Perpetua Take on London's Toughest

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When Pricey first volunteered Stu and me for this race about a month ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what we had agreed to do. It just sounded like something fun to do and a good way to get the Perpetua community together. Actually I am not going to lie, I was really looking forward to seeing Stu run an 8km race! I decided I had better find out a bit more about it so did some research: “8km in terrain with over 40 obstacles…” “…hills, mud, ponds…” and “Toughest is world leading in obstacle course races” Ok so this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park!

We managed to get about 8 others to sign their lives away with us. Richie Holmes, DJ Betts, Gari Nicholas, Alejandro Montoya, Briony Garbett, Jemma McShane, Stella Kamba & Jasmine Rushton. What a team! On 23rd April we all travelled to Pippingford Park in Surrey to take part as Team Perpetua.

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The weather was touch and go all day so we weren’t sure if we would be running in rain or sun. To be honest it wouldn’t have mattered either way considering how muddy and wet the race was going to be. We arrived about 2 hours early (with Richie driving apparently being on time means your late and being early means you’re on time, so there was no chance of us being late!) As we waited for our heat to start we were standing by the final obstacle – The ‘Ramp’. This was about a 40ft ramp which people were supposed to run up and climb over. Almost impossible to do if you’re my height, so it was amusing to watch people hurtling towards it and face planting the wall. Ok, not so funny when I realised we would be doing this in a few hours’ time.

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3pm came around quickly and luckily the sun was making an appearance! We set off with about 20 people in our heat. It started out as a gentle cross country race across muddy terrain. That soon changed as we hit the first few obstacles. There were a lot of walls to climb over and crawling under nets. None of these seemed to phase us and when some of us struggled, we worked as a team to help everyone through the obstacles. Alejandro was the first to face plant the mud and nearly lost a shoe to the ground. We came across some jerry cans filled with water which we had to farmers carry up and down a ridiculously muddy path. I set off thinking these would be easy with all my practice with farmers carries I’ve had in the gym, but I’ve never done these knee deep in mud! I somehow managed to get round in one piece and stopped to wait for the others to finish. I spotted Stella who didn’t seem to be moving. I then noticed both her feet were completely submerged in mud and she was stuck! When she finally came free she was shoeless! Gari stayed behind to literally dig out her shoes using his hands whilst Stella marched on in her socks! “They’re Sweaty Betty socks you know!” she shouted. For a moment I thought she was about to finish the race in just her socks but luckily Gari came to the rescue with her shoes.

A few more obstacles passed including two traverse walls that we had to scramble across using only some rope hooks and handles to hold onto, but nothing to support our feet. The walls were connected with a pole and if we dropped off at any point we had to to run a penalty run. Most of us got across unscathed and I was most impressed with Briony’s strength when she hung on for dear life to the ropes and made it across. A little bit of confusion with her hand/feet coordination when she got her feet twisted up at the end, but that girl has some strength!

There were rings, rope climbs, tyre carries and log carries and most of us used our CrossFit training to tackle these successfully. There was even a peg wall which made me laugh as I thought of the CrossFit Games last year. There were a few small mud baths which we had to wade through, one which I found an easier route by going around the outside of it. Thinking I was really smart and pretty stealth, walked straight into Stu and Rich who had spotted my manoeuvre and threatened to throw me head first into it! That was a mistake I will never try again. Those boys never miss a thing! One of the worst obstacles for most of us, because of the shock value, was a 25ft long pond that we had to wade through. The shock of the cold water was hard enough, but what was the worst part for the shorties like me, was the fact that we were struggling to keep our heads above water! At one point I thought ‘f**ck it, I may as well just swim this!’ but then suddenly the water got shallower and we were able to climb out. It was actually quite nice in the end, it felt like we’d had an ice bath and were a teeny bit recovered! Well the girls did, I over heard most of the boys complaining that certain parts of their male anatomy had shrunk or been left behind in the water haha!

We were nearly at the end by this stage but in true ‘Toughest’ fashion we came across some horrendous mud baths to wade through. These were probably the worst things of the whole race, leaving all of us a lovely bright yellow colour and smelling like a sewer. Nice!

As we approached the finishing line I could see the ‘Ramp’ ahead. We were all determined that everyone would get over this and not have to do the penalty run if we failed. Rich and Stu went first and made it look easy. I psyched myself up and then went for it. Sprinted as hard as I could and leapt up towards Rich and Stu’s hands. I made it! Or so I thought I had, then I realised that I wasn’t actually moving as they were struggling to pull me up over the ledge. I screamed at them “Don’t you DARE drop me!!!” No pressure then boys! Haha! The look on both their faces was priceless and they both did their best to pull me up. They succeeded. I think one of Rich’s arms is now longer than the other as a result…sorry about that 😉 One by one we all got over the wall. The last was Stella who after 3 attempts had still not made it. So we all stood at the top of the wall, basking in the sunshine and chanted her name like a crazed tribe! I think this must have given her the push she needed as she charged up and leapt towards Rich and Stu who once more helped pull her over. We had made it!!

As we all crossed the finish line I felt so many things. Relief, fatigue, happiness, hunger, adrenaline, a new found respect for mud and a deeper respect for my team mates. DJ gave an oscar winning performance in his post race interview…watch this space! Each of us had memorable moments. Rich did a great job leading the group and helping everyone over the obstacles. Also driving us there and back in one piece. Gari for rescuing Stella’s shoes because without him, Sweaty Betty would have had to get Stella through 7km of muddy terrain. Stella and her true grit, Alejandro and his face planting skills, but he did impress us on the swinging bars, which no one else was able to complete! Jemma found the whole race ‘erotic’, oh sorry I mean ‘erratic’, or so she claims that’s what she actually said. Jas was a little trooper and I was so impressed at how fast she was at running and the girl never stops smiling! Bri and her amazing pink leggings, which weren’t so pink by the time she finished, but still managed to look glamorous even after all that mud – how does she do that?! DJ and that laugh. And finally Stu. For someone who hates running as much as he does, he did a fine job of keeping up front the whole way. He very proudly told me when we got the 5km mark that he was about to PB. He has never run further than 5km in his life, so well done Stu!!

I would recommend this event to anyone. I had so much fun with such a great group of people and thank you all for joining me and Stu and making this day such a memorable one. We are the Toughest!

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