Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Manchester
Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest was my final Obstacle Course race of my 2017 season and the first one I had ever done, even though it had been on my radar for several years. Survival of the Fittest is in it’s 10th year (and possibly final if the rumours are to be believed) and the last leg of the tour was based at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester after stopping in London, Cardiff, Nottingham and Edinburgh. Rat Race, the organiser is renowned for many of their “Ultra” races including Man v Lakes, The Wall and the new Edinburgh Ultra. It seems as it’s audience has matured, so has Rat Race. No longer are their customers looking for OCR, but more towards the greater challenge of the “Ultra”.
There are currently no Survival of the Fittest races scheduled for 2018, which is a huge shame, because (Spoiler alert) I really enjoyed the race and would definitely have them in my 2018 race calendar. So here are my thoughts about (the last ever?) Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest.
Urban but not quite – I was under the impression that Survival of the Fittest was an urban race, in and around the Etihad Staidium (home to Manchester City FC). Whilst being “urban” was mostly true, there was around 2km run out in a local park, through a BMX track and through a canal. Talking to participants earlier in the day, I wondered if I had made a mistake in running in my road shoes (361 Stratomics) but actually, this was the correct choice and those in OCR trail shoes would definitely be feeling uncomfortable by the end of the race.
The race started outside the Etihad and straight into 3 sets of hay bales. For those that have read my race reviews, this is a huge pet hate of mine. It queues up people far too quickly into the race. I made sure I was at the front of the start line and made a sprint up and over the hay bales and into space immediately. Next came two sets of low hurdles (about five per set) before turning into the Etihad Stadium itself. Up and down the spiral walk ways three times (my watch didnt get the total elevation) but as the floors were slippery, I couldnt run down as fast as I would have liked. Before exiting the stadium, we were treated to switch backs through the seats and the first photo.
Out to the neighbouring athletics track for a lap around the “steeplechase” course along with water jump. Out into the surrounding area for several obstacles including balance beam, see saw, short cone carry and a long loop around to a tall wall and the first dip into the canal. I had been warned about the canal and to keep my mouth shut – which I duly did. A rope climb and fence hurdles took us out to second canal crossing and into Phillips Park for a bit of cross country. Cargo nets, Monkey Bars, crawl and sandbag carry occupied us before a long trek through the stream (with life jackets on). A few muddy hill climbs (with ropes) were the only points where road shoes were unsuitable. A trek across the small BMX track before heading back along the canal and final set of obstacles which included a ball pool, rings and 8ft wall to the finish line.
- I really liked the layout of the course, as mentioned, it was “urban” and its great that mud or hills are not part of the “obstacles” for lazy races. OCR should be all about obstacles and not about the mud or switchbacks up and down hills
- Good spread and variety of obstacles. The first part was a bit “runny” but up and down and through the Etihad is an obstacle in itself
- Great to be able to use the Stadium, however going in and out at other points of the course would have been interesting too.
- Small but perfectly formed village – everything you needed in one place, along with the start and finish line right next to each other for spectators
- Great goody bag – Men’s Health Magazine, a few munchies, protein water and some discounts in the bag along with a t shirt and medal
- Photos were so expensive – You get the one finish photo (the one with the time) for free as part of your entry (£50 early bird) but if you wanted to purchase any other images they start from £10 each! Many other OCRs have the photos included in the price and at £50+ I would have expected the same.
All in all, a really enjoyable race. I would like to run in an early wave to skip some of the queues. I would definitely have this in my 2018 calendar if it comes back and was a fantastic way to end my 2017 Obstacle Race season.