Bear Grylls Ultimate Survivor 2015 – Putting the Bear Amongst the Pigeons


Putting the Bear Grylls name to any Obstacle Course Race is an easy way to get adventure runners attention, but to add the 30 km distance after the title is a sure fire way to weed out the weak. The Bear Grylls Ultimate Survivor 30km event came to North London for the first time last weekend with the Saturday festival seeing over 20,000 people in attendance. We took on day two of the two-day event on Sunday where athletes were faced with 6 survival techniques and 3 laps of the 10km obstacle course race… We couldn’t wait!

Any inaugural event is going to be tough on the organisers and affect the opinion of the athletes for all future events. The Bear Grylls Survival Race didn’t disappoint! The festival was a monster of an occasion with what has now become ‘the standard’ product stalls and live stages. However Bear had pushed the Bear boat out and put on a bungee jump, burrito food stand and more knives on sale than a kitchen ware shop.

The 10km loop might not have been the most original obstacle course race but nonetheless a nice array of obstacles including a 15ft rope climb, monkey bars, cargo nets and a fire jump. All of these were great fun but nothing new to an OCR. What made this event unique were the ‘survival challenges’, these included, fire starting, a memory test, observation skills, accuracy and strength. Without a doubt our favourite had to be the air rifle shooting… Yes that’s right, we were firing guns during an obstacle course race which was certainly a first. There was a short queue for a seat where you were given a gun, 5 air rifle pellets and a target to knock down. This took me way back to scout camps in the 90s… shooting kids from the trees in my mismanaged youth. This really was a great addition and definitely distracted you from the upcoming 20kms ahead… for a few seconds anyway.

A further lap of the 10km course and we were onto our next survival task. The challenge was to light hay and use the fire to burn through a piece of parachord (This proved reasonably simple due to the starter fire kit and cotton wool, which I never realised was so flammable). Again very ‘on brand’ and offered an alternative to what probably would have been a tire carry!

Dear lord, who would create this mental and physical suffering to #hurt me so much? Bear Grylls, that’s who
That wasn’t it though… Although not quite as dramatic as the aforementioned, the survival race threw up some further alternative obstacles. There was the observation test where you had to re-site 5 of the 7 essential pieces of survival kit, which were displayed randomly about the course (common sense came in useful too). One thing that really threw us off was a set of coordinates in the pre race pack that also stated we were ‘not provided with a map’. Being the good boy scout I am, I was out on Saturday buying a map for the relevant area… turns out the coordinates were just something we needed to memorise for the survival test… Whoops.

The last 10km was pretty much a race to the finish line, but by this stage the hands were ripped to shreds and the legs felt like lead weights. There were moments where the obstacles seemed boring after the previous two laps, but the challenge was set and we wanted to get round without doing any of the ‘forfeits’, which, the stewards were pretty stringent towards for a change. 4 hours and 45 minutes later we were back in the festival area.
All in all the Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Race 30km is a great event. Would I do the 30km again? Yes, the survival challenges were great and it’s fun to get that sort of distance in the legs in an OCR event, the only thing I would prefer is a 30km loop with a lot more obstacles, but I can appreciate how difficult this must be within the London Orbital. It definitely will be one for the hardcore OCR athlete going forward and with a £5,000 pot for the winner and a chance to have a say in next years event with the Bear himself, a really good incentive for the high level.

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