ICY water, mud-filled pits and ‘dreaded hills of doom’ were all promised as part of the Mucky Races series I agreed to participate in on Sunday.
Fortunately, the icy water was absent and the dreaded hills was debatable, though mud was certainly aplenty at Bures Pit.
I was not quite sure what to expect heading over to tackle ‘The Gauntlet’, time-wise or difficulty-wise, but having tackled Tough Guy Challenge before was certainly not going to under-estimate it.
I was surprised by the number of people there, with 726 completing the races, and anticipation about the race only increased as the track itself was not visible from the start.
Shortly before 11am, with the race about the start, the megaphone announced that the runners doing the 12-kilometre (two-lap) race would set out first, followed by me and the fellow one-lap racers (five km).
After the first round of people had enthusiastically raced off down the hill, we assembled ready for the beginning of ours.
The initial phase was down the hill and then around a corner, although what was daunting was how little of the course could be seen.
The horn blew for the second time and we raced off down the hill, all the time my imagination conjuring new ideas of what horrors may lie ahead.
Soon we had rounded the corner and climbed atop the nearby hill, bringing into sight much of the course and what was to come.
It looked other-worldly – a wasteland of hills and a dirt-track dipping up and down into the mud pits and winding its way around the course, which looked rather like I would imagine the surface of Mars to be.
To begin with the mud was not too much of a problem – the steep hills dipped down and then the mud was at worst ankle-depth, and much of that could be avoided by walking around on the ledge.
There were of course the idiots/enthusiasts who bounded headlong into the long puddles, only to stumble when they suddenly met a foot-deep drop and plunged face-first into the water.
I remained cautious for the most part, avoiding rushing into the mud pits to stay on my feet, but keeping up a good pace throughout.
There was plenty to run in between the pits – it often turned out that you would climb a hill, descend, run through a shallow mud pit, then up another hill, and then cover some distance on dried out ground before the next area (of course, had it not have been so hot and dry then there likely would have been much softer ground making it altogether muddier throughout).
As the undulating course progressed, the mud pits got deeper and longer — there were some queues at certain bottlenecks, but for the most part the pack of people kept moving.
As before, much of the mud was avoidable, or at least the deeper parts – I found a smart, albeit unadventurous tactic, was the just follow in the footsteps of the person in front, unless they were to take a tumble, in which case you avoided that particular troublesome spot.
The hills also seemed to get steeper, the need for having to use the ropes to get up increasing, although it was difficult to tell if it was getting harder or it was just fatigue setting in.
The benefit of the hills and occasional queues was that it provided a good opportunity to catch breath lost through the otherwise relentless running and climbing.
As the race progressed, another annoyance was having no idea about how far I had gone and had to go – there were no mile/kilometre markings and, unlike running and cycling where I can guess my distance from my pace, the stop-start nature of this event made it a guess as to how far I’d gone.
Another disadvantage I had put myself at was, that by wearing trousers, I increasingly gained weight as the mud dried, which it did almost instantly.
I’d expected much scrambling and crawling, and although some of the hills were hard to climb and there was one cargo net through a mud pit, it was not difficult to stay on two feet for almost the entire course – I only fell when tripping over boundary tape.
The course wound through a forest as it approached it’s conclusion, and the final stretch was through a field, though it was hard to keep up a good pace feeling so drained.
With the end in sight it was a final push up the hill to finish – which I did in 49 minutes, coming 98th out of the 410 doing the one lap.
It was not as hard as I had expected, but a worthwhile challenge nonetheless.
I was grateful for the lack of ice, but the abundance of mud ensured a smelly drive home.
n Mucky Races consists of four annual events – as well as The Gauntlet at Bures Pit, there is also Guts’n’Glory on November 18. Visit www.muckyraces.co.uk/events.php for details.