Buzzing from what I assume has been a successful evasion, I start making my way towards London Bridge, aware this will be one of the trickiest areas to remain hidden in. One thing I can be sure of is that one of my trackers is behind me somewhere and while I'm going at a fair pace to ensure he doesn't catch me up, there’s no doubt in my mind that he's already called his fellow team members to let them know I'm on my way.
This informs a decision to just try and storm my way to the checkpoint as fast as possible, getting in and out before they realise it's me. Again, the problem lies not in my evasion tactics but my terrible interpretation of the clues that have been provided. All I have to go on is a big number two. As soon as I step on the bridge I don't waste any time and head straight to number two London Bridge. There's nothing obvious to note down apart from an engraved sign that displays the name of the company that works from the building. I stop, write it down, glance behind me and see two particularly shady looking blokes across the road.
(Above) One of the trackers reports a sighting of Max
Wasting no time I keep moving forward, cutting down one of the slim walkways along the side of the river. I walk until I'm at the bottom of the stairs and out of sight of my pursuer. As soon as I'm at the bottom I join a group of tourists, remembering advice McGee gave me about blending into the environment being key to successful evasion in urban environments. I causally walk along with the tourists at only a slighter faster stroll then they're going at, until I’ve made it to the front of the group and round a corner. Now I run.
Five minutes later I'm convinced I've lost any tails I may have picked up along the way and I continue on towards checkpoint number three in Hyde Park. Due to the amazing public transport system I've never really walked round central London too much. That definitely changed over the next hour or so. It turns out that walking to Hyde Park from London Bridge, especially when you don’t really know where you're going, takes a long, long time.
An hour and a half later and I was almost there, wandering if the whole challenge was a big joke. Maybe I had just been sent out to go and wander the streets of London as some kind of test of the gullibility of journalists. If that's the case, I'm winning.
Regardless, I continue on and for once know where I need to go because I actually remembered the clue was to find the date the Achilles statue was erected. Elaborately long Roman numerals scribbled down I plod along to my next checkpoint around Regent's street. Despite my tiring legs and feet the walk doesn’t prove to be too bad, but once I get there I have no idea where the exact road I'm looking for is. After an hour or so with worsening weather dampening my mood I'm about to give up before deciding it’s time to cheat for the second time.
A helpful guy working in a theatre tickets stall points me towards the address I'm looking for and I'm there in minutes. The final stop? Regent's Park, near to where the MF offices are based. I know where I'm going this time and after a brief stop to marvel at the American embassy I arrive at my last destination. Again, I'm a fool and can’t figure out the clue. All I have is a picture of a kind of coat of arms; I see a similar one on a sign and make a note of the road name. Looking around I can't see anyone who looks interested in what I'm doing and so decide I must have successfully lost everyone around London Bridge.
Although I have an emergency Oyster card that was given to me in the morning I stick to the rules for the rest of the game and begin the long walk back to the hotel start point.
An hour later and I'm back where I started. Met by an excited McGee, he pats me heartily on the back and exclaims that I'm the first person to return. He says I did really well and that the tracking team were flummoxed for most of the afternoon. I think he's just being nice, but over the next half hour, the guys who were following me all return and congratulate me one by one. It turns our the guy who I saw at the first checkpoint honed his skills tracking animals in Zimbabwe and he's impressed with how I lost him at the traffic lights. ‘That's the difference between urban and rural environments,’ he says. ‘You have to take whatever opportunities are presented and use the environment to your advantage, which is exactly what you did. Well done.’
The other two guys, an IT security consultant and an ex-serviceman are equally full of praise. 'We saw you walk onto London Bridge, but we weren't expecting you to get out of there so quickly,’ says one of them. ‘By the time we got to the walkway you went down, you were long gone, or hidden among the crowds - it was impossible to tell.’
(Above) Max and his team of trackers finally meet each other at the end of the challenge.
I wasn't actually spotted for the rest of the day, and when my rival journalist comes back to the hotel an hour later I'm confident I've got victory in the bag. Points are rewarded for getting back first while others are taken away for being spotted. I get a few taken off for the London Bridge and The City incidents, but where I begin to fall down is the clues. Despite being slower and spotted more than me, my competition gets all the clues right, while I only manage a measly two out of five. U-oh.
As the final scores are tallied I think I can still edge a victory until McGee asks, ‘So, did you cheat at all?’ About to lie and pretend I never asked for directions once, let alone twice, one of my trackers pipes up, ’Yes, Max did cheat. Just once when he asked a delivery driver for directions.’ I'm shocked that they were watching me at that point. Rumbled for that one I decide to keep quiet about my second request for directions.
Unfortunately, it proves to be my downfall and despite not being spotted as much and getting back quicker I lose the challenge from the points I have deducted and the ones I fail to get from the clues. But surely a real fugitive wouldn’t have to get clues anyway? ‘No, they wouldn’t have to get clues,’ says Perry. ‘That was a test of your mental fortitude, and while you did amazingly at the physical side of things you need to use a combination of mind and body to be able to escape unscathed from tracking situations.’ That’s me told then.
Manhunt is on Discovery Channel on Thursdays at 9pm. Click here to read our interview with the star of Manhunt, Joel Lambert.
Max was the head of digital content for Men's Fitness which worked alongside Coach between 2015 and 2019.
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