A Day Of Mixed Emotions.
This was the second instalment of the Bear Grylls Survival Race and the first of 2016 after a shaky debut event in late 2015. I attended both days of the opening races in London last year and left with mixed feelings (https://chrislambracingdiary.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/bear-grylls-survival-race-34-10-15/). I arrived this time in Cambridge fully expecting all the teething problem to have been ironed out and hoping for a top class event. Once again it delivered on several aspects but let itself down on others.
The course was great, the obstacles were top class, the kids races were of a good quality and the event village was second to none. For most obstacle course racers this is enough to leave an event very happy and if I’d of turned up just to run for fun I more than likely would have done. However being the competitor I am and racing to win I experienced a couple of issues that took the gloss of what could and should have been a very enjoyable experience.
Having been on an all inclusive holiday in Spain for the past 7 days, not trained at all and arrived back in the country less than 24 hours previous to the start it’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling at my most confident and planned to start steady in the hope I would feel my way into the race and get stronger as I went on as I so often do. Two runners went off at a strong pace and I settled into third place. It wasn’t long before one came back to me but the other had built up a decent leading margin and didn’t look to be slowing.
The first obstacle was an impressive hang tough style swinging rings. This would be a test to see if this guy was the real deal or not so as he negotiated himself across without a problem I knew I was in for a good race.
Lots of ‘Spartan like’ obstacles followed with the refreshing added additions of Bear Grylls own touches such as a sledge hammer carry up and down a hill and an interesting tube carry with was purposely half full of water meaning the weight would shift from side to side as you moved.
I was feeling very sluggish early on but by approximately 4K in I was beginning to pick up to what was more like my usual pace. This course had plenty of running sections so would normally suit me well and I began to close the gap on first place.
As we came back into the event village area I had got right onto the leader’s shoulder. There was a huge scaffolding construction named ‘The Mounting’ that greeted us but unfortunately we were waved straight passed (I later found out this obstacle wasn’t allowed to be used due to the strong winds with was a real shame for the organisers and runners alike).
We were side by side as we were asked to memorise a number (I’m not sure why as I was never asked to recite it). We were then tasked with lighting a fire using a flint, cotton wool and a handful of hay. I spend the next few seconds, or minutes (I have no idea of how long I was there, time flies when you’re having fun) fully concentrated on igniting a flame so had no idea what had happened to the other runner. Fire lite I was able to move on to a tricky balance section with several box jumps and beam walks in which you were not allowed to touch the floor with any part of your body. I got across first time and I was told I was first to do so.
Next up was the second of this events truly unique obstacle (along with the fire lighting), the riffle shooting range. I was instructed to load the gun, aim and fire it at a target three times before being released to carry on my running. Once again I was told that I was the first and only person to have done this obstacle and that meant that I was first through for the 10k route and the other guy had been sent to run straight through to the 5k finish.
I was pretty relieved at this as it meant I was now well clear in first place but the competitor in me was a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to race it out for the second half of the course.
Some very uneven field running followed with some fairly testing hills. As I reached the top of one there was a weighted drag to do. Just as I was about to start it the red top of a runner back down the other side of the hill way in the distance caught my eye. It was the same guy I’d been racing during the first lap. I asked the marshal if this was the 10k route and she said it was. I was now very confused. This person was too far away to catch in the time I had left and I had no idea what they were doing on the course anyway so I tried to put it out my mind and pushed on.
I completed all of the remained of the course which finished with some taxing wall climbs, a very heavy sandbag pull and a barbed wire crawl on sand rather than the normal mud (there was no mud here, nor water other than in a skip with followed this crawl) and before I knew it I was at the finish line. It was there I saw told that I had came in second place. I questioned this and was told it would be looked into.
I then went over to the marshals on the fire lighting zone who were responsible for separating the 5k and 10k runners and they told me that the other guy had wrongly been sent to the 5k route and therefore missed some of the most time consuming obstacles. They said that they had reported this and it should be dealt with.
I was told I would be informed of the solution as soon as they had come up with one so spent the next hour or so not knowing what was going to happen but luckily I was able to take my mind off it by watching my little girl whizz round the kids race. The top three in each adults race were then called to the main stage for the presentation.
Still non the wiser I stood and listened as only the first placed runners in each race were announced and my name wasn’t called out. I went back to the organisers I had previously spoken to who still didn’t seem to have any idea what to do.
The event race director then came over and told me that they would be awarding a joint first place which the guys who had finished in the next two places behind me, who were present, both agreed was a fair outcome. I was also as satisfied as I could be as it was none of the racers faults but a hugely unfortunate and costly marshalling error.
The guy who crossed the finish line first had done it fairly in his mind and had ran a great race. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have raced it out with him as I’m sure we would have had a great battle but disappointingly we were both denied that as well as the right to claim first place outright.
I was handed a winners prize box complete with a trophy and some other bits and offered a place at the London event later this year. The following day the race director called me personally giving his apologies and explaining it was his first time in charge of this event and expressing that these problems will not happen again. He seemed very sincere and genuine in his efforts in trying to put things right which was pleasing. I do plan to return to the London event with every hope of a problem free day. Only time will tell.