When it was announced that adventurer Bear Grylls was to put on an obstacle course race it raised an eyebrow. After reading into the details of the race it immediately got my attention. When the prize money structure was laid out I just had to sign up.

The 30k Ultimate Survival Race on the Sunday involved a selection of survival tasks at the completion of each 10k lap. The largest prize pot in UK OCR history was up for grabs. £5,000 and either a holiday to South Africa or a Triumph motorbike. This was a must do in my book. Then upon studying the event’s website a little more I noticed there was also a winners prize of £500 for the 5k and 10k races on the Saturday. I thought I’d make a weekend of it and entered the 5k as well.

I didn’t fancy a return journey to Barnett two days in a row so booked up a couple of nights in a near by Premier Inn. The short trip to Trent park on the morning of the 5k should have made things nice and easy but the longest walk from the car park to event village (festival) I’ve ever experienced meant my usual late arrival.

Finally on site it was announced that the first wave scheduled for 9am was to be delayed to 9.30am and every subsequent wave would be put back by 30 minutes. This suited me nicely and gave me the preparation time I needed.

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There were two elite waves. The first for the 10k runners and the second for those doing the 5k. I found this odd for a competitive race with prize money available as it would be hard to identify who the leaders were as the two races merged back together and all finished in the same place.

I started at a steady pace so I was surprised to find myself with a comfortable lead within the first mile. That was until I was forced to come to a complete standstill with no idea of where to go and no signs or marshals to point me in the right direction. I was soon joined by the first 40 or so runners who had followed my early lead. Eventually a marshal caught up with us and showed us the right way and affectively the race started again.

I retook the lead just before the first substantial obstacle which was a large A frame cargo net. This was closely followed by a burgeon hoist and another similar A frame. A rope climb, monkey bars, a double Jerry-can carry and tricep traverse all followed. It was a requirement that all obstacles should be attempted and a forfeit for any failures to complete of burpees or bear crawl was in forced.

There was quite a bit of trail running between each set if obstacle which played to my strengths and allowed me to extend my lead.

My daughter cheering me on

My daughter cheering me on

After a small rig, a couple of high walls and a fire jump I was able to take a look back to see I was well clear. Another prolonged running section followed so I was confident I wouldn’t be caught. Through some woodland and back out into an open field the rope pull A frame was in sight. This was the final obstacle and I opened up for a sprint on the straight road to the finish line. First place was mine, or so I thought.

Nobody had passed me from my wave but I wasn’t sure if any 5k runners had gone in the first wave and it appeared that non of the event staff were any the wiser either. I collected my dog tag style medal and survivors t-shirt and headed off to get changed. I wasn’t in the usual rush to get out of my race gear however as for the first time in my 2 and a half years of competing in OCR I hadn’t faced a single bit of mud or water on the entire course.

I went back to the finish area to check my time with was 22.11 and over 3 minutes faster than anyone else at that point to which I was told that they thought I had won but couldn’t be sure and wanted to wait until the next few waves had finished before making any announcements.

I filled the time by running the cubs race with my daughter. She flew round making me proud as always then checked out the impressive festival collecting some quality freebees along the way.

Several hours later I was told the awards would be given out on stage by Bear Grylls himself. I was rather excited by this and anxiously awaited in anticipation only for no announcement to be made. I spent the last hour before the event doors closed for the day trying in vain to get a word with the race director as nobody else seemed to have any idea what was going on so left for the long walk back to the car park with an air of uncertainty.

I woke the following morning with the hope that things would improve on day two. After all this was the showpiece event of the weekend.

At registration we were issued with a red and a green wristband. The red band would be marked if a survival task was failed and the green band marked if it was passed. Failing a task also came with a 15 minute time penalty. Just before we set off the announcer gave us some coordinates and told us that just like in the wild, we would need to remember these in order to survive.

