just very, very bad tasting!
After a short swim out of the black pool, a dense section of obstacles occurred featuring more mud, climbing and crawling. This led to the much anticpated water rapids section. Life jackets were mandatory for this obstacle, which did make me a little fearful! Plunging into the river the thrill of feeling the water surging you along soon dispelled any worry. Your body literally felt weightless as the river threw you down stream. Enjoying the moment, I almost forgot how hazardous this obstacle could be, as it seems so did my friend... The rapids featured a number of stone boulders which you would usually kayak around, however she was headed directly for one! I am actually not quite sure how she missed it. I remember seeing her suddenly go under the water and then reappear again just past the boulder, it happened so quickly I didn't even have time to really register the level of danger playing out before my eyes!
As seemed to be apparent by looking at the reactions of fellow runners throughout the race, the more dangerous/painful/inappropriate something is when obstacle running the funnier it is, and my friend's near miss certainly made us laugh/swallow a lot of water whilst laughing!
The next section of the course saw more cargo nets, climbing, inclined walls and the monkey bars. I had felt reasonably optimistic about the monkey bars when I heard they were part of the course, but with my body weight now probably doubled from water and mud, and my hands soaked from swimming to the bars themselves, this optimism rapidly faded! I managed nearly half way before plunging into the water. The first 5km loop of the course then finished with yet more climbing, another water slide and even more swimming - now it was time to repeat this all over again!
On this second lap I could tell I was noticeably more tired - almost shameful after 5km! We now knew what to expect though and could throw ourselves a little more into obstacles. I may have taken this a little too literally at one of the inclined walls - lets just say I have the bruises to show from my extremely ungraceful leap! We also managed to avoid any near death experiences in the water rapids on the second venture...!
Some two hours later we crossed the finish line in a bedraggled state, but with giant smiles across our faces. I don't think I have ever laughed so much whilst running... or swallowed as much water.. or gained as many bruises! I think that's what attracted me to the thought of doing an obstacle race initially, the notion of the run being enough of a challenge without it being focussed on finishing times, and also the extreme level of fun associated with completing it! Reflecting back on Water Wipeout I felt so happy to have been able to complete another fantastic run, with great friends and gain another set of memories - sign me up for the next!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...