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.
"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