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Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest

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I love challenges and I love pushing myself to try new things. Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest looked like the perfect challenge to do in October. An urban assault course through Manchester, what a fantastic way to spend a Saturday! Or so I thought...

The Manchester event is a 10K assault course, where the route starts at Etihad Stadium and winds in and around the area, including Philips Park. There’s going to be lots of mud, canal crossings and finding out what you’re made of.


Some of the obstacles with their interesting names we would face included:- Farmer Giles, Stadium Climb, Pool Party, Slippery Customer, Faith hope & Charity, Spider Web, Water Slide, Mud Crawl, Can-al-you-cross-this?, The Growler, Canal-ization, Truckin’, Chariots of Fire and the Army Assault Course!

I managed to rope two friends into doing the event with me, Claire and Adele both sporty ladies who’d be up for a good urban assault course. It was a beautiful, cold, grey day up North with the rain pouring down! Adele collected us from Manchester train station and it was only a short car ride over to the stadium. We had plenty of time as our ‘wave’ wasn’t going till 11.45. Once we arrived and parked, it was just a case of finishing registration, collecting our t-shirts and making our way to the start line. There must have been about one hundred to one hundred and fifty people in each wave and they had a new wave starting every fifteen minutes.

I love the start of any race, the energy in the air, the excitement and the apprehension, the adrenaline starts to pump and then before you know it, the countdown begins and everyone joins in; ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, followed by a loud cheer as the wave surges forward to the first obstacle.

The first obstacle was, ‘Farmer Giles’ - hay bales, no problem apart from finding the space to climb. I’m glad I’d been working on my upper body strength, as had no issues, pushing myself up and over. It was then onto the parkour area, with these weird gates, interlocked together, which we had to clamper over, again no issues. Just all about finding the right rhythm and sticking to it. This was followed by monkey bars; which when it’s been raining are impossible, there’s no way to get any grip, your hands just slip off as soon as you grab hold. (This was the only obstacle I didn’t do!)

One of the things I love about events like this is the teamwork and the camaraderie that comes into play. I love seeing people work together to get through obstacles, or to encourage fellow competitors who may be struggling. It was great fun, but for me, the main problem was the cold. I don’t have much in the way of fat stores to keep me warm! After going through a few canals and getting a good soaking, I was freezing; we were just at the half way point, when my lips started to turn blue. My teeth were clattering together and I started to get the shakes!

We were waiting in a queue as we had to do one section in single file as it was so narrow. I asked the guys behind me, if I could get a hug, so I could try to steal some of their body heat. Asking random strangers to hug me was not really helping! Luckily someone ahead saw the state I was in and let me, Claire and Adele go to the front, so we could at least keep moving.

I was now on a mission to get round as quickly as possible. We picked up the pace and smashed the next few obstacles and just did what needed to be done, picking up cones, crawling through mud, under cargo nets, over and under different bars, sliding down slides.

I’d been very careful at this point not to get my head wet as I knew that would be the end for me, and so far my plan was working. I came to the second to last obstacle which I found out later was called the ‘Hosing Station’. This involved climbing up wooden boards and crossing a deep filled ditch, where the freezing cold water came up to just below your shoulders. What I didn’t notice were the people at the sides with large water cannons. I got well and truly drenched; I was soaked through head to toe with freezing cold water.

I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself at this point, but I soon pushed those negative thoughts away. I only had one obstacle to go, the Men’s Health Wall of Fame, an eight foot sheer wall stood between me and the finish line.

I always knew I was going to finish, there was nothing that would’ve stopped me. With help from other competitors, I managed to pull myself up onto the top. When you’re up there it’s quite a way down! There’s no way I could comfortably jump it. What I should have done next was turned round and slowly lowered myself down with my hands. Instead a very nice guy next to me asked if I wanted any help. I stupidly said, ‘yes, that would be great, thanks!’ So he helped to lower me down over the edge, but I ended up catching my left arm on the ridge at the top. So as he slid me down the wall, every bit of my arm from my elbow to my shoulder was being scraped. I was in so much pain, but the annoying thing was, it was my fault, I should have got myself down the obstacle.

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As soon as the medal went round my neck I knew I was in trouble. My brain was fine, but my body was saying; no more. I was shaking uncontrollably as I started to drop slowly into a crouched position on the floor. Claire and Adele had to pick me up and walk me over to the first aid tent. I just sat in front of the heater trying to get warm. After about ten minutes my arms stopped shaking and I was able to remove my wet clothing. I stripped down to my underwear, wrapped the silver foil blanker around my legs and a kind lady gave me her jacket. Another ten minutes after that my teeth stopped clattering together, and I was started to feel more normal. The other girls went off to get changed and to bring me my warm clothes. I probably stayed in the first aid tent for about thirty to forty minutes and at the end I was fine, I was happy and warm!

I love doing challenges like this as you always end up learning something new about yourself and I’m a big believer in whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I always look for the positives in any situation, for me, I survived the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest, I finished the race, I got my medal, my t-shirt and my goody bag and I didn’t give up or let the cold stop me.

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Note to self for future events, stick to the warm ones, no more cold and wet challenges!

Massive thanks to the wonderful people who looked after me and to Claire and Adele for joining me on the challenge.

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