Thursday, 10 September 2015

Health | Joining the 300

I can honestly say I have never before found myself at a pre-event briefing where the guy leading it is wearing essentially just leather pants. But then I've never done a Spartan before...

I've been invited by the guys from Spartan Race to test my metal against the rest and see if I've got what it takes to complete their grueling assault course. As I rock up for my afternoon heat (after a cheeky parkrun in the morning) I'm feeling apprehensive as to what could lay in store - what obstacles will there be? Will I be able to do them? Will I look like a fool? Will I come last?

First things first we line up at the start line - only it can't be that simple - first you have to vault a 4ft fence to even get in to the start pen. By this point I'm really scared. As I look around at the sea of competitors who I'm aiming to take on, I realise loads of them are wearing obstacle event t-shirts and are clearly used to this kind of event. I meanwhile have decided I require no additional training to my usual diet of running, cycling, open water swimming and the intensive 6 week Bikram yoga research study I just took part in. It appears my fellow competitors are more used to bootcamp than parkrun and as we're sent 'in to battle' I'm officially nervous.

And then the obstacles come: and they are hard, and fun, and bruise me, and require you to help those around you, and some of them are down-right surprising. But most surprising of all is the fact I can do them - because there is plenty of crossover to real-life running. 




Ditch filled with water with steep hill the other side? Easy! It's like fell running!
25m river swim? I go open water swimming at the weekends!

Carrying heavy sand bags? No problem - it's like running to work with my heels and packed lunch in my bag!
Climbing round a wall? It's just like scrambling in the Lake District!

And then suddenly childhood memories of a much less fit version of myself come rearing their ugly head as I reach my ultimate nemesis... Monkey bars... I've never been able to do monkey bars. I just have no upper body strength. I'm grumpy and cross as I run up to them but I've already told myself I'll give everything a go and if I fail so be it. And then the miracle of all miracle happens. I reach up and let my weight hang and I don't instantly fall off. Then I provide myself some momentum by swinging my legs backwards and forward and I reach out with one hand and successfully make my way to the next bar. And the next. And the next. In summary: Monkey Bars? No problem! 

And that's what is so great about Spartan - the wide range of obstacles provides you with plenty of opportunities to experience your own highs. As I cross the line I feel proud of what I've achieved and I've overtaken loads of people in the process.




When I get my final results I've come 256th out of just over 2000. Or if I really was a Spartan I've made the cut in to the 300. Already my mind is whirling with the possibility of the next one: well obviously I've only done the Sprint so now I want to do the Beast!

For all my love of this event though I did find the event leads up frustrating: no email reminders, or confirmations, confusing event comments on the website (who needs to arrive for a race 2 hours early?! I arrived 20 minutes early and that was plenty of time) and terrible assistance on Social Media...


but they are young and enthusiastic and it's the kind of race that feels like it's good for your soul in a way I'm not sure a 10k will ever be able to be. And at the end you are presented with weightest medal imaginable, a cracking t-shirt and a selection of photos of yourself which you can download for free: a sign of people who know what runners really want (ie not to pay £25 for a photo of yourself!).

Ultimately I really enjoyed it and left so proud of what I'd achieved from my monkey bar triumphs, to my excitement at finding the open water swim, to the dark purple bruises on my legs. And not only am I in the top 300, I'm also the 22nd female over the finish line (7th non-elite). Which for my first ever obstacle course with hardly any training, at the end of day is something I feel I can be incredibly proud of.

So go on: challenge yourself! Like me: you might just surprise yourself.

AROO!




Times:
Total: 1:00:56
Final placing: 256 out of 2103
22nd female overall. 7th non-elite female.