Rough Runner is a 10 mile or 10k run incorporating gameshow inspired obstacles. This is their inaugural event so we were going into the unknown..
I’ve never ran more than eight miles, so completing the course in whatever time will be an achievement. My friend Harriet was already signup for the 10 miles but my lack of distance running stopped me from signing up to the event right away. However all the obstacles sounded like really good fun. Just mention Gladiators and anyone who watched the show in the 90’s will automatically be beaming with nostalgic memories. So my goal was to complete the course, be safe and enjoy the event with the friends I’ve signed up with.
The five of us, Andy, Harriet, Hon, Naomi and myself entered over four months in advanced and I paid about £40. (It doubled in price by race day). From what I can recall the website was a little more basic when I first went on, with no group booking options. Since then they’ve even added an additional date prior our day. The exact location was a mystery until a week or so before the event. I guess that put doubts in my mind too before signing up, but with the London Metro newspaper added to its sponsors it gave me more confidence about the event.
When we registered in December there was no option for start times either. Only five days before the event were we all assigned to start wave times. My friends were all on different time slots so I phoned the organiser who was very friendly and helpful in getting us in the same start wave.
Quick and easy. They asked you prior the day to print your ticket but like many other events they just asked for your name. No fancy numbers to pin on yourself, just marker pen yourself. This makes sense as a pinned label only ends up ripping off. (No one wants to pick up scattered paper after the race.
The camp base had just the essentials. A line of portaloos, hog roast (super tasty), burger van, registration tent, bag drop, massage area and a larger sheltered section for people to picnic. The only real complaint was that there was no changing area.
A fitness instructor got our blood pumping. He seemed to have an obsession with burpees. Some people thought the exercise was a bit excessive for what we were doing. I always hear different opinions on whether we should or shouldn’t warm up before this kind of activity, but he got us loosened up. He also got us the recite a chant which I assume is a mickey take on the Tough Mudder pledge. It included something along the lines of “you are my opponent; if you fall I will not pick you up!” All just a bit of a laugh though..
Just before we got going one of the organisers talked through the essential blurb. As we were on Ministry of Defence grounds we were strictly instructed not to pick up any suspicious looking objects! (I was almost disappointed not to find anything).
For this race both the 10 milers and 10 k runners set off at the same time. 10 mile people followed the yellow tag and the blue tag for the others. They told us to keep running straight until you see your designated tag colour. Sounds simple enough.
What was unusual was there was not really any count down to the start of the race. I’ve seen some other events have big huge fireworks and explosions go off. Here the organiser just pointed toward the start point and “I hope you have a good day.” An airhorn may have added to the experience, even if he shouted “GO!” It just lacked a little something after such a big build up to this day..
Very quickly Andy started to push the pace. The girls held back at a steadier run. I had a GoPro malfunction resulting in it thinking my memory card was full. This was quite irritating, but I ended up deleting the last file recorded which somehow bodged it into working again. During the time I was faffing around Andy and Hon was well and truly out of sight. The girls caught up.
When I reached the first cargo net I rejoined Hon who was by then in a queue for an obstacle. From then I spent the remainder of the race with Hon.
Rough Runner made good use of its location. We were running through forest, mud swamps, sandy tank tracks, fields though rivers and under bridges. They integrated some of the obstacles well.
The highlight of this event was the fact they replicated many of the favourite obstacles from popular TV gameshows. I remember on the TV programs they had a big statement instructing us not to replicate anything you’ve seen; now here’s the chance to properly get involved. (Not just swinging from the living room curtains!). The obstacles were fun but often there was a bottleneck of people queuing as a lot of the activities were one person at a time. I don’t think this problem is specific to Rough Runner but it’s something to be aware of as it did stop the momentum. Even though it was never longer than four minutes after replaying my camera footage, at the time it did seem like an age waiting for the person in front to slowly but inevitably fall in the river. (Then again I’m just as impatient in the rush hour commute to work).
