Rat Race: London River Rat

Having reached the middle of August and only completed one 4km fun run so far, it was time to take on my first real challange. This weekend will see me take on not one, but two OCR events, starting with Rat Race’s River Rat a 10km race based around London’s ExCel Centre and Docklands.

Race Description

This race was an urban, aquatic, obstacle course, which promised to be “Wet and Wild”

Unusually this race started and finished inside, and was based at the ExCel centre in London. Registration was really well organised, with plenty of spare wavers for anyone who had forgotten, and easy to navigate alphabetical registration lanes, where you were given  your race pack which included your race number, a coloured band which matched the wave you were entered in, and a band for your bag with your race number on, you then went round to collect a race t-shirt and your timing chip.

Picture before the start of the race (L-R: Bethan Davies, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Kevin Coda)
Picture before the start of the race
(L-R: Bethan Davies, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Kevin Coda)

The waves were well organised, but not very even in numbers. The “sky blue” wave before us was very small, but our “Neon lime green” wave was packed full of people. The guys on the stage checked that people were wearing the correct coloured bands, gave some clear instructions about how the course would be marked and then handed over to the warm up crew. Once the warm up was completed we were ushered towards the start where our timing chips (worn on our wrists) were clocked on. It took quite a while for everyone in our wave to get clocked in, which means those of us at the front would have a little extra time added, so I don’t think the timing of this race was particularly accurate, but that’s not a big deal. We had a 30 second countdown once most people were through into the starting area, and then we were off.

The Race

The race started off indoors, through the exhibition space, we were straight away faced with some low hurdles to jump over before hitting the first wall. This was followed by some tyres to hop over and then a tangle of fencing to vault over which ever way you could. Eventually it was down some stairs, out of the ExCel centre and off round the Docklands.

The entirety of this race was run on pavements around the Docklands near the centre, so anyone who wants to try OCR without the mud factor, this could be an ideal race. We ran down the side of the centre and then through an inflatable pool containing ankle deep water, round the corner and through some trees. This section was going to be done twice, so at some points there were red or blue arrows showing you which way to go depending on whether it was your first or second lap, this allowed them to put different obstacles in your path to keep things interesting.

It wasn’t long until we were first thrust into the Thames, to ease us in gently we were forced to get into the water and fully submerge ourselves to get under two sets of inflatable barriers, then it was back out of the water and a run along the other side of the river. After this stretch of running we had to climb a long set of stairs to get onto the bridge that would take us back over the Thames, a run across the bridge down a second set of stairs, where I got papped. (I found this picture on Twitter shared by the lovely guys at Muddy Race.)

Coming down the bridge stairs
Coming down the bridge stairs

This race billed itself as an Aquatic Obstacle Course and so it wasn’t long before we found ourselves having to dive back into the cool water of the Thames. As they anticipated queues you were “clocked out” at some of these sections, this allowed people to take their time to complete the obstacles safely, life vests were also provided, which had to be worn.

Some of the water sections that we had to navigate were a jump into the water, followed by a swim across to a platform. Once you had hauled yourself out of the water (ever so elegantly and not at all like a beached whale) you had to try and crawl over some large rubber rings, which was actually very tiring, and I fell off the last ring leaving me to again, haul my body back onto the next platform. We then had to leap onto some floating inflatable rafts, which, moved out of the way and left me once again floundering in the Thames.

The next time we were clocked out was at the jump. I had been absolutely dreading this obstacle. I have mentioned many, many times in this blog how much I struggle with heights, and here I found myself stood at the top of a high tower, being expected to leap off into the water below. The marshals lined us up four at a time, and once the area below was clear they counted you down and you jumped. This meant a bit of a wait at the top, trying not to look down. I was shaking, and finding it hard to breath, I considered going back down onto the smaller “opt out” jump, but the marshal counted three, two, one, and I jumped. It was a long way down, I couldn’t help letting out a scream, I hit the water hard and spun over, righted myself and swam over to the cargo net to pull myself back out of the river. I had done it, without hesitating, and I honestly felt elated.

After clocking back in and a bit more running, and a few land based obstacles that I will talk about in a bit, we found ourself at a Kayaking section. This part was still timed, despite having to faff around a bit getting on a life vest and paddle. I paired up with Bethan, and we did a pretty good job considering neither of us had done it before. We made quite short work of paddling up and back down the section of the river. Back out of the Kayak and it was a run along to the slide.

The slide was almost as good as the one at Nuclear Races, it was very high above the river, it was fast and it was quite a drop off the end, once you had swam out of the way you were faced with a rope and some wooden slats to try and help you pull your way out of the river. I had real trouble pulling myself up, but with the help of a very friendly man who happened to be at my side, and who let me climb on his shoulders, I was up the rope and out of the river.

The land based obstacles included a variation on monkey bars, which was just one long pole that you had to try and pull yourself along (I got about half way before falling off). You had to do this twice, once on the way out and once on the way back. There were a couple of walls, including an angled one, where I was lucky enough to batter my eyelids at a marshal to get a boost. There was a section of poles to go over and under, some ramps to run up, across the top of small sections of scaffolding and then back down, and a section of inflatable “bouncy castle” type obstacles that were more difficult than they appeared.

On the second run around the route we were again directed into the river to crawl through an inflatable tube and then swim out, around a buoy and back to a ladder to pull yourself out. The worst part of this was that I had been handed a rather large life jacket which actually made it more difficult to swim, as it kept trying to escape over my head.

After this it was back along the river and up the stairs again, the felt a lot more difficult the second time around, and then eventually back inside the ExCel centre for the final push. As you went back inside you had quite a run, as I had been running with Bethan for the race but the finish was in sight, I decided to push on a bit and see what I had left, I pulled ahead significantly, however as I approached another section of scaffolding where you had to run up a ramp then slide under some poles before heading back down again, I got completely held up by some other racers and by the time I had gotten through Bethan had caught me back up, which was a bit frustrating. (only in the fact that I needn’t have bothered pushing it on the run and could have taken it a bit more easily – particularly with the fact that I have another race tomorrow in mind). We were left with two more walls to hop over and then it was across the finish line.

Me at the Finish
Me at the Finish

Bethan and I then waited to watch Cat and Kevin finish, then we got a few obligatory finishing photos before heading home.

Showing off our new t-shirt after completing the race
Showing off our new t-shirt after completing the race