If there’s one race that can define my journey to be a personal trainer that ‘walks the walk and talks the talk’ it would be the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run!
Technically I’ve been associated with the Strongman Run for four years (hence the photos from 2010 – 2013) but the 2010 race fell on my girlfriend’s birthday and it was our first one together so I sent one of my trainers along instead and received ‘Brownie Points’ from Kirsty!
The 2010 team pictured below.
For those of you unaware of the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run, it’s a huge event attracting people from all around the globe to tackle the ‘World’s Largest Obstacle Course’. The race is in its seventh year and has been associated with Fisherman’s Friend lozenges due to the ‘Strong’ aspect of the race and the lozenge. Remember the original flavour? Well they’re still available but they have many other flavours that are pretty good! You may not have seen them as even though they are made here in the UK, they are much more popular elsewhere in Europe and now America.
To best describe the actual race I would say it’s 2 laps on (and off) the Nurburgring Grand Prix track in Germany with 15 differing obstacles in your way which you obviously tackle twice. The route is very undulating with lots of cross-country running as well as a beast of a hill to really get the calves cramping up after lots of jumping and crawling.
Every year ‘The Food PR Agency’ ask me to lead ‘Team GB’ which means I assist in selecting potential runners, helping them with training queries and then leading them to battle the thousands of Germans (and others) with big Union Jacks on our backs.
Now back to my fitness journey…let’s forget 2010 because I wasn’t there but in 2011 (picture above) I had a bit of a wake up call to say the least. When we go as Team GB, we get VIP treatment. We stay in The 4* Lindner Motorsport & Congress Hotel right next to the track and get invited to a party the night before the race and as well as free food we also get free drink. When I say drink I mean beer and wine and we got tempted to have a few pints…6 pints later I decided to get out of there and made it to my hotel a wee bit tipsy. Some of the others carried on longer into the night as I found out when we all made it to breakfast on race day.
The race started at 12pm which was fortunate for Team GB but it was a hot day and I was doing ok for most of the race (probably because there were so many bottle necks to help me recover) until the last couple of miles. I ended up running with Big Bledd (40 something beer drinking Welsh rugby player) for a few miles until I reached the top of a high obstacle and experienced a really sharp spasm in my legs…”CRAMP!!!!!!” I shouted to Bledd. I could see him in 2 minds to come back and help me but like a wounded soldier I told him to go on and save himself! 😉
I just wanted to wallow in my self-pity and suffer in silence…and I did! My stride length below speaks a thousand words…PAIN! Even Jonathon Ross was catching me! 😉
I would never to make this mistake again and vowed that I would be amongst the first finishers in Team GB next year…limping home in 4th had scarred me. We quickly got ushered onto our coach off to the airport, the booze run was over.
In 2012, I had applied myself after struggling so badly last year and was less than a month away from my 1st attempt at a sub 3 hour marathon so as you can imagine I was in better shape! Also the format of the Strongman Run had changed. The race would be on a Saturday with the same pre race party but this time there was a post race party which meant we could still have free booze but AFTER the race!
Every year Team GB bond really well and the trips are non stop story telling expeditions as we all have differing backgrounds and want to know all about each other…also it’s a way to suss out the fastest amongst us. It was simple, Lee and Steve (the front row skinheads above) would be the guys I’d be running with.
I wanted us to get near the front but the weather was such a factor that they almost postponed the event until Sunday (Gutted as the post race party would become a pre race party again!) so we kept warm in the VIP area until the last possible second and then darted out to join the race. The trio sprinted past the masses for a few miles and then got stuck in the first bottleneck. Once we got going again we made our way through the pack. Lee stated that “treadmills don’t have hills” (ex world record holder for distance covered on a treadmill in seven days!) as he started to fall back. A couple of miles later I lost sight of Steve after one of the busy obstacles…I waited for 30 seconds or so then carried on running.
This year’s course introduced the 2 meters deep and 40 meters long ice-cold pool of water and the obstacle course favourite of electric shocks conveniently placed after the water…ZAP!!!
The course was much better than last year but also much tougher. There were less bottlenecks but it was still a problem and when you’re at risk of cramping up you just want to keep moving!
One by one Team GB arrived cold, wet but elated after they conquered the race and I felt it my duty to get them all a beer immediately (it was free!). The stand in the photo below had alcoholic beer too…believe me! 😉
We swapped stories, got showered and changed and had an awesome night at the after party until about 5am. The flight home wasn’t until Sunday evening so plenty of time to recover, well try to. I vegged out in the Nurburgring museum until our cars came to ship us back to the UK.
2013 and Team GB are back again! This time the ‘Sun’s Out, Guns Out’ which was great for the Beefcakes at the top right (I’m trying hard to compete) and nice for us all to enjoy some sunshine!
Reading through the bio’s on the team I was thinking I’ll be amongst the front-runners again until I hear that Tobias Mews was 15th in the 2013 Marathon de Sables and a week later ran a 2.51 London Marathon…OUCH!!! Fortunately for me, Tobias wanted to run the race with someone and on hearing my marathon time, he asked me. I’m gonna have to run HARD to keep with him!!!
The pre race party had most of the team consuming at least one beer despite my warnings of cramp etc but I managed to hold off by thinking about how many I could have after the race!
The day arrived and we made our way to the front, squeezing in until Tobias and I were about 10 metres from the front of 10,400. The gun went BOOOOOOOOOOM followed immediately by fireworks and smoke and then we were off.
The course was the best yet as the Strongman Run team had made loads of improvements to stop the bottle necking and there was only one on the penultimate obstacle on the second lap. This meant there was lots of running and therefore a much faster course.
Some spectators told us we were in the top 30 as we ran past…Top 30 was incredible but we both seemed to want more! We were flying until on the second lap I leapt up like a salmon onto one of the many bales of hay and cramp struck me!!! I had to be a bit more cautious from now on with about a quarter of the course left. I was keeping with Tobias on the run but the obstacles were taking their toll.
We’d agreed that I would carry Tobias over the finish line (even though he was starting to ‘carry’ me!) so as we finished the last obstacle he jumped on and we made a charge for the line…one of the best photos ever!!!
All of Team GB finished in under 4 hours (even with impromptu posing!) and the tradition of free beer after the race continued until we got moved on! The after party ended up with us playing ‘formula 1’ and bunnies…drinking games!
Every year I am on the lookout for the next Team GB and I’m pretty sure I’ll be searching in 2014 too. To increase your chances of being on the team become a blogger or continue blogging. Fisherman’s Friend give the places to people with a good online presence so make blogging a habit and you’re in with a good shout. Why not start blogging now using the title “My Mission to be part of Team GB in 2014”?
My final note is to thank all of the runners I have had the pleasure to meet, sweat and drink with over the past 4 ‘Strongman Run’ races…and I can’t wait to meet the 2014 Team…Bring it on!!!