Dr Chris Boardman interview: The GP obstacle course racer

Berkshire GP Dr Chris Boardman runs in obstacle races and enjoys the shared sense of purpose.

How did you get into running in obstacle course races?

I have always enjoyed running, particularly long distance. Having completed my first half marathon at 15 and continued running in my teens, I got out of the habit while at medical school and tended to run shorter distances and less frequently.

After qualifying, I began running more because it was the one activity I could fit around hospital shifts and then work in a GP practice.

My family and I moved back to England from Scotland in 2011 and I started entering races, rather than just running by myself - mostly off-road because I found that more interesting (and hopefully better for my knees).

My first experience of an obstacle course race was supporting a friend (also a GP and a personal trainer) when he ran a race called Tough Guy. Having competed in off-road duathlons and triathlon myself, this looked more fun. I ran my first obstacle course race last year and have lost count of how many I've done since.

Some races are fancy dress - any memorable moments?

The fact that many people run in fancy dress underlines the fact that, despite the dramatic names, these events are meant to be fun. Groups of friends, colleagues or gym buddies often run together; I have also run alongside a group dressed as a wedding party.

The only race I have completed in fancy dress was one called World War Run - I mixed my metaphors slightly because this was a charity event to commemorate the First World War and I ran dressed as Captain America, having borrowed my son's mask and shield. He did rather well out of it, as I had to buy him a new shield afterwards.

Do your patients know about your hobby?

Not many know, but those who do are often glad to find out.

One patient came in to see me with an injury she had sustained in training. When I asked her what sort of training she was doing, she went bright red and said: 'Well, I'm training for this thing called Tough Mudder.' When I replied: 'Don't worry, I'm doing the Nuts Challenge next weekend,' she looked relieved and said 'Oh! So you understand.'

Both of these popular obstacle course races take place in a challenging (and very muddy) environment.

What would you say to any GP thinking of taking part?

Definitely do it. These events can look daunting, but the sense of camaraderie among racers is fantastic, nobody is forced to complete an obstacle they don't want to and the willingness to stop and help each other is more than I have encountered in any other sporting setting.

Helping a total stranger out of a muddy trench, over a wall or out from under a cargo net, and then being helped in return, shows a wonderful commonality of purpose, which can easily be overlooked in everyday life.

I am by no means an elite athlete, but I am part of a team writing race reviews for a website (www. muddyrace.co.uk) which lists events by area and difficulty, so if someone is looking for their first race, I would recommend researching the options - there are now many races throughout the UK - and looking at the training advice too.

What's next for you in obstacle course racing?

My first obstacle race last year was the Spartan Race Beast - this is the longest of three race distances offered by Spartan Race, and anyone who completes all three in the same season is awarded the Spartan Trifecta, which is my goal for this autumn.

My son is running the Spartan Kids Race at the same time as the first of the three I am running, so it's a family affair - although he is disappointed he won't get the chance to jump through fire on his course.

  • Dr Boardman is a GP in Sandhurst, Berkshire

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