It's a knock-out

It was a crisp October morning as the JW Seagon ‘All Stars’ made their way to the Karen Waterfront Mall grounds for the inaugural ‘It’s a Knock- Out’ Challenge – the first of its kind in Nairobi in support of the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust – a very worthy cause.

For anyone that has watched  ‘It’s a Knock- Out’ on TV in the 80’s or ‘Total Wipe Out’ in the 90’s, you will know that the games involve navigating various land and water obstacles, shooting at targets whist trudging through slime, grease, hay, grass, mud and giant inflatables ( plus anything else you can think of), trying to out-smart and out- run your opponents to clock the fastest completion time. Think of an army boot camp but with beers at the end 😊.

Our ‘soldiers’ consisting of 5 men and 2 ladies (plus a willing substitute) had been strategically assembled to include an ex- police officer, an ex- ‘It’s a Knock Out’ UK champion and a hand- picked selection of members from the JW Seagon Running Club who were preparing for the upcoming Nairobi Marathon a few weeks later. On paper we looked like a formidable outfit. Add the fancy dress of colourful wigs, knee- high white socks and purple gym tops – we were not to be trifled with (or at least we thought as much, which is the important thing!).

After an early breakfast (as all champions demand) we made our way to the battle ground. Briefing done, we headed over to the first water challenge – ‘Maji Magic’ –a selection of giant inflatables on a man-made lake of ice- cold water. Despite one of the instructors nimbly leaping across the course like an impala being chased by a cheetah across the savannah (he had obviously done this a few times before), I attest it is definitely not as easy as it looks. We spent most of the time in the water trying to climb back up after inadvertently pushing our own team members off as we tried to maintain balance. The ‘Paddle Board’ challenge was up next. You know you are not doing well when the instructor remarks in surprise that there are still teams on the water despite having started the challenge forty minutes earlier and that the day is running behind schedule!  Ego’s bruised and fully drenched, we were glad the water challenges were out of the way.

On to the first land challenge – ‘The Water Wall’. Let me just mention that it had taken us a while to get out of our swim- suits, dried up and back to a normal body temperature only to receive news of more water coming our way!  Water had to be hauled from a giant paddling pool above a “wall”, whilst on the other side, two team members ( one hoisted on another’s shoulder) tried to catch the water in bucket they were holding and decant it into a smaller bucket – first team to fill the smaller bucket wins. There was a flaw in this challenge. The water being hoisted over the wall was automatically filling the smaller bucket, so the poor soul trying to catch the water was just a sitting duck waiting for a wall of water to hit them. We missed a trick here.

We needed a team huddle. We still had quite a few challenges left to begin our march up the leader board. On to the ‘Tired Tires’ challenge – a relay race involving an insanely heavy- duty truck tyre, someone sitting on it, whilst both tyre and person were hauled back and forth until all had completed the cycle. The ‘All Stars’ were finding their mojo! We obliterated the opponents and confidence was building.  Bring on the ‘Farm- Yard’ challenge. Clearly a few of our team had experience with cattle before – in no time had we completely filled our ‘milk bucket’ using the inflated ‘glove udder’ whilst delicately handling a barrel of hay. The ‘Human Wheelbarrow’ was next which made it three wins on the trot. High fives were flying and chest thumps abound.

For even the best of teams, winning runs cannot be always maintained. The ‘Spin Paintball’ challenge had us veering off course in dizzy spells and shooting anything but the target. The Ski Slalom (a challenge we had sponsored) was a must win to gain some redemption. Skiing on grass with wood whilst coordinating three pairs of legs is an accident waiting to happen. We valiantly tried not tripping over each other but spent most of the challenge trying to disentangle people, wood and ski poles.

Lunch couldn’t have come at a better time.

Back on the saddle for the final push. Snakes and Ladders is where we played our Joker card which halves the time taken to complete the challenge. We had reviewed the obstacle course fully and decided this was the one where we would have the most difficulty completing. How wrong was our judgement!  Team coordination and nimbleness fell into place as we set a challenge record!

Now for the ‘Final Assault’. The course had to be redesigned incorporating all the day’s challenges into one mammoth obstacle course which culminated in towing a Rhino Charge vehicle towards the finish line. Our strategy was in place. No team member was exempt. Everyone had to play their part. We wanted to win. I volunteered to go first to give us a fast start. I am shamed to say that I brought us in in last place after the first round – spent most of my time trying to find my shoes under a net obstacle. Our work was cut out. After 5 of our team had run, we were still bringing up the rear- but the gap had been closed. It was getting very tight. Our final runner was ready – Innocent from our Finance team. We were about to witness something special. He took off with the speed of Usain Bolt, almost leaped the entire length of the water obstacle with the deft of Jonathan Edwards and jumped over the gigantic walls with the agility of Sergei Bubka. We were now in second place. With all our might and sinews popping we began yanking the truck toward the finish line. The team in front were struggling. ‘One more push’ we heard the crowd screaming. As the front tyres crossed the finish line we realised we had just pipped it. Almost a photo finish, but we had done it!

We had our ups and downs but managed to finish in sixth position overall. It was a fantastic team day out and I must congratulate Jeremy Holley and his team of organisers for putting together a fabulous event. If you are looking for a unique team building activity, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. It will bring out teamwork, quick thinking, a competitive spirit and a desire to see things through to the end. I am sure the event will get bigger next time round in February 2020 judging from the pledges other organisations committed to, in putting more teams forward.  Definitely one event we will be sending more teams to in the future.

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