The best laid plans of rats and men Gang aft a-gley! A tale of hardship, flapjacks and glory at the Rat Race Dirty Weekend (12/5/2018)

5th June 2018 11:38

Written by Rebecca Bennett Senior Research Executive
Early challenges
We had planned for this, we had been drilled... But ALAS! Within 15 minutes of setting off, unexpected challenges hit us like harsh blows: forgotten IDs, tummy bugs, failed rendezvous and vexing car problems conspired against us. We were already one team member down and we hadn’t even left Cheshire – not a great start! But as we tumbled down to Stamford, Radio 1 DJ Dev lifted our spirits with an actual shout out and we felt that things could only get better. WE WERE FAMOUS! 
A couple hours later we arrived at Burghley House for Rat Race Dirty Weekend; a legendary 150 obstacle, 13-mile long course through green fields, muddy forests and large reservoirs.  The team consisted of some of DJS’ core athletes (who are we kidding?!): Danny the MD, researchers Kelly, Becca B, Christian, Claire P, Hannah, Alex M and Simon, and last but not least Steven, solely representing the Ops department. 
After overcoming the first tricky puzzle of the day (how to effectively attach a square timing chip to your shoe lace), we were herded like rats into a festival-like tent that smelt of wet grass and nerves. We were greeted by Mr Motivator Keith and his army pals ‘Craig’ & ‘David’ (was this a joke? We weren’t quite sure…), who got us physically and mentally warmed up for the race.
And then we were off!
“I really hope there isn’t too much running…” sighed Hannah, not even 500m into the course, quite clearly already regretting the day she signed up.
But it all started well; like children gaily running through the wheat fields, we strode over hay bales, crawled under nets, bounced on yellow space hoppers and waded through ball pools. There was even a human sized laundrette full of muddy bubbles and hysterical rat racers! The weather was cloudy and warm, but not too warm, and the bucolic surroundings of gorgeous country halls, yellow fields and farm animals grazing put smiles on our innocent faces. ‘This isn’t going to be so bad!’, we thought... (…like fools)

The next few miles were an exhausting smorgasbord of more running, jumping through tyres, crawling through nets, balancing across beams, more crawling under nets, dancing in disco taxis, crawling under nets, swimming across ponds, crawling under nets, more running… did we mention crawling under nets? Though we did come across a fun net-based obstacle eventually; it was a huge bouncy, spider-web like net in the trees that you had to run over the top of – cue lots of comical falls and fits of laughter! 
Our prayers were answered – it’s food station time!
At around the 5-mile mark, our bones were already starting to ache and more importantly, our bellies were beginning to rumble. After what felt like a lifetime of crawling through nets in a forest, we turned a corner to see the most beautiful sight: rat race volunteers manning long white tables full of delicious treats. We feasted like starved animals on bananas, Jaffa cakes, Skittles, Haribo, crisps and potentially the world’s most amazing high-protein / high-calorie flapjacks – the list goes on! We felt pumped! We felt alive! We felt READY!! But it was time for things to turn WET.
Man vs Lake
After being donned with buoyancy aids, we scrambled impossibly higher and higher up a wooden structure, herded to a seemingly unstable ledge. Standing 7 metres high (around the height of an average house!) and looking down, down, down into a muddy pool of cold water, we were greeted by a large stone-faced volunteer; “Just jump on the count of 3, and don’t land on anybody”. ONE… TWO… THREE….

Steven, disorientated and soggy, stumbled out of the muddy pool of water and slipped on the next obstacle he faced, jarring his shoulder. He was in pain but this didn’t kill his spirit (yet); he carried on like a trooper and the whole team proceeded to the large reservoir. It resembled the total wipe-out course, just a little muddier and less inviting… There were slides, inflatables, rafts, beams, and the first set of monkey bars of the day. 
Hannah slipped on a wooden frame in the water and cut her finger. The water turned an awful crimson around her like a death scene from the film Jaws. But not to fear, Prince Christian came to the rescue and gently tied his bandana around her finger to curb the blood. Disaster averted, time to carry on! 
Cramp mile
After half an hour in cold, dirty water, the reservoir tasks finally came to an end and we found ourselves on dry land. The first mile following the reservoir zone was a sorry sight of large athletic men, clutching their legs in sheer agony crying “CRAMP, CRAAAAAMP”. We just kept running and running, past the crippled rat racers, trying to warm up our bones and muscles while at the same time hoping we had made the correct nutritional choices at the food station to avoid being taken down by that dreaded C word. It was every rat for themselves now. 
A bit of a blur 
Scrambling over high walls made of tyres, climbing up and down adult-sized climbing frames, running up and down mud mounds, wading through pools of mud… the next few miles are a bit of a blur. We were wet and tired and some of us were already dealing with debilitating injuries.
We came across a tough ‘underground’ section that consisted of squeezing through very narrow and pitch-black tunnels. At one point we entered a red phone box and climbed down some ladders, crawled through a tunnel underground to be greeted by volunteers dressed as Darth Vader and other characters, and then climbed back up a ladder to exit through a Tardis… things were starting to get weird and our energy was low. 
After a mile or so of more running, we approached a large white disco tent that had loud music coming out of it, and a pile of water bottles outside of it.  Out of nowhere came Alex, sprinting to the tent, like a man possessed.  He was clearly on a mission and after the Jaffa cakes.  BUT there were no Jaffa cakes, only a few broken rat racers sipping their water in the most depressing party tent that there ever was.  Alex left the tent in fury. “I am absolutely LIVID”” bellowed Alex and he didn’t calm down for quite some time.
Making up the numbers
We picked up the pace once more, knowing we only had 3 more miles to go, and soon passed a sign stating ‘Tough Mudder ends here’. What a kick in the teeth! Though in a twisted way this sign was encouraging, we knew we were pushing ourselves harder than we have ever done as a team. 
It was obvious that the organisers of Rat Race were running out of ideas for obstacles by this stage; about a mile of the end of the course consisted of carrying various objects around in circles and putting them back down again (sand bags, traffic cones, buckets, water carriers, logs, barrier stands, bars). It would have been more useful to make us push a lawnmower around to be honest; the grass really could have done with a good cut.

The final stretch!

Hoorah! We had reached another food station with plenty treats, and we only had a couple miles to go. The heavens opened and we had to get back into the reservoir, so much for drying off! 
The final 3 obstacles provided a challenging yet fun end to 13 miles of torture; a gladiator’s style travellator and two huge inflatable slides that flew you down into a pool of mud at what felt like the speed of light!


We did it!! 
A mere 5 hours, 53 minutes and 52 seconds after waving goodbye to Keith in the warm-up tent, we finally crossed the finish line! Battered, bruised, scratched and sore, but proud and elated to have made it to the end. 
It is true that the best laid plans of rats and men aft go aglay, but the best keep going anyway. Tough Mudder and Rat Race COMPLETED, what next?!... 

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