The following are the main obstacles that featured:
Slithery Swamp. The swamps are a good two feet deep so if you missed your footing on the floating paving slabs you’re getting very muddy and wet. I really liked this one and was happy to see it being repeated several times. One of the slabs was submerged so I couldn’t see where it was. I jumped blind and that’s how I know how deep the swamp was.
Cargo Nets. Lots of this to climb up, climb down, crawl under or climb across. Great at first but they got a bit irritating towards the end as it’s not something you could attack quickly.
Big Balls. I don’t specifically remember this on Fun House but it was a good laugh jumping through a cage of giant bouncy balls. Picking up and throwing the balls out of the way seemed to be the best method, but jumping and falling about was more fun.
Hang Rough. This obstacle was hanging hoops which you had to swing across, reminiscent of Gladiators. After holding on for over a minute I eventually managed to make it across. I have a new found respect for the participants on Gladiators as the course was a lot shorter than the TV equivalent, let alone trying to get past someone twice the size of you!
Swing and Miss. There were several ropes to swing across a river. Cargo nets were in the water to avoid you being swept away somewhere. One of the obstacles that took ages to queue, but it was good to have the river beneath.
Fearless Fall. Plastic sheets started at the top of the hill where volunteers threw water and washingup liquid as you slid down. This was really good fun and one obstacle which nobody could fail on. You picked up quite a bit of speed at one point. I wouldn’t have minded climbing another hill to be rewarded with another slide.
Cargo Corkscrew. A scaffold over a river, you had to climb across the twisting cargonet. People were getting impatient waiting, some climbed along the sides to avoid the nets but there was even a queue for that. One guy even jumped straight into the river to cut through.
Ramp it Up. A steep ramp inspired by Ninja Warrior. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same as the one on the show with the concaved quarter pipe which forced you to do a pull up to get over. Hopefully in the future they’ll add the real deal next to the current one giving people the option to tackle which ever ramp was more suited to their level.
The Wall. Supposedly inspired by Gladiators but was not like the one on the show at all. (Understandable as harnessing everyone up would have taken far too long). It was more of a bouldering course which I enjoyed. Shame they couldn’t incorporate the water beneath just like their mockup, just to add a little more excitement!
Nelson’s Column. I think everyone just cracked up laughing at the surreal setup of this task. Run to Nelson’s Colomn and perform 10 push ups but avoid the people dressed as giant pigeons trying to knock you over. Nelson at the top of his Colomn gave instructions for this task as well as a little 'gift!' I liked this despite it being fairly unchallenging as the guys in the pigeon suit probably had the disadvantage. This reminds me of playing tag in the school playground.
Newton’s Cradle. An obstacle similar to a Newton’s Cradle which you had to climb and swing across. The drawback of this course was the long queues. Great when you’re on though.
Travelator. An inclined conveyor belt which you have to run up. Just like in Gladiators it is the final obstacle. I enjoyed running the Travelator. However I was disappointed they slowed it down from the speed they showed on the video prior the event.
I think what made it really memorable on the show was the competitiveness of the contestants running next to each other to reach the finish. Personally I think it would be more exciting to have two Travelators side by side, so you can race your friends or others. Also adding some way of getting down that doesn’t involve another cargo net, just to make the finale a little more exciting if you want it to be.
This was the first time I had run a double figure of miles. Well, I’m not even sure if I did this time as we ran the wrong way. The yellow tags were generally easy to spot but at least five times we had someone call out to us, pointing to a different direction. So on one occasion we must have missed the tag, then carried running straight as instructed. As we began to see runners coming towards us we knew something wasn’t right. We’d somehow cut off a chunk of the course after the twisty cargo nets and ended up joining part of the 10k route. Unsure of exactly what we missed we just carried on.
