Walking the Rat Race plank

Last weekend River Rat Race visited the River Clyde in Glasgow for the latest of its fun filled 10km obstacle races. We're really pleased to introduce local guest writer Martin Carrera, who sampled the course for us. Take it away Marty...

One of Glasgow’s most famous attractions is the Transport Museum, now known as the Riverside Museum because its next to the River Clyde. So where better to start a race based on the oldest form of transport (your own two legs) than here.

I’ve done the Glasgow Rat Race before, so thought nothing of doing it again. It’s easily accessible, being just outside the heart of Glasgow, and always has a good set up with shops selling equipment and all the utilities you could need, such as bag drops, storage for valuables and toilets.

River Rat Race start

Right from the beginning the atmosphere was great, with an MC keeping the energy up high, as well as throwing out some classic Glasgow banter. I didn’t get to enjoy it for long, as the first wave was called up. There was a short safety brief along with some more of that classic banter, then it was on to a warm up with Katie. Now, I’m a small man but even I have trouble finding space. However I can’t help but feel it adds to the event by bumping into the person next to you, sharing a laugh and carrying on knowing that everyone’s here for the same reason.

The race operates on a timing tag system, so I shuffled into the start area, getting my tag checked in by one of the race assistants, then found myself screaming “3… 2... 1…” with everyone else and we were off!

I know Glasgow well and knew the paths, so I kicked out to the side and pushed my pace to get to the front of the pack. The nice thing about city races is that the terrain underfoot is predictable, so you can afford to think more about your speed and less about where your feet are landing. After a few kilometers we reached the first obstacle, a large inflatable object. The only problem being that it wasn’t inflated, so we ran around it just now. The course is very running intensive compared to some other obstacle races but the route takes you past some of Glasgow’s more beautiful buildings, such as the Science Center, the Museum, several bridges and plenty of nice quiet green areas with trees overhead to take your mind away from your feet.

Glasgow bridge

I kept pacing myself, trying to follow my own rule of always gaining on the person in front. When I reached the next obstacle, a web of elastic rope that spanned several meters, I found myself slowing down. I went through carefully, knowing that it would be better than rushing and getting tangled up. Out of the web and pushing myself again, I found myself facing my own series of mini races, where I paced with other runners, overtaking them only to have them then do the same. This carried on a few times before one of us admitted defeat and stopped pushing the pace. I love this, as it’s all in competitive fun and keeps the race fresh.

I crossed one of Glasgow’s squinty bridges to see the race leaders just setting off in their kayak. Before I knew it, I was running down the dock, getting handed a buoyancy aid and jumping into a kayak of my own. Being on my own, I simply paired up with the next free person. Sally was my partner and, unfortunately like me, she had no idea what to do in a kayak. We didn’t let this stop us though. As we paddled around the loop, we had some good chat and learnt a bit about each other, which is great and took my mind off my sore legs and weakening arms. This is a rather unique part of River Rat Race and not found in many but I love it. You find your pace changing as your arms are suddenly brought into action.

River Rat Race kayak

After finishing the kayak section, we followed the river down the opposite side. We were heading back towards the finish, so I knew that we were around the half way mark. Members of the public pause for a moment to take in the site of people running by them, now soaking from the kayaking. Their amused smiles did nothing but spur me on.

Suddenly I was diverted to climb over a railing and down a rope taking me under a bridge. I’ve done sprint training over this bridge dozens of times but now I found myself walking carefully along a submerged ledge underneath. It definitely gave me a new view of the bridge. Then I was quickly back up to the riverside and running past the Finnieston Crane, where the next challenge awaited. A group of man-made tunnels and slopes to crawl and shuffle your way through. I found myself getting through fairly easily but also thinking how happy I am that I’m not a taller man.

Under the bridge

I kept going, following the small orange arrows winding me through the city streets. It wasn’t long before I saw the Museum again and I pushed myself knowing that I didn’t have far to go. I descend down a foot path with the finish line in front of me but there was a catch - one final set of obstacles to go. The first was a simple jump over some sand trenches, which gave me time to zip up the buoyancy aid that I had just been handed. Then it was down a pier followed by a short jump into water. The water was cold and questionably brown, although the organisers assure racers that it’s safe. I am a pretty bad swimmer so, even with the aid, I found myself tired by the end of the 30 meter swim back to land.

I was then led up onto the famous tall ship. It’s a great site but, before I know it, I could only see the side of it as I looked down from the plank... I guess I jump now?

On a boat

A lifetime passed before I hit the water, then a second one drifts by before I returned to the surface. The adrenaline buzz was fantastic. It was one of those times when you feel great about what you’d just done. I had tested myself and passed. I glanced up at the planks to see other runners pausing, glancing over the edge and then taking a half step back. That’s a mistake, I thought to myself. Don't pause, never pause, you just have to do it.

I hauled myself up onto a platform and back onto the ship, then took a short jog towards the finish line. There was a last minute steep ramp to run up and jump down. I crossed the line and was congratulated with a goodie bag and smile.

Jumping off the ship

Having run the race before and checked out the website, I noticed that a couple of obstacles were missing - a second inflatable and a cargo net with snow underneath. I’m not sure what happened to them.

Overall the Glasgow Rat Race is a great race. If you are an experienced runner, then it is a great opportunity to push yourself without having to worry too much about sustaining any injuries. If you’re new or just want to challenge yourself, then it’s a nice introduction to the challenges that are found at these types of events. Everything is organised well and even though there are some challenging and dangerous parts, you always feel safe.

Ed- Thanks loads for the great write up Marty!

If you'd like to know more about River Rat Race (there's one in Stockton this weekend), check out www.ratraceadventure.com/riverratrace

Stay tuned for more news , tips and info about obstacle course races and mud runs. Follow Mudstacle on: Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

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