20 miles is a long way to run. No matter how you look at it, it’s a daunting prospect. Strangely it’s the one detail of Rat Race Dirty Weekend that I allowed to slip from my consciousness until mere days beforehand. It seemed obvious that I was going to have a great time socially, what with the vast majority of my OCR pals being in attendance. It was a given that the three legged race, and dance tent were going to be a riot. The fact that I had never run 20 miles in my LIFE was conveniently filed somewhere behind all of that fun in my brain.
Rat Race Dirty Weekend is pretty much the biggest weekender in all of OCR. I was ignorant of its existence in time to register last year, but I was on it like a car bonnet for 2016, and have already registered for 2017. Ain’t nothing standing in between me and a Dirty Weekend ever again.
Mainly because, it didn’t feel like 20 miles – it felt like a summer jaunt with my friends with intermittent picnics.
In the grounds of Burghley House, there are permanent obstacles, horse jumps and lovely fields and trails that Rat Race pepper with their signature builds, as well as outlandish, vast container mountains that can turn even the strongest of stomachs. It’s just brilliant. I’m not sure how brilliant it would have been if the weather was horrendous, because rainy camping is depressing enough without having to go and do a run in it.
For some reason, the fact that we were doing an actually quite long and fairly difficult run escaped a lot of us, for merriment began on the Friday night. I was up late after a pretty exuberant three legged race and several beverages from different sources – Darren’s appletinis will take most of the delicious blame for this.
Up bright and early, we roused ourselves as a large, exuberant group to march down to the start line; Mudstacle, BMF and the Dutch Mud Men were all part of a single wave, which set off in a glorious smoke bombed haze.
I was knackered after a kilometre. Running with considerably stronger and faster companions does little for the self-esteem when even the injured ones can outstrip you, but I managed not to completely slow things down for about 14 miles, after which they quite rightly split the group into the ‘let’s finish this’ and ‘let’s plod a bit more’ groups.
There’s much to be said for the build quality and ingenuity of Rat Race’s obstacles, and I’m sure it crops up in lots of reviews, not least because I’ve written a few myself. They really are good, and aside from a pretty large queue at one of their more daring obstacles (giant cargo net suspended by cranes over a lake, anyone?), traffic flowed smoothly enough around the course. Racers could racer, amblers could amble, and Mudstacle could hold an enforced participation dance party in the woods. There was something for everyone.
Despite being the longest race I’d ever attempted, there wasn’t really a time where I genuinely thought that I may want to bail at the ‘halfway’ point at 13 miles. After coming that far, it seemed daft not to plough through the final 6, even though there was nothing decidedly special about them.
One thing I really struggled with was the water section – the pontoons are absolute bastards to pull yourself onto, and it gets a bit apocalyptic when everyone is swarming over them in an attempt to get out of the water as quickly as possible. It’s an unrelenting section, where really, getting wet isn’t what bothers you the most – getting OUT is. The water actually felt lovely on what was an extremely hot and dry day.
Coming in to complete the race was a fabulous feeling, not mired by thoughts of position, time, or even driving home afterwards, it was to the warm embrace of the showers, clean clothes, chums and inevitable drinking games that are borne of camping next to Dutch Mud Men.
- Tech shirt that was far too big for me
- Shorts (omg)
- Nike Pro baselayer (quickly relegated to round the waist attire)
- Gloves – removed and ditched with friends pretty quickly – not needed
- Salomon Speedcross 3, and the trusty Nike anti-blisters
Go for comfort over all else. Warm baselayers are good insurance for if the weather turns, but largely, suncream essential for this one.
If you’re even the slightest bit on the fence about your ability to complete Dirty Weekend because of the distance (not because of some terrible injury, because I’m not qualified to comment on that), make sure you hop off it and book a place. Worst case scenario, you bail at the 13 mile point and you’ve still had a lovely day wandering in the gorgeous grounds of Burghley house. The atmosphere alone is enough to make up for any aches and pains you suffer in the name of exercise.