Fisherman’s Friend StrongMan Run, Men’s Running, Aug ’13
Earlier this year I was invited to join the Fisherman’s Friend Team GB at Germany’s Strongman Run on May 1st. The article below is my race report, as published in the August 2013 edition of Men’s Running.
Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run 2013
When I was invited by a 150 year-old Lancashire company, known for producing ridiculously strong menthol lozenges, to travel to a famous motor racing circuit in Germany and represent ‘Team GB’ in ‘the world’s largest obstacle race,’ I instantly said, ‘yes.’ Who wouldn’t have?
However, should the invite have said, ‘How would you like to be covered in mud and electrocuted in between running, crawling, sliding, climbing, scrambling, wading and swimming through 15 miles of obstacles around two laps of Germany’s Nürburgring, in the company of 12,000 Germans, many of whom will be dressed in Borat mankinis,’ I might have hesitated a bit longer.
History of event
The Fisherman’s Friend Strongman run isn’t well known in the UK, probably because, despite the series taking place in 8 countries across Europe and over 100,000 past participants, it hasn’t yet reached our shores..
Originally designed by Fisherman’s Friend to attract a younger, male audience, the biggest event of the series is the German edition, which first took place in Munster in 2007, before moving in 2011 to its current location at the infamous Nürburgring – “The Green Hell” – as Jackie Stewart famously nicknamed it.
There are two ways to run an obstacle race like the Strongman Run. You either run it with a bunch of mates in fancy dress attire, covering yourself in as much mud as you can in order to get your money’s worth. Or you sprint off at the start as though chasing a bus, determined not to let anyone dressed as a champagne bottle overtake you I compromised by putting on face paint and but deciding to run hard with fellow Team GB member and celebrity personal trainer Stu Amory, a three-time Strongman finisher.
But getting to the front of the 12,000 strong melee is almost as challenging as the event itself, as one fights through the plethora of adrenaline junkies dressed in morph suits, mankinis, cavemen and smurf outfits as well as an alarming number of incredible hulk wannabes, all jostling to get into a good position whilst the obligatory ACDC plays in the background.
At the the first obstacle, we had to leap over bales of hay every 400m as well as negotiate a series of steps l up and down entrances to the spectator stands. Some of the taller/more athletic types could vault the giant hay bails, whilst the more vertically challenged amongst us did a poor impression of a dwarf trying to hurdle whilst wearing flippers. Whatever style we were able to adopt, both the bails and the steps did the same job as ‘sleeping policemen’ in reminding us to slow the f$*k down, as it’s a long way to go.
But a little over two miles in we reached a ‘real obstacle’ forcing us to clamber through a giant foam mud bath. Three sequentially placed deep ditches ensured we got suitably wet and muddy in the process.
With our shoes full of water, we squelched only a hundred meters or so before we were on our hands and knees, crawling under a 15m long wire lattice whilst doing our best to avoid dangling electric wires that looked like jelly fish tentacles. Using some Matrix like manoeuvre, I avoided getting stung, but Stu on the other hand wasn’t so lucky and had one clip his ear, resulting in a few sharp Scottish expletives.
However, we were hardly more than two miles in and already our legs felt they’d aged twenty years. But our grimaces and groans quickly transformed into grins as we slid down an enormous water-slide leading to a pool of water – a welcome reprieve given what we were about to experience moments later.
Indeed, if it’s good enough to slow down an out of control racing car, the gravel traps we found ourselves trudging along worked a treat at reducing us to a pathetic crawl. But that was nothing compared to the 1 mile up-hill bonanza they nicknamed ‘Mount Neverrest’, which might as well have been called Zombie Hill. Dr Evil had clearly come out from retirement by placing various straw bales with dozens of car tyres in front, making it bloody difficult.
In fact, Dr Evil had evidently designed the entire course, as we moved from one obstacle to another in a drunken euphoria. Having clambered over cargo nets, climbed up and down mountains of earth, jumped through 3-meter-high water fountains, crawled through mud, they then rewarded us with a 40m long, 2 meter deep pool called ‘Tropic Hell Island’ with beach balls and inflatable rubber ducks to play with.
Dragging ourselves out of the water like a bad version of GodZilla, we apprehensively pass through the aptly named ‘Shock Norris,’ a series of hanging ‘live’ electrical cords placed above car tyres that we scrambled over whilst trying not to be electrocuted. This time I wasn’t so lucky and slipping on a tyre I accidentally grabbed hold of one – a feeling I’m not keen to repeat unless it’s a defibrillator bringing me back to life.
Not long into the second lap, we started to overtake the Incredible Hulks and Smurfs who’d opted for the ‘let’s enjoy ourselves’ tactic – which looked a lot more fun than our own ‘let’s beast ourselves by running as quickly as possible’.
With the penultimate obstacle in sight, we knew we were almost done. But there was the small matter of 3000 tyres, two iso containers and a cargo net between us and the finish line. Uncertain how we didn’t manage to twist an ankle, we ungracefully scrambled over them, occasionally grabbing hold of each other for balance.
As we crossed the finish line, I felt the same euphoria I’ve had at finishing an Ironman – except this was a lot more fun. Apart from coming 24th, the camaraderie of such an event will stay in my memory for a long time. Despite being soaking wet and covered in mud, I was grinning from ear to ear. I only hope they invite me back again, as I won’t hesitate for a second if they do!