It wasn’t until we were approaching the finish line we noticed two obstacles to our right we had not come across. Hon at that point was ready to retire but I didn’t want to miss out on these obstacles. My timing couldn’t have been better as Harriet and Naomi were just about to tackle the Ramp It Up obstacle as I reached there. I ran the rest of race with them, repeating some of the course and obstacles. However I bypassed my position on Newton’s Cradle as I felt bad doing this again considering how much the queue had built up.
Being new to obstacle runs and I’ve only got Survival of the Fittest in London to compare Rough Runner. I was expecting the same level of adrenaline pumped as Survival but what I’ve come to realise is that was never going to be the case. Survival was a 5k race so could be considered more of a sprint, but the 10 mile Rough Runner had to be taken more at a pace. Yes there was a 10k option for Rough Runner, but that would have meant missing out on a couple of obstacles.
I really enjoyed Rough Runner and the organisers put on a good course for their inaugural event. The course terrain was varied which kept things interesting. All of the staff and volunteers were great, positive and helpful whenever I needed anything.
Some obstacles while fun, need to be modified in some way to avoid too much queuing. Perhaps even just duplicated so more people were in on the action at the same time.
The course markers need to be clearer too. So yes if I was just standing there it probably was blindingly obvious where we were supposed to run, but in the heat of the moment your concentration may not be completely switched on during the long runs.
I think having some changing tents would have been good. Especially if in the future they start attracting more punters.
All in all Rough Runner was a great experience and an excellent day out.
PS. My new trail shoes (KALENJI Kapteren TR3) done me proud. I was grateful for having them, especially up those wet and muddy hills.
Before commencing my first obstacle race last November I did a bit of research on the interweb to help prepare myself. One thing I read repeated was not to wear brand new shoes for the event as it will get completely ruined and you should break them in before a race.
Today I broke that rule after realising that my trainer of choice has barely any thread. I got some KALENJI Kapteren TR3 Men's Trail Running Shoes. £30 reduced from £50. First race in them is this Sunday at Rough Runner, let’s see what happens…
This review came about after a post on a Facebook group post. I've written a lot of this for friends previously so I collated it all here for all who want to know my own thoughts on this unconventional skate:
I got a pair of Powerslide Doops last year. 84mm wheels version. The selling point of these skates is that you can wear any flat shoes with them, so it reduces the need to carry your shoes whilst you skate. Previously I had a Salomon Chill LX which had a similar design, I really loved them but they started to fall apart after years of use. Sadly they stopped manufacturing them so I was hopeful the Powerslides would compare well to the Salomons.
Surprising the Doops are still quite heavy even though it’s missing the boot. (My Seba FR1 are about the same weight). This might be an issue for some people but I don’t mind giving the legs a little extra weight to work out with!
They do feel very secure and responsive. People often question this but remember they’re based on an aggressive skate, Xsjado, so it’s going to be able to take some punishing!
I like the ratchet system in the middle that makes it feels nice and snug. Two of the other tightening mechanisms are just Velcro but these can be replaced if needed. I've substituted the mechanism above the ankle with a more standard skate strap just so it's that little bit faster to tighten.
The break is a standard Powerslide setup which in my opinion is really badly designed. It’s difficult to and fiddly to put on. You need to keep an eye on the wear and adjust it every now and again. Salomon’s break pad was so much simpler and easy to use, which I’ve also heard repeatedly from other skaters and even skate shop staff.
I’ve tried swapping the break system with a Seba breaking system. This is easy to install but the break pad is very small, which will result in it being replaced often. Also it makes a horrible squeaking sound that doesn’t do much for my street cred. On the plus it ensures everyone around you are aware you’re coming!
Usually the wheels that come with any skate are basic. The ones that come with these are absolute rubbish. Rock hard wheels which I could feel every bump on the London roads. It made hard work of the ‘Sunday Stroll,’ skate.
The frames that come with them are also of poor design. I have to pull and force the wheels on some sections of the frame to get them in and out.
