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London Rat Race

Until late on Thursday it was looking very much like I wouldn’t be competing in any Rat Races this year, and my only taste of the urban phenomenon would be the Edinburgh event that I organised. Our search for a girl to join our team for the final race of the season was more difficult than I could have imagined but we finally found our star in Chez Frost, who was up for competing in only her second ever adventure race.

Meeting up for the first time early on Saturday morning, Paul Currant and myself joined Chez in Penrith and sped South to London, arriving in just enough time to do a quick tv interview and get our race kit on before listening into Nick Gracie’s race briefing. He outlined what was happening on Saturday night, with up to 3 hours to collect as many of 42 checkpoints as we could in an area that took in Central London West of Tower Bridge.

At 5.00pm we shot off and joined the scrum trying to get across Tower Bridge heading on an anti-clockwise loop. Immediately making a mistake and missing the stairs to get down to the riverside checkpoint by the Tower of London, we ended up running around the Tower reaching the checkpoint after everyone that had gone the right way. For the next while we then had to fight our way through crowds at some of the activity checkpoints including a quick circuit session in the Crisis charity offices, another chaotic boxing circuit session in the Real Fight Club Gym, and a Homer Simpson donut eating CP.

Meeting Homer Simpson - Copyright Rob Howard. www.sleepmonsters.com
Meeting Homer Simpson - Copyright Rob Howard. www.sleepmonsters.com

After stuffing donuts down our neck we set off for a quick kayaking stage on a canal and it was there our troubles started as PC’s guts began to explode at regular intervals. We headed ever northwards to King’s Cross area taking in the Temple area made famous by the The DaVinci Code novel and Secrets, a pole-dancing nightclub where Chez swung like a natural. I then had the chance to cool off a bit with some star jumps in the Ice Wall Chamber at Ellis Brigham while Paul found the loo.  By this time it was now just after 7pm and we had to deal with manic Saturday night crowds as we ran through Covent Garden to Picadilly Circus towards a checkpoint in the plush Third Space Gym run by Bruce Duncan.  Time was running out now and we were soon accruing penalties for lateness as we sped along the South Bank taking in a spot of Parkour by the National Theatre and chasing the nurses at Guys Hospitall. We finally collapsed into the finish 7 seconds before 8pm and the possibility of accruing massive penalties. We’d had a good run but along the way had to stop about 10 times for Paul’s gut problems, so probably lost about 15-20 minutes which cut into our total putting us back into 4th place. We were happy all things considered, but we soon had bigger things on our mind as Paul became violently sick for the rest of the evening. Time sped by and we had over an hour to drive to get back to our accommodation, maps to mark up, food to eat, more importantly a call to make on whether or not to take Paul to the hospital to get fluids into him and something to stop him being so sick.

Early Sunday morning we rose to find Paul looking still very ill but no longer being sick, however, he was keen to still come along and see if he could at least complete the first run of the day and take it from there. The first section of the race involved some score orienteering around the South Bank where we had to collect 100 points worth of checkpoints before getting on our bikes and heading off over Tower Bridge. Amazingly Paul seemed to have perked up after eating nothing more than two slices of toast and we were the first team back into the transition and onto Tower Bridge. To our incredible misfortune the bridge was in the process of lifting to allow a ship to pass underneath and we missed getting over by barely 3 seconds, so had to stand and wait for 20 minutes until the bridge had lowered again as we were still on a mandatory route! To make things interesting though, they were filming a movie on the bridge with us as the backdrop and a romantic reuniting as the main scene.

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