This weekend I cemented my midlife crisis status by taking part in my first ever assault course/mud run at the age of 39.
As part of a group celebrating a friend’s big 4.0. on Saturday I found myself in a field in Dorking, Surrey, surrounded by hundreds of other weekend warriors in various levels of activity wear at The Nuts Challenge.
Most of our group were ‘mudstacle’ first-timers, choosing the easiest (ha!) 7km option, and training schedules ranged from the odd river run to to 'drinking a bit less Malbec’.
And I think it’s fair to say that most of us entirely underestimated how challenging even the baby course would be, at the same time as overestimating our desire to hang out in freezing cold mud for a prolonged period of time.
To be fair to The Nuts Challenge the pre-race info did warn us not to underestimate the course. And OF COURSE there was mud at a mud run.
But what we expected to be an hour-or-so jogging, paddling and giggling around a muddy wood turned out to be to be over two hours spent navigating over ONE HUNDRED obstacles - including tunnels to crawl UP, army netting to crawl over, logs to scale, tyres to carry, paintball pellets to dodge and hay bales to jump - and most of it spent soaking wet thanks to the streams, puddles, waist-deep pools and even LAKE that we had to traverse. Nobody was laughing much by the end.
48 hours on the shock has subsided but my legs are 50% bruises and it hurts to type. I can still smell the metallic tang of mud (despite showering three times) and I’m yet to decide whether I actually enjoyed it.
BUT I did it, I got the medal (which handily doubles up as a bottle opener) and there’s no doubt that having the right kit made it more bearable. So for any mud run virgins considering taking on a similar slimy challenge here are our wardrobe must-haves as tried and tested in the actual mud this weekend...
THE FIVE MUD RUN MUST-HAVES
1. TRAIL TRAINERS
Footwear designed for trail running with proper tread is absolutely CRUCIAL. This is the one thing that everyone taking part agreed on, and those in the group wearing regular trainers spent most of their time and energy simply trying to stay upright (even on the relatively easy parts of the course) because the ground was so slippy.
You don’t need to spend lots of money on stylish sneaks because they are going to be completely covered in mud within minutes of starting the run, so if this is a one-off event for you then Sports Direct are great for cheaper options like Karrimor and old-season Adidas.
And for those of you considering making this a regular thing (weirdos) or who are bootcamp/outdoor activity regulars then Salomon was the go-to brand for those in the know on the day.
You will be gripping, grabbing, pulling and pushing, as well as dragging yourself and others around so padded gloves are needed. I went fingerless which was an error as I lost feeling in my hands after 90 minutes.
3. NEOPRENE LAYERS
You will be wet for most of the race, and in the UK in March (or at any time!) that's no picnic. The cold rather than any obstacle was the hardest thing to deal with at the Nuts Challenge, but Neoprene layers in the shape of wetsuit jackets or 'shorty' suits (as sported by some clever clogs in the group) as well as gloves and socks will help you stay warm (and long-sleeved base layers are a must).
4. KNEE PADS
It was our knees that took the biggest beating on the day so invest in a pair of pads, as well as elbow and shin guards if you’re particularly bony.
5. A BIT OF TEAM GLAM
There's no escaping the mud... but you may as well start out in style. Matching accessories work to foster team spirit as well as helping to locate each other if anyone falls behind. But don't forget they need to be obstacle and mud-proof: the cheap, bright bandanas that some of our crew sourced online were a winner. And our bright red Glitter Lips lasted the course and made some of the other ‘nutters’ smile when times got tough.
GENERAL MUD RUN/ASSAULT COURSE TIPS
TIP 1: Tie hair back in plaits or a low pony tail as topknots can get stuck in the obstacles
TIP 2: Tie your laces SUPER tight - otherwise footwear will be lost to the bog
TIP 3: Close your mouth when sliding into pools/lakes - you never know how deep they are (or what's in there)
TIP 4: Expect (embrace?) inappropriate gripping/groping from strangers
The Go Nuts Challenge is a Military Assault Course, Mud Run & Obstacle Course held in Dorking, Surrey, twice a year.
The 'More Nuts' course (7km) is recommended as a fun challenge for those with little experience in obstacle racing. Other options include Mixed Nuts (14km), Complete Nuts (21km) and Tough Nuts (28km).
The next races are is on Saturday 2nd/Sunday 3rd September. You can register HERE.