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Setting alight the inaugural BG Survival race

by Paul Hayward
Friday 9th October 2015

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports back from the inaugural BG Survival, an event designed to empower people to test and extend their adventure fitness

The inaugural BG Survival Race © Epic  Action Imagery

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

Obstacle Course Racing’s (OCR) growth has been pretty impressive in the last two years with almost everyone knowing someone that has taken on Tough Mudder or an OCR in some form. Last weekend marked a special occasion when respected adventurer and successful TV presenter Bear Grylls got involved with OCR with the inaugural Bear Grylls Survival Race.

Situated in Trent Park in London, the Bear Grylls Survival Race offered everything from the Cubs race for children, to the Ultimate 30k Survival Race, across a weekend. There is a festival to boot offering a bungee jump, zorbing  and even Newton Faulkner. If this was to be your first introduction to OCR then wow; you do not get more impressive than the first moment you enter the festival village!

I was taking part in the 30k “Survival challenge” on Sunday. The unique selling point of the survival race were the six “survival elements” that were designed to test and drag everyone truly out of their comfort zone.

The inaugural BG Survival Race © Epic  Action Imagery

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

Could you merge the worlds of a TV celebrity and OCR successfully, or was this one of the biggest marketing ploys yet? During lap one of three of the 10k course, I was fearful that it might be just that.

The 10k course was a flat run through Trent Park and the obstacles were, in whole, old Spartan Race obstacles from 2011 with a gloss of paint. For example, it included historic obstacles such as the winding of a kettlebell up to above your head. In addition there were numerous walls, A-Frames and those weirdly constructed monkey bars. Had it not been for some of the obstacles provided by the Royal Marines, such as the burgen carry and an incredibly tough sloping wall,  then I would have thought I had travelled back in time to 2011.

Just as I was about to write this race off however, I approached the end of the 10k loop and I was asked to take part in a spot of shooting.

Having not shot a gun in at least 15 years I was instantly excited to be able to do this. Sadly my aim was not as good as my enthusiasm and out of five shots, requiring me to hit the target three times, I managed a measly one! and this marked the beginning of my notion that I would not cut it in the rain forest like Bear Grylls.

The inaugural BG Survival Race © Epic  Action Imagery

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

The next obstacle was a memory test and I was asked what the essential seven items for survival  were. Somehow a survival blanket, mars bar and iphone did not feature on their list and it was another failed challenge for me! This break from the course had lifted my spirits though and made me laugh to myself as I began the second lap with hope.

The issue of laps often raises concerns with people and on this occasion I can see the justification. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the chance to go over the peg board again and do the rope climb for a second time (somehow), but when you have mediocre obstacles, such as a loose cargo net or three sets of monkey bars, some of the fun disappears along with your smile and it becomes a chore.

At the end of the second lap I was thinking that the race had been okay, but that it had not delivered anything special. This was until I hit the third survival challenge, where I was asked to burn through a rope between two metal rods.

The idea was that you set light to some straw and then use the straw to burn the rope. What Bear Grylls had not factored in was my training as a Scout, or lack of safety awareness. I managed to set light to the a lot of the straw nearby me, to the extent that I burnt down both metal rods and the rope between them. Fire engulfed a large section of the straw and the marshals were running around screaming that they needed water to put it out. As moments in OCR go, this has to be my favourite, as I was reduced to tears of joy and I could not stop laughing!

The inaugural BG Survival Race © Epic  Action Imagery

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

As I began my third lap, still smiling from the survival challenge, the race took a different feel. Despite being the same course as the last two laps, the focus changed as the distance began to bite and I found myself struggling to keep my pace. Suddenly the flat course that I had ran around freely over the last 20k started to hurt and I felt the distance as the lap went on. I was suddenly pleased for the break of the monkey bars or the peg board as my legs were aching and were screaming at me to stop.

It was clear that the number of competitors had taken their toll on the obstacles, as a number of them had been broken or removed from the race. This being said, the royal marines’ obstacles, such as the hanging wall and burgen carry, remained and really kicked out what little energy I had left in me. After my last lap, a final sprint to the finish took us back to the race village.

If I am honest this race was a mixed bag for me. There were elements that were fantastic, such as the survival challenges, including shooting and making fire, but the ‘normal’ obstacles to me felt a little outdated. I thought the introduction of the Royal Marines was welcome, fitting in nicely with Bear Grylls’ history, and I would have liked to have seen one or two more challenges devised by them.

The inaugural BG Survival Race © Epic  Action Imagery

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

More information on the Bear Grylls Survival Race can be found here: www.beargryllssurvivalrace.com/

Follow the Bear Grylls Survival Race
Facebook: @BearGryllsSurvivalRace
Twitter: @BGSurvivalRace
Website: www.beargryllssurvivalrace.com


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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