After the success of the Major Series back in March 2017, it didn’t take long before we set our sights on the next challenge. Not being able to rest on our laurels, we decided to take it up a notch and try the ultimate military obstacle course – Born Survivor. This would be a much tougher test of fitness, determination and teamwork. The 10km obstacle course was held at the beautiful Capesthorne House, Cheshire. It would be easy to be fooled by the picturesque setting, however, this fierce course featured over 30 obstacles, gallons of mud and water and a terrain that certainly tested tired legs!
Training had been going well, with daily trips to the gym and our weekly Thai Boxing training as well keeping on track with the Run The Year 2017 challenge that Stuart and I were taking part in. I must admit that the only thing that might throw a bit of a spanner in the works was the fact that running wasn’t exactly my strong point, however, I was relishing the challenge of trying to get around the course as fast as possible. My partner Dan, Stuart and I had completed the Total Warrior course back in June last year and the Major Series in March together so I knew I would be in good company as we worked well as a team encouraging each other to cross the finish line together.
All was going well until about a week before the challenge when Stuart started to feel unwell and was unable to spend as much time in the gym training as normal. He even missed our boxing session so I knew that he was struggling. However, after a week of rest he seemed to be much better and was once again looking forward to getting stuck in and raising some money for The Dan Rhodes Foundation that he set up in memory of his best friend Dan. I think that this was particularly poignant with the week of the challenge being Mental Health Awareness Week. Unfortunately, as the day of the challenge arrived, Stuart made the decision to give this challenge a miss which I know must have been a really tough decision to make. Obstacle courses like this are tough, and participating when not at full health could have been even more detrimental.
On the morning of the challenge Dan and I donned our ‘Dan Rhodes Foundation’ t-shirts, Born Survivor bandanas and tattoos and made our way to the starting cage eagerly cheered on by Stuart and his little boy Daniel. After a warm up, the countdown started and we raced through to plume of green smoke and on our way!
After a short run, we hit our first obstacle ‘Ammo Boxes’ where we had to vault over the chunky meter high ammo boxes of which I think from memory there were 3! Just enough to get the legs warmed up!!
It wasn’t long before we hit our first bit of mud, and boy there was a lot of it!! The aptly maned ‘The Somme’ was a series of deep muddy trenches that we had to wade through. A number of people lost their shoes in this section in the deep mud – thankfully I wasn’t one of them!
The ‘Fire Trenches’ came next which were deep water filled trenches covered with a metal mesh which we had to crawl through. Somehow we managed to pick the deepest trench meaning I had to really cling on to the mesh which was only a few centimetres above the water. Luckily the water and mud obstacles are my favourite!
The hardest obstacles I find are those where good upper body strength is necessary and ‘Over The Top’ was no exception! Luckily I had Dan with me to give me a leg-up to conquer the 8ft walls! At least it was then back to more mud and water in ‘Devil’s Dyke’ – a crawl through a pretty narrow and pitch black muddy channel before getting back in the water in ‘Submariner’s Struggle’ and getting brain freeze having to submerse ourselves under wooden barriers in the cold and murky waters.
After a brief jog/walk, we arrived at what can only be described as a very large pond! The next obstacle, ‘Para Plunge’, required us to climb up a wooden structure (very krypton factor-esc!) and jump into the cold and murky waters below and then swim across to the other side before a short run back into the cover of the trees.
After a bit of brain freeze following the icy water plunge, we ran into the woods to tackle more 8ft walls and the ‘Mincer’ – a crawl through the mud under walls of tyres which had to be lifted up and out of the way to squeeze through. We then hit ‘Shin Splitter’, a series of wooden bars that we had to jump over and crawl under. We then headed back out of the woods and circled back towards the icy waters ready to take in ‘Drop Zone Alpha’. We climbed up to the top of the large metal frame (a feat in itself) before sitting on the edge of the platform ready to take the plunge back into the icy water below. After getting our breath back we commando crawled down a long track under barbed wire and tackled the ‘Overhang’ a 8ft wall tilted backwards, making it even harder to get over the top! Again it was thanks to Dan that I managed to get over this! We were then met with a second commando crawl, except this time it was a crawl through water, again with barbed wire overhead. Further trenches filled with mud and water came next, with us scrambling up and down the steep sides with the final trench requiring a 8ft scramble to reach the top.
With the course nearing its end we still had a fair number of obstacles to complete however the finish was coming into sight! The ‘Killa Bars’ came next with a series of rings and monkey bars above an icy pool below. My upper body strength let me down in spectacular style as I plummeted into the water pretty much as soon as I started! Dan, however, managed to get almost to the end! We then headed through a series of pretty tight dark tunnels half submerged in water before collecting a 2ft log and carrying it up and down a rather steep hill. I think we were meant to run this but by this point my legs were starting to ache!
The finish line was drawing ever closer with only four obstacles left to go! The first of those was a run up through the woods whilst climbing up and over the ’39 steps’. Upon leaving the woods we were met by the large crowds surrounding the last three obstacles of the day, with Stuart and Daniel shouting us on! We ran towards ‘The Beast’ a 10 ft wall with no ropes or footholes for help! Again, a leg up from Dan and thanks to a few people on the top of the wall, I managed to get up and over the top!! There was then another set of tyres to wriggle underneath which seemed much harder than when we had done something similar earlier on in the course!!
And then came the final obstacle! ‘The Blitz’ was a large wall (possibly around 20-25ft in height) with a slight ramp to help the run up! Dan was first to go as he sprinted towards the wall and managed to pull himself up on to the top quite easily, I wasn’t sure I was going to find it quite so simple! With the crowd cheering and the fear of falling flat on my face in front of everyone, I steadied myself, took a deep breath and ran towards the wall. I managed to run up the wall and grab Dan’s hand and pull myself (not in the most dignified manner I have to admit) up on to the top of the wall!
We climbed down and sprinted towards the finish line! We had finally done it in just over two hours – and what a brilliant two hours it was! Muddy, wet but totally worth it – an experience that everyone should have a go at, even if you’re not particularly fit.
I am always a little nervous before we start these obstacles courses, yet the camaraderie amongst the competitors is brilliant and many people abandon any chances of finishing in a quick time or stylish way by helping others over the obstacles. What makes it even more worthwhile is knowing that completing obstacle courses like this one is helping to raise the awareness of the Dan Rhodes Foundation and also help raise some money. I thoroughly enjoy these obstacles course experiences and luckily the next one isn’t too far away either! Only 4 weeks left until Total Warrior! I best get back in the gym – those arm muscles are not going to get any stronger sat on the sofa!