Since I’ve bought them I’ve swapped the frame for some Sebas ones. I’ve also got some nice Gyro wheels in combination to the horrible wheels. The horrible wheels are just on the toes, which I use as a break. (Good to find some use for them). Because of this I’ve got a semi rocker wheel layout. The setup is now great.
Are the Doops fast?
I’ve been asked this a lot, but they're only as fast as the wheels you've got attached, or more importantly the skater using them!
I used the Doops for the Le Mans 24 Hours Skate relay race. The starting skaters are required to have their skates on the other side of the track. When the race starts you run across the track and put on your skates before racing.
Now I thought the Doops would give me a nice advantage but even though it took me 25 seconds to put on both skates, there were people booting up a lot faster. The benefit for me however is that the mats we were standing on at the start of the race were wet, so no soggy socks for me whilst I skate!
What shoes can you wear with the Doops?
Most flat shoes work well. I’ve managed to use my formal shoes and even some wellington boots with them. Chunky Vans don’t work; they’re just too wide.
The thing for myself is that I have really wide feet. Last year I bought some cheap New Look sneakers, however the tight fit of the shoes started to become a problem for me. This problem only started when I began changing my skating style, skating more like a speed skater and hitting the outside edges of the wheels. So my toes felt most of the impact in my tight shoes. (This problem wasn’t particular to these skates as my speed skates gave me similar issues until they were heat moulded).
I tried using the shoes that worked previously with the Salomons and similar pains still happened that never occurred with the Chill LX. For most people the shoe fitting wouldn’t be an issue but having wide feet has often been a problem for me. There are definitely shoes that would fit my feet and would work with my Doops but I’m yet to find it.
Powerslide Doops vs Salomon Chill LX.
Both have plus and minuses. Weight-wise the Doops are slightly more heavy but not a huge amount. Salomon just seems to be made of better quality material but the buckles eventually gave way. The Doops already has some fraying with some part of the fabric. However the main ratchet on the Doops just feels so much more secure. Salomon loses out massively by the fact the frames cannot be changed, as they have been riveted into the boot. Doops can fit most frames, it can even attach to those mountain skis!
As with most skates the frames can be removed. I personally don't know much about the common frame setups as I've only ever swapped the frames once before. For my Doops the shop assistant suggested the Seba GT frames.
However here is an image of the baseplate which will give you a general idea of what you can fit on to the Doops.
Regretfully I’ve stopped using the Doops for now and gone back to my nice wide fitting Seba skates, until I find a suitable shoe. However I really miss the convenience the Doops offer whilst street skating, especially hopping on and off public transport, or popping in quickly into the shops.
My friend Harriet was partaking in the Sports Relief Run at the Olympic Park. The team organiser was her friend Chris who was preparing for the London Marathon but wanted to experience an organised group run.
I signed up as I thought this would be a little warm up to Rough Runner (10 miles obstacle run) a week later. My friend Naomi signed up to give herself something to work towards. Naomi and I have been out running on a semi-regular basis in the lead up to this event.
Although I wasn’t taking this event too seriously I wanted to complete a sub hour time. I’ve been doing 3 miles on a hilly route in 27 minutes but not done this pace for a longer distance.
Chris signed us all up so I paid the money direct to him. All the entrant packs were sent to him. Inside the pack was your race number and lots of fund raising things, leaflets and a big poster of celebrities taking part in the whole Sports Relief event. I can’t help but think that some of the leaflets and especially the posters were a waste of money being printed. Especially as there were thousands of entrants for the various events happening across the country who probably also threw most of it straight into the bin. Anyway, just a thought for the organisers.
There were a lot of the happy clappy volunteers (not a bad thing, but some of them seemed a bit intense when compared to the usual British service) about directing us to the location of the event. People were handing out free nuts and raisin fruits prior to the race.
