I survived the death match that is UBC REC's Gladiator. Here's what I saw.

You know it’s going to be a journey when you put your leggings on the wrong way before an event.

As I got home from work and made the quick turnaround to head up to campus, something told me Gladiator was going to be more than I had imagined it to be in my head. Maybe it was the chai tea latte still sitting in my stomach telling me activity was not a smart plan. Maybe it was me forgetting my keys on three different treks back to my room from the front door. Whatever it was, when I walked out to my car, I had a fleeting moment where I realized I am absolutely not prepared for this.

There were five activities on the go at the Student Recreational Centre, all meant for teams of 6 to 10. Being by myself, I was slightly limited in the options I could try. After some UBC REC staff consultation, we opted for two of the Lord of the Rings-themed activities — Battle of Minas Tirith and Mount Doom.

First up was Minas Tirith. Put simply, it’s a slow spinning clock of terror — not the technical term, but you get the idea. With players standing on stools around the inflatable clock face, a giant clock hand swings around to take out any flailing limbs in its path. This is where my jumping skills, or lack thereof, failed me miserably. It was only myself in the circle and I could see the hand coming every time, but my complete lack of coordination sent me flying over the bar and awkwardly into the cushioning below.

Twice I tried, twice I failed.

Now think about doing that with other people in the ring, and having balls thrown at you as well. That was what teams were up against.

Second on the list was Mount Doom.

A giant, adult-sized bouncy-castle maze. From the outside, it looks inviting — a colourful little haven, like something out of Imagination Land in Inside Out. But once inside, the walls felt like they were swallowing you whole. The first hill seemed friendly — it was short and sweet. From then on though, you tumble into a dark abyss. This was not for the claustrophobic students of UBC from my evaluation.

With inflatable beams, bars and barriers in your path, I got lost in the sea of shadows and colours. And then, from around a corner, you face Mount Doom itself. Towering over you, it is your task to conquer it before sliding down to victory once you hit the summit.

Embarrassingly, it was almost exhilarating. I wasn’t even racing anyone and I was taking my time, but the slide back to home base was like scoring the winning goal, the final touchdown, the winning basket at a national championship.

Throw in getting your hands on ‘the ring’ itself in the maze and taking that back down to the maze entrance — which teams were actually supposed to be doing — and you’ve got a competition.

Teams also tested their smarts, speed and team spirit with other activities like Riddles in the Dark, Storming Helms Deep, and Escape Shelob’s Lair. There was even Lord of the Rings music and a movie playing to put teams right into the Middle Earth mindset.

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.” Those dark places are probably the dark corners of the Mount Doom maze and the feelings of peril grip the heart when a tennis ball is launched at you in Storming Helms Deep,

I have skills to hone for next year, alongside learning to put pants on the right way.