London River Rat Race


On Saturday I took to the start line of my first ever obstacle race. It’s another Rat Race event and thanks to my entry into the Scotland C2C event in September I could enter this for free.

The start centre was in the cavernous halls of ExCeL in the Docklands and was a standard pop-up event village with merchandise, some Clif bar samples and the usual registration/bag drop/valuables deposit set up.

All I really knew about this event beforehand was that it was around 10km long and involved getting wet.

Following a standard Rat Race, British Military Fitness warm up involving the usual ice breakers and on the spot running and jumping, it was to the start we went in Wave 1 of the day at 9am.

After a 500m loop around the hall, the first couple of obstacles were  some fast-feet tyres and some metal crowd barriers that needed to be vaulted over before heading down the stairs and out to the waterfront in the August sunshine.

The course comprised 3 loops of the Royal Victoria Docks and ended up coming in at around 13km long. Each loop had a different set of obstacles to tackle, with the 700m stretch along the south side of the docks the longest uninterrupted part of the run without an obstacle in the way.

Some highlights on the way round included

  • Floating Tyres – On lap 1 after being fully submerged to dive under some floating barriers, a 20 metre web of tractor tyre inner-tubes were roped together on the water. This was the single most draining physical challenge on the course, with a mixture of commando crawl and luck required to get to the end without falling in again.
  • Slide – Big slippy slide that launched you ski-jump style into the Thames from high above the water
  • Kayak – At the end of Lap 2 you needed to pair up with the nearest racer and jump in a 2-man kayak and head out round a buoy and back.
  • Bridge climb – the 3 loops each included climbing up and down the 50-odd steps of the Royal Victoria Bridge which really saps the life from your legs
  • Monkey bars – not easy when you’re soaked and the metal bars are about as grippy as bars of soap in your wet hands. Another dip in the Thames awaited me and everyone else I saw tackle these

There was also various climbing frames, see-saws and inflatable things on the water on the way round that needed to be jumped between, swum under or balanced upon and a whole load of cargo nets to scale in order to get back up to ground level after each obstacle.

The piece-de-resistance is saved til last, at the top of a 5m climbing wall with a huge jump down into the water. I’m guessing it was around 8m high, certainly enough for a brief moment of terror at the top before taking the plunge.

There’s one final trip through some scaffolding and a couple of 6ft walls to vault over back inside ExCeL before crossing the finishing line.

The course was loads of fun, probably as close as you’ll get to taking part in Total Wipeout in this country with the added bonus of 13km of running in between the fun bits. You get a buoyancy aid for each water based challenge and there’s enough marshals and water stops on the way round to keep you in working order.

Really good day out, highly recommended.

Activity on Strava





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