Nuclear Blackout has a unique format in which you have to complete as many laps of the 5k obstacle course as possible in a 2 hour period, in the pitch black with only your head torch to guide you.
In March I won this event and put myself in pole position for the flights to America on offer from Nuclear races to represent the UK at the OCR world championships so as this race was the final qualifier it came with a massive opportunity but having missed the second qualifying race I knew I needed to put in another strong performance to be in with any chance.
Although the race format & the venue were the same the course direction had been switched, the start and finish area had moved, more obstacles had been added and there was a whole lot more mud. The thickest, deepest mud imaginable.
I settled into the leading group of four. The other three were all guys I knew from the OCR seen and all of whom have placed highly in pretty much every race they’ve done so early on I knew I had a battle on my hands to hold onto my title. The pace was fast but I was feeling good.
We were all still neck and neck when we came to the hang tough obstacle roughly half way around the first lap. If it wasn’t completed you had to go back for a second attempt. Two of the group went straight through and two failed, including me. The grip on my gloves just wouldn’t hold on to the slippery metal bars. I fell desperately into the water below on both of my attempts which resulted in all three other runners pulling away from me. I climbed out of the wet, muddy pool and gave chase. It didn’t take too much time or effort to catch two of the runners but the leader had amounted a considerable gap on us.
I pushed on as we came towards the end of the first lap and found myself clear in second place. The race was on! Over a succession of high walls, through the amazing and unique nuclear bunker, up the staircase and back out into the open air, up and over the half pipe, over a huge tyre wall, into some water and then up a hill, roughly 200m in length and stacked with an unearthly amount of mud which ended in the completion on lap one.
From here on in I knew what was coming but by now complete darkness had fallen and not before long I began catching the back marker runners. This meant that not only did I have to chose my route to obstacles wisely to avoid any hold ups I also had no idea if the head torch lights flickering in the distance in front and behind me were those of the guys challenging for the honours or runners I was lapping. This was now all about me and how much I could push myself to keep going.
I ran through lap two in 1 hour 20 minutes meaning there was very little chance that I would be completing anymore than three laps. Knowing it would more than likely be my last 5k of the race I have it all I had. I knew that every second could be vital in the decision of who goes to the world champs and who doesn’t.
Eventually I crossed the finish line for the final time in just over 2 hours still in second place and happy with my efforts knowing I had left absolutely everything I had on the course. The leader hadn’t managed to make the 2 hour cut off either so also completed 15k. I had a good chat with Alex, the winner while we were waiting for the presentation and going out that he was forth in March when I had taken first place but had also ran the second qualifying race in May where he placed 10th in a very strong field so it was going to be a very close call as to who got the place to flight to the states.
I knew I couldn’t have given anymore than I did over the two races I had done and I’d had a couple of epic experiences along the way so whatever happened it was well worth competing and certainly won’t be the last time I visit Essex for an event held by Nuclear races.
Three day later I got a message to say I had won the place and I would be going the Ohio, USA to represent the UK at the first ever OCR world championships. Words couldn’t possibly explain the way I felt and I now have little over a month to prepare starting with the OCR UK championships next weekend.