An Undeclared Manchester Ski Club Activity - 1993

Reporter: Bill Matthews

Once upon a time a team of four guys entered an obstacle race called the Bollin Valley 13 race as the Ski Club of Manchester veteran’s team. The guys concerned were Barry Lewis, William Helliwell, Graham Gilbert and myself Bill Matthews.

I had already done the 13 race a year earlier and knew the ropes. Indeed, ropes were relevant as it was (and is) more of an army assault course than a cross country race; great fun if you don't weaken and like mud.

For week after week, we trained hard together locally in the peak district. We signed up with the organisers, Macclesfield Rugby Club, and turned up on a nice day but after lots of recent rain with plenty of mud available on the course. As it is a summer event, cold isn't a problem.

Graham was a regular marathon runner, but he met his match this time because it's very different and difficult pacing oneself in this obstacle race. There was a dense forest section with a 12' high slippery log wall to climb over (no hand holds, only an angle in the wall), a section of the River Bollin to 'run' along (ha, ha) up to the waist in water under a very low, claustrophobic, bridge, then about 25m of netting to crawl under and a moving water river crossing carrying 5 heavy baulks of timber, (note this maximises the number of crossings for 4 People) - oh! and a section hopping from one raised tree stump to another with muddy feet. Instead of avoiding mud the organisers ensured that there was absolutely no possibility of avoiding vast areas of same. There were some pretty meadows too!

The final leg back to the rugby club was very definitely uphill and we anxiously awaited our tail ender to catch up before the final shock! We were obliged to carry one member of the team astride a log around the perimeter of the rugby field to the finish line; quite a long distance and hardly running in our state. But we won the veterans class and finished overall 4th or 5th as many marathon runners were unable to cope with the ever changing pace. And the proof is SCoM engraved on the trophy, a stack of 4 old nuts nicely gold/brass plated on a plinth, still in use today.

This race is a mixed sex event but unfortunately there was (is?) only one communal shower block at the rugby club for men. There was some consternation when the women participants, also covered from head to foot in mud, showed they were determined to have a shower, regardless of the screaming men already in house!

The last challenge was rescuing the cars from the slightly downhill playing field area soon rated as a mud bath. One guy was not content with using branches under wheels. He used a roll of wire netting which wrapped itself tightly against the underside and around his back axle. He had to call out the AA!

I recommend members to do this race even though it's even more competitive now. Just for the fun!