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Survival in muddy Manchester

by Paul Hayward
Monday 16th November 2015

Race report: Run247's OCR columnist Paul Hayward reports from MHSOTF's muddy Manchester event

Super Survival

Photos © My Bib Number

Regular readers will know just what high regard I have for the MHSOTF series, their races being the reason I even started doing Obstacle Course Races (OCR). Their London race (HERE) has repeatedly delivered as one of the best OCR I have done.

Last year, to much excitement, we previewed the introduction of the 'Super Survival' in Rat Race’s hugely successful Men’s Health - Survival of the Fittest (MHSOTF)(HERE).  Sadly I could not make the race last year, but this year Manchester, in addition to Nottingham,  was treated to the Super Survival treatment and it was one of the first races in my diary.

I would like to say that I was drawn by the chance to race through 'muddy Manchester' and pit myself across a rollercoaster of 21k of urban OCR goodness, but in reality I was lured by the special vest and medal on offer for taking part!

The excitement only grew last month with the inclusion of one of the best obstacles you could think of : The Travelator, powered by Renault. Anyone who has watched Gladiators in the 80s will recognise the name. Those who have not -  imagine a hill with a flat escalator going the wrong way down it and being asked to run up it.

I will be honest, this race had me whipped up in excitement for the last four weeks. I was just hopeful that the race could deliver and not include long bouts of running in addition to the 10k Survival course, as some OCRs do when there is a longer race with a short one.

I need not have worried. One of the things that Rat Race do well is to supply a belter of an obstacle course race and offer an experience that leaves you wondering just how they achieve it in an urban city environment.

From the start of the race participants were subjected to the winding, sloping 'hills' of the Etihad Stadium, and the stairs in and around the seating area by the pitch, leaving us struggling for breath from within 1k of the race.

After making it out of the stadium, to much delight, we were met with Rat Race’s version of  heaven and hell within a matter of minutes. Firstly we got the chance to climb the water slide and shoot down at speed before running for a kilometre and facing a Platinum Rig. The Platinum Rig was first seen in the Obstacle World Championships in 2014 but Rat Race took this idea and made it their own.

Whilst the rig featured a hang tough section (gym rings requiring you to swing across), the next section of the Rig can only be described as bizarre. We were asked to use two bars to climb across horizontally. If this did not play tricks on you, then the next section did, as one bar went up whilst the other went down. This section was simply brilliant and was hilarious as people were losing their balance left, right and centre!

Super Survival

Photos © My Bib Number

The last section was a row of suspended nunchucks and you were expected to use them to swing across to the end of the Rig. This was no easy feat and ensured that all competitors were tested! Sadly I fell off quite pathetically into the waiting water, much to the crowds amusement. The decision to put this obstacle in the race must have been an easy one as whilst it was pretty tough, it really was enjoyable and as I watched later on, everyone was cheering each other on and laughing.

Those laughs may not have lasted long though as competitors faced a canal jump after a further 2k run. Having Done the Survival race many years ago, I knew just how deep the canal was and yet again I jumped in stupidly and found myself submerged in freezing water. The cold literally made me scream and as I jumped up the ladder out of the water, I was lost for words but shaking my head.

However this was a taste of what was to come, as later on I found myself in the middle of a lake, wearing a life jacket and being told to “ride the current” down to the end. I soon found myself, on my back, careering at great speed down the lake, from one side to the other, with no actual control over where I was going. I could barely keep my feet up to float, let alone control myself and I must have grabbed the life guard like my life depended on it at the end.

At the time I shook my head and just thought “that was crazy”. Looking back now I can only say it was brilliant. Sadly only the Super Survival competitors got to try this but it will surely be one of the big talking points from the weekend. After being subjected to a horrendously muddy cargo net crawl and an unforgiving canter across a mountain bike black run, it was back to join the “normal 10k” and I found myself at the infamous “Wall of Fame”.

For anyone that has not taken on a MHSOTF race, this is the final wall before the finish line and is one of Rat Race’s trademark obstacles. These days I am pretty confident of scaling a 10 foot wall, but this obstacle always seems to beat me. On reaching the wall, the fear set in and I accepted a helpful lift over it to finally face the Travelator.

On watching the competitors go before me, it was clear that this obstacle was beating a lot of people as they could not keep pace on the moving section and would be forced back down. Some people fell over whilst others even took to jumping to make it up. I decided to push hard and sprint up the Travelator, in the hope of making it.

Fortunately speed was with me and I scaled up to the top of the obstacle and in sight of the finish line a smile I seem to only get at MHSOTF returned.

Rat Race had pushed the boundaries of possibility again and provided a belter of an OCR over, across and through Manchester and the surrounding area. The obstacles, ranging from carries to the slide, were simply great and at times, such as the river, the rig and the travelator - just brilliant. The distance had been a tough challenge clearly, with a disappointing turnout of 185 competitors for the 21k compared to 2,112 for the 10k, but surprisingly Rat Race had squeezed every ounce that they could out of the terrain and in doing so provided one of the races of the year.      

Rat Race delivered one of the best race you can get, right in the middle of a city. We received a fantastic medals and one of the best goodie bags you can get.

Super Survival

Photos © My Bib Number

The final MHSOTF is set for next weekend in London and on this evidence; it could be something special.

More details and all of Rat Races events for 2016 can be found at: www.mhsurvival.co.uk


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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