It’s been almost 2 weeks now since I turned 31.
Yes, Yes, I’m old. Let’s move on, shall we?
As is the norm for these occasions, I packed my bags and headed back to the Shire (Gloucestershire to be precise) to spend my birthday with my family. This year, the celebrations would be a little different though.
Flash-back to October. It’s raining and I’m sat in work, glumly scrolling through a Groupon email. Suddenly, my eyes light up. There’s a voucher for discounted entry to the Forest Warrior and, oh boy oh boy, it’s on my birthday. I put the word out on Twitter that it requires 2 person entry and my lovely OH (foolishly) agrees to be my +1. Joy.
Flash-forward to March. An email pops up reminding me that it’s not long until the big day. I panic. I’ve done nothing to prepare. The cold weather has meant my running has ceased and my kettle bells are gathering dust. I quickly adopt the attitude of “how bad can it be?” and “It’s too late to do anything now anyway”.
The day arrives.
My folks drive us to the starting point at Speech House and we huddle in a field awaiting the starting pistol. What follows is a 5k course through forest that I’ve grown up running around in.. but with added obstacles. This is the official blurb from the Website:
“An OCR paradise set in the Forest of Dean surrounded by trees lakes and streams. Starting from the iconic Speech House Hotel the route takes you through a mix of dense forest and fire track paths. The route is littered with endless natural obstacles along with a selection of the toughest obstacles we could think of including the ICEBURG and the finishing test.”
I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat this – it was hell. Pure, adrenalin-fuelled, holy-crap-I’m-having-so-much-fun hell. Here’s a preview of the resulting injuries…
It started with 3 barriers to climb over (4ft, 6ft, and 8ft respectively) followed by some running, some carrying of sandbags and some more running. Then, we were in the woods.
After being shot at by paintball guns, we threw ourselves under barbed wire and crawled through waist-deep mud. We hopped over stinking mud filled trenches and clambered over more fallen trees than I could bother to count. We ran, we walked, we screamed with laughter but at no point did we stop.
Not far from the end, we reached the only obstacle we didn’t complete and this wasn’t by choice. After jumping in to a freezing lake, while my family stood laughing gleefully as I swore and screamed at the icy temperature, we swam to a small island. Standing there shivering, the next goal was to jump back in the water before attempting to climb an inflatable “Iceberg”.
We tried, we really tried. At one point, I fell off and accidentally drank what I’m pretty sure was half the lake. I could hear my 4-yr old niece screaming with laughter. A few attempts later and we were kindly asked to move along as the queue for the iceberg was larger than anticipated. We jumped out of the lake and began running towards the finale.
I can happily report that we weren’t the slowest runners and, had we not spent so much time flailing in the lake, we would’ve been even faster. We received a shiny medal, a t-shirt proving we survived and a deep, burning sense of satisfaction.
Would I do it again? Honestly? I’ve been saying a firm no since the event but I think I would. With more (or any) training and preparation, I’d be happy to go back and try to beat my time. It was a rush.
The best part of the day for me though was definitely the 3hrs after when I sat in my parents living room, surrounded by my family, opening presents and eating cake. Bliss.
Have you ever celebrated a birthday by doing something out of the ordinary?
Let me know in the comments!