Within the first couple of miles it was clear the marshals were better placed and the course had been re marked with much less room for error. With the advantage of knowing that there was a lot of running and not many obstacles in the early part I set off at a good pace amongst the first few but it wasn’t long until I was in unfamiliar tertiary as we moved on to the 10k split.

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The first of the new obstacles for me was a peg wall. The holes didn’t seem very deep and all of my first few attempts resulted to the pegs slipping straight back out at which point the marshal told me I could use my fingers instead. This required quite a bit of grip strength but was still a lot easier. We then entered a woodland area and at last a bit of mud! Then came a shallow stream wade so finally some water as well. This was to be the only section with either but at least we got to do it three times.

A sled pull was next up before some more trail running then for me what was the toughest task of the entire weekend (other than claiming my 5k winners prize) in the form of a 20 kg burgeon carry. Having done quite a bit of training with sandbags I should have been prepared for this but I found it really energy sapping and the loop of approximate half a mile seemed to go on for ever.

This was followed by a succession of obstacle made up of different slack lines testing a whole selection of varied skills. I managed to complete all without fail and was still moving well.

Just before entering back onto the last part of the 5k course to complete a lap came the first of the survival tasks. I had been contemplating what these might involve but never did it cross my mind that I’d be sat down by a Royal Marine and have a riffle placed in my arms to be loaded up and fired at the shooting range that stood in front of me. I was given five shots to knock down three targets. I missed with my first before steadying myself and hitting the second. Unfortunately my lack of doing any type of shooting in my past meant I missed the next two shots so I didn’t even need to load my last pellet.

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I was in 4th place at this point and as I was sent on my way I was informed that only one of those in front of me had passed. To be honest I was pleased I’d hit one down and I was pretty sure this was the coolest part of any OCR I’d ever experienced.

Just before setting off on lap two the second task arrived. I was asked to name the seven essential survival tools in 30 seconds. I managed to get three (a map, compass and water) before the time was up and I’d choked up another time penalty. I wasn’t too concerned as I felt both tasks had been pretty tough and not many people would pass either plus I felt my general performance so far was of a good standard and I was feeling stronger as the race went on. So much so that it wasn’t long before I caught up with third placed Ross Macdonald (someone who is normally way ahead of me) and we had a friendly battle for much of the remainder of the race.

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Towards the end of lap two another really cool task was set out. This time there were no time penalties, it was stay until completion however long it took. It required winding up a piece of wire with a kettle bell attached to earn a bit of cotton wool which could be used to light a fire from two bits of flint. Hay could then be used to build the flames up until they were high enough to burn through a length of string suspended roughly a foot from the floor. I some how managed to fly through this in no time at all which resulted in me moving into third place.

Then came a double ammo box carry before the final survival task. We were asked to recite the coordinates we were given on the start line. With no hesitation I replied “TQ2879671” and was off for the third and final lap.

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The battle for the podium places continued and I was still feeling strong before disaster struck. From nowhere cramp shot through my left hamstring as I was half way up the rope climb. I fell to the floor and was forced to stay there for several minutes before finally the pain relinquished and I was able to continue. I felt third place had slipped away but it was testament to how well I had been running that nobody else had caught up with me.

Just as I began to feel strong again and picked up my pace in the woods I came crashing to the ground once more. This time I had ran head first into a tree branch knocking me for six. I felt a little dazed and had managed to cut my forehead but pressed on as I knew there wasn’t long to go.

That final burgeon carry was punishing and the weekends efforts were finally beginning to show their affects so I was really please to eventually cross the finish line in fourth place behind three top quality athletes and receive one of the largest and certainly the most shiny medals I’ve ever earned as well as another decent t-shirt.

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Conformation that I had indeed won the 5k made it a really good weekends work.

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For a more detailed account of the event please see my review for the Muddy Race website:

http://www.muddyrace.co.uk/race-reviews/bear-grylls-survival-race-review-guns-fire-and-one-huge-prize-pot/

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