As we lined up the crowd of participants grew of all ages and sizes. This was a fun event so I don’t think any of the diehard runners will be out today. On a platform they had two super cheesy aerobic girls doing their routine to get the group warmed up. Maybe because it was early in the morning, or the fact that some of us didn’t get to sleep till 2:00am, or their dance routine was a little bit ‘S Club 7,’ or there weren’t enough room to windmill, but we didn’t really join in the whole work out.
Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it though. I thought I was about to be sick and fall over at one point, as I didn’t realise at first that the bridge we were on started bouncing up and down with everyone’s synchronised bopping! (That’ll teach me for just standing on the side and not joining in!).
I believe there were three waves altogether, we were on the first. As I’ve come to realise with all of these group races now is that the start will always be slow with so many people involved. A lot of the track wasn’t that wide and there were a fair amount of little kids zigzagging so overtaking wasn’t always an option.
I shouldn’t complain too much as I needed the loo right at the start of race anyway. So I had a quick dash into the portaloo after just two minutes into the race. After I came out the pack had spaced out a little, enough for me to catch up with Harriet and Naomi.
We ran most of the way together, as I found from Survival of the Fittest it’s nice to work as a team. A little banter helps ease each other around the track.
Each lap is a 1 mile long and it was down to you to count as there was no timer chip as this event. You couldn’t tell what lap people were on. So if you really wanted to you could even do the whole 26 miles around and around… Or you could walk around once and said you’ve done 6 miles. For the last lap you went a different direction to the finish line. I was a little disappointed they didn’t make use of the Olympic stadium for the track but it was a nice route around the Olympic Park.
Around the track were more volunteers offering encouragement. Some looked a little out of place but the vast majority of them were brilliant. High-fives were thrown from the sides. There were cheerleaders, choirs, live bands, a water station and other groups at different points which really helped take your mind off things. Hats off to them.
On the fourth lap I upped my pace, leaving the girls. They’d been saying for me to do so earlier, but as I said before I enjoyed running together. Also I have tendency to sprint off too quickly and exhausting myself too early. Which is what I did do!
Before the final lap I slowed it back down the curb the potential stitch away. On the last route volunteers voiced out the number of corners left and that helped give you a visible count of distance left. The final stretch was a slight incline and people were slowing down. I love a sprint finish so passing everyone on the last straight was fun. My timing for this was about right as I could feel the legs becoming jelly as I passed the finish line.
A partaking medal, more water, fruit and nuts were given after the finish line. I waited shortly for the girls to pass the finish line too. They only saw me when as passed me as there were many others cheering their friends as well as other participants.
We had a look around the park after which had lots of stalls. I ate anything free they were offering to fill that hole after the run. Volunteers were about asking how the run went. There were some shows and activities on, such as stunt bikes; wheel chair basketball and tennis.
It was a fun day out. My time was 57 minutes so was happy that I achieved my sub hour target. I could easily knock off another minute if I didn’t need the loo at the beginning as well! This event is great for people starting out for the fact you were never left running on your own because of the laps. For more serious runner they’d probably get frustrated about the bottlenecking in places as the track width could get a little narrow. Everything was well organised which is to be expected
While we always strive to better ourselves, my priority is to have fun. So here I threw a party to introduce my Rough Runner and Tough Mudder teammates to each other, as well our other non-mudder companions.
The bottom right image is of the awesome Scream At My Face raspberry cheesecake made by my friend Natalie.
My friend Simon has been encouraging our Tough Mudder team to join him in climbing and bouldering in preparation of the Mudder event in April. Our team are mostly skaters so we tend to neglect our arm muscles. Having found excuses every week I decided to just get involved today.
Previous Climbing Experience.
I've done the odd climb on school outings. My last climb was at Thorpe Park, the wall cost £4 to climb and was over in 30 seconds.
The Westway Sports Centre.
Located in West London, it is just a short walk from Latimer Road station. As you walk towards the entrance you could see numerous football and basketball pitches making use of the shelter under the Westway flyover.
