Aaron Johnson | Fuego y Agua Survival Run Nicaragua

Fuego y Agua Survival Run Nicaragua

March 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Back in February, I was invited to travel down to Nicaragua to shoot video at a very unique sounding race: SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA. Located on the island of Ometempe in Lake Nicaragua, this is a brutal 24 hour race that's part adventure race, part obstacle course race (think Tough Mudder / Spartan Race etc). It involves over 80 km of running, climbing, swimming, basically anything human powered, and racers are required to complete a series of challenges along the way that are designed to mimic the tasks and chores that the locals face as part of their daily, rural lives - think carrying wood, building rafts, climbing trees, etc. The race is famous for its dismal finishing rate - usually only 1 or 2 people finish, out of 50+ starters.

Approaching the island, its two volcanoes dominating the skyline

My goal was to follow my Team Adventure Medical Kits teammate, Kyle Peter, as he competed in the race, and take as much photo/video as possible. This meant I had to be prepared to be on the move for 24 hours straight, be completely self-sufficient in the Nicaraguan jungle, carry all of my camera equipment, and keep up with a strong athlete as he climbed volcanoes and ran around the jungle! Needless to say, I was pretty nervous as we prepared for the race, not knowing if I'd be able to keep up with my heavy pack.

The racers started on the beach, splitting into 4 teams to tackle a series of challenges involving building a raft out of wooden sticks to carry several large boulders many hundreds of meters off shore to an island. Kyle's team struggled a bit, losing one of their boulders mid trip to the island, and finished the challenge 30 minutes after the first team. With the team challenge over, it was every man and woman for themselves, and Kyle took off like a madman to catch the leaders, with me in tow, trying not to fall too far behind.

Kyle gets his bananas

The next challenge involved carrying a 30-lb sack of bananas up and over the 5,500 ft volcano Concepcion that dominates the island of Ometempe. The racers know nothing about the course, so when they were instructed to carry this 30-lb bag, they had no idea they'd be carrying it for the next 8 hours as they struggled to get over this massive volcano. As the temperature approached triple digits, I followed Kyle as he steadily made his way up the incredibly steep and rocky trail through the thick jungle that carpets the flanks of Concepcion. Kyle, not knowing he would be climbing the volcano, neglected to bring much water, and it soon became apparent that the situation was quickly turning dangerous, with the extreme exertion, oppressive heat, and lack of any water source this high on the volcano. Luckily, thanks to some generous hikers, and a lifesaving half full bottle of Coke found on the trail, he managed to get barely enough hydration to make it up and over the summit, catching many racers and climbing into the top 5.

Volcano Concepcion

Kyle making his way up the volcano

Traversing around the crater at the summit

Incredible views of the crater rim

The island is a vertical mile below us

Dried out dead frog, pretty much how we felt

Nearing sunset, Kyle and I both stumbled into the checkpoint at the bottom of the volcano, after 6 brutal hours in the heat, the last 2 of which we had zero fluids. More than half the field would not make it past this checkpoint, due to extreme dehydration on the volcano. The approaching darkness meant I could take a break from filming, so I gladly rehydrated and rested at the checkpoint as Kyle pushed on to regain more time on the leaders.

The rest of the race did not go well for Kyle - he got lost multiple times, at one point ending up on the back of some local's motorbike zooming around the island looking for the race course in the darkness. During the chicken run (racers were required to run carrying a live chicken for 15km), he got lost again, losing more time, and just missed a 3am time cutoff, ending his race. Barely a handful of people made it to the finish.

Kyle and Derek, his chicken

It was an absolute blast joining Kyle for the race, and I'm extremely tempted to have a go at it next year! Either way, Kyle and I will be back, as it's a truly unique and amazing event. Check out the little teaser video I made of the race, and stay tuned for some much larger video productions that will be coming out later this year!

Survival Run Nicaragua from Aaron Johnson on Vimeo.



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