So what is Urban Attack? Good question. I’m not sure either to be honest.

Signing up on a whim, with a friend offering a place, I was keen to see what it was all about. To be honest, I’d read about it previously but wasn’t really sure if it was for me… competitive racing and all that.

A full afternoon of racing (you do 3 different races over the afternoon with loads of fun, preparation, socialising and entertainment in between).

Said the Urban Attack website

Mmm.. kinda. We arrived at just after midday, ready to register. Wandering around a bit, we tried to find out what was going on, we were given a print out with a running order, but this didn’t help us much, and it appeared as though the staff weren’t really sure either. We finally found our way to the bmx arena (hooray!), and awaited the 1pm briefing. 1pm came and went and we weren’t sure if we were in the right place (but everyone else seemed to be there!). The delays in the end were put down to ‘waiting for people to arrive’…. who?? Seemed a bit ridiculous to hold up the whole day.

The 5k fun run was finally announced – a route that took in 2 laps of the indoor arena and out and around the complex. Our chance to try out the course. “Take it easy if you’re competing”, they said. “Am I competing?” I thought, I’m still not really sure what I’m doing; I’m running in a race but I hadn’t really thought about it being a proper competition.  Regardless, we took on the 5k course at a decent pace… despite noticing some people were cutting it short and just practicing the indoor arena section. To say the 5k route was an afterthought would have been a bit generous really – it looked like it had been thought out and put together that morning (it may well have been), with less than enthusiastic staff sometimes pointing out where we were meant to go.

The indoor track was exciting though – the bmx track was a new experience with the bump and humps, the monkey bars were up high and a decent length. However in terms of other obstacles, there wasn’t much – some tyres, a hay bale wall, an overhang wall, and a few things to hurdle. It was easy to overlook these though as the monkey bars were quality and the big slope at the end was pretty epic looking!

Here are some photos from the indoor section of the fun run. One picture where I look like some kind of hobbit creature with one arm.. but hey, that’s what a massive f*** off slope would do to you too, I bet.

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I’ve been a bit hit and miss in terms of monkey bars. My technique was non-existent, so relying on brute strength and perseverance rather than any skill, rung by rung, slowly but surely, partly as a bit of a safety blanket to avoid any wild swinging, and crashing down to break limbs (very silly really…). On my first lap of the ‘fun run’, my tried and tested technique worked ok to get me across. But very, very slowly – definitely quicker to fall and scramble over. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that, I needed to get faster or the races later could be embarrassing. On lap 2, I decided to swing for it. Low and behold, it’s a hell of a lot easier! And a lot faster…

Fun run complete, now what? A lot of waiting around really…

Not sure whether to eat, or not, I downed a protein shake. I’d had a pretty beasty breakfast of eggs and smoked salmon, but it was around 3 o clock now, I was ready for food but we had no idea when we’d be next running again. This was probably the most frustrating part of the day, as before my second race I wasn’t feeling good, fuel-wise.

After some more waiting around, the girls were all called down to the arena to race. Some looked about as nervous as I felt. Some didn’t look nervous at all. We were talked through the course and a lot of questions were asked… “how do we know where to go?” (‘follow everyone else” was the answer) … “is there a penalty for not doing the monkey bars?” (“errr.. no” was the answer). It all seemed a bit off-the-cuff. Fortunately (but after a lot of requests!) one of the organisers ran the course for us (as we weren’t doing the full loop, it wasn’t clear what we were/weren’t doing). That leads me to another sore point… we only did half the loop, and so half the (few) obstacles. I’m a decent runner but i’m not a sprinter, so the obstacles are my best strength really.. hence why I enjoy obstacle course races… so it would have been nice to have a few more obstacles…. Even in my smaller waves though (the men’s heats had more people), I had to wait to get onto the monkey bars, which is quite frustrating in a race format. A friend of mine had to wait while on the monkey bars themselves!

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Here I am.. trying not to look scared.

So on the start line I was… to be honest, thinking “wtf am I doing here”. It felt a bit bizarre competing – stood on a start line like school sports day (which I didn’t enjoy). It sounds like a lot more women were signed up to race, but didn’t in the end. The website sold it on the premise of “anyone can do it” … but it certainly wouldn’t have been appealing for people not in the best of shape.

Here I am again, trying not to look scared.

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3…2….1… GO and we were off (some sooner than others, but I won’t dwell on that)…

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It was all of a bit of flurry… over very fast. My practice and change of technique on the monkey bars worked a treat and I was over much quicker.

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I wasn’t looking around to see where any of the other girls were, I just concentrated on doing the best I could. I started the day with the thought, and I think a lot of people felt the same (because I heard them)… “I just don’t want to come last”.. but y’know what, these are all fit people, and I’d resigned myself to the fact that I could come last… someone has to! The slope at the end was killer, slowing me right down, but I was shattered, I can’t think when I’ve ever pushed myself so hard in such a short amount of time. It was only then that I noticed someone come past me. I crossed the line and was quickly pointed at, with the word “3rd”, and given a blue stamp on my hand. I turned around and was surprised to see women still on the monkey bars and coming up the slope.  Wow… I hadn’t come last! Everyone finishing looked exhausted – bent over trying to get their breath back. It definitely was intense. But.. I was in the semi final… I had to do it all again!

It was the men’s turn now. Again, without any real schedule, we didn’t know when we’d be racing again. I really should have eaten as by the time the semi final came around, I didn’t feel too hot!

Semi final race… here I am again (below), trying (failing) not to look scared.

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Oh  hooray.. I managed a smile.

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Same again… starting on the outside lane really wasn’t helpful but I won’t make any excuses! I tried my best again but didn’t get through to the final.

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In the end, it was fun racing – the crowd cheered everybody around and it certainly was a new experience. Teething problems in a new event are expected, but the amount of waiting around and lack of communication really wasn’t great. If I’d have paid the full price, I’m not sure I would have been happy at all, especially as you could have had just 1 race, lasting a couple of minutes.

We left at 5.30 as we both had to get back. We may have been tempted to stay but we actually had no idea what else was to come?

A few burgers were devoured (SO HUNGRY) and I was ready for bed!

Despite all the negative points, I would be tempted to race again next year. It is good that UA have tried to do something different, but the positioning felt a bit odd with the fun run/elite/non-elite runners, but maybe that is more down to the lack of communication. Now I know what it’s all about, and how very competitive it was, I probably wouldn’t have done the fun run, and definitely would have done some more sprint training!