Simon took me in as a guest but I was still required to become a member which involved filling a form plus a £5 fee for the year. I also needed to hire some climbing shoes and a harness which came to another £5. Lockers were available, you need a £1 coin but you get it back.
Simon showed me the ‘ropes.’ It took me a while to remember the exact knots to perform but I seemed to have got it by the end. On my first climb I had one of those heart-in-your-mouth moments when I fell off. (Yes the knots worked). Nice to feel alive.
Westway has a lot of climbing walls with a mixture of wall structures, some flat, some more rugged, some with overhangs and one massive concrete structure outside. All walls have different routes to take which were marked by the different coloured climbing holds. They change the holds on the walls every month so it keeps your brain engaged if you come regularly. I took the easier routes but still had to ‘cheat,’ a few times and use whatever was available when there seemed to be physically no other way to go!
This is a form of climbing which you do without ropes or harnesses. Again different coloured routes offered multiple challenges on the same wall. I found myself in some strange Twister like pose when I got stuck. We stood back and watched the more experience climbers do the same route and it was amazing to see the grace they perform through their movements. You could almost imagine they were flowing along the wall to a tranquil music beat.
Simon and I found an angled wall which the holds were organised in a circular fashion. Apparently we were supposed to do circuit loops of this. We struggled to get even half way around. It was still fun giving it a go. The correct technique is to let your legs do most of the work and hang from your arms stretched out, as relying on arms muscles alone will tire you out a lot quicker. A few times I had to just pull up with the arms as there seemed again to be no other way to progress and yes it wasn’t something I could do too frequently!
Simon was brilliant with his patience passing on his knowledge. The facilities at Westway were really good and there are a lot more on offer besides climbing. We were there for two hours and my last climb had truly exhausted me. The next morning I had slight pins and needles feelings in hands but it was less achy on the arms than I thought I'd be. I’ll be back again soon but with all the other interests it’s going to be hard to find time to do everything…
Today at one point on the street skate fatigue was setting in and I couldn’t quite keep up with some of the speedier people. I decided to focus on my technique instead during the clear straight road. Whilst I slowed down my cadence my speed seem to improve slightly. Best thing of all was that I was recovering energy too.
Important lesson (or reminder) of today, brute force is great but technique can count for a lot more., especially for the longer sessions.
My friend Hazel is currently in training to become a personal fitness instructor. Today she introduced a bunch of us skaters to the ‘Bring Sally Up,’ exercise. You perform squats, going up and down in time to the lyrics from the Moby track ‘Flower.’
The song lasts 3:26 and includes
30 repetitions of ‘Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down,’ and
4 Down holds..
This ‘game,’ can be done with other forms of exercises such as press ups, pull ups, etc,.. (probably drinking games too!).
When eight skaters did this, one dropped out. Another did momentarily too, but we made it to the end of the song. Hazel said this was the first time she did this as a group and it was the first time she’s completed it. So a bit of peer pressure can motivate each other, especially during this somewhat sadistic game where the song just seemed to go on forever!
After saying that does it make me a sadomasochistic that I tried this again at home?! Only this time with press ups and again with chin ups. It was much tougher doing this exercise with the arms instead of the legs. Holding the positions seems to really work those muscles more than just ploughing through a heap load of repetitions. This is my current scores for Bring Sally Up:
Press Ups: 2:10.
Chin Ups: 0:55.
From my google ventures I've found that the song is based on an old plantation slaves song. Where the lyrics are actually:
Green Sally up. Green Sally down.
last one squat got to tear the ground.
Ole, Miss Lucy dead and gone.
Left me here to weep and moan.
If you hate it fold your arms.
If you love it clap your hands.
‘Green,’ referring to the clothes they were wearing.
It was a little spontaneous when we did our attempt in Battersea Park's cafe picnic area. Therefore there are no videos of us doing it, but found this video (one of many) instead:
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen