It didn’t occur to me to question why it was called the bog slog. I had signed up to do a mud run and had a romantic notion of skipping through fields with my mates, sun shining down on us as we laughed and joked, creating happy memories. I was in quite good spirits that morning – make up on, hair straightened and all set to get on with it.
A huge group of us signed up for the 5k mud yard mud run to raise money and awareness for brain tumour research. Fin was just 11 when he lost his battle to this killer. 11. No parent should ever bury a child. We’re just not programmed to cope. Many of us watched this pan out from the sidelines unable to find the words or reach out in any meaningful way. I, for one, felt totally useless. I wanted to help – but I also knew that there was nothing I could say or do to ease the pain. So when Fin’s mom, Penny, floated the idea of doing a mud run to raise money for brain tumour research I didn’t think twice. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to feel useful. It turns out that about 60 of our friends, families and fellow villagers felt the same. Awesome.
And let’s face it – how hard could a 5k jog across fields and through woodland really be? It turned out the answer to that question was “bloody hard”. At least that’s the clean answer. The air was blue that day. We should have operated a swear box – it would have raised hundreds of pounds more for our charity. It turned out to be, quite probably, the hardest thing most of us had ever done (childbirth excepted). There were a handful of sporty types amongst us but most were normal 30 and 40 something moms, of average (at best) fitness, having done little or no training or preparation. Because we were stupid.
The warm up nearly finished me off. That should have been a warning but I was still very much in denial at that point. In fact, I was so deeply entrenched in denial that during the warm up I avoided dropping to the grass to do lunges, push ups and anything else that meant touching the ground – just in case I got dirty. Oh how I laughed (through tears*) at this stupidity at the end of the day.
It turns out that the mud that I thought would be ankle deep turned out to be waist deep at times. And no, I’m not joking. There was no running to be had – just wading, plodding and trudging. We heaved ourselves and each other around the course. I had my butt manhandled more times than I can count. Dignity was suspended. We felt (and actually looked sometimes!) like hippos rolling around in a mud bath. When one of us (not me, phew) became stuck fast in the bog, it looked like there were two choices – go and find help or force her to remove the jogging bottoms which were caught deep in the bog and continue in her underwear. She wasn’t too keen on the second option. Fortunately some manhandling – well woman handling – freed the problem limb and we were able to continue with the team fully clothed.
We negotiated cargo nets, floating pontoons, tightropes, tyre walls, black tunnels, water slides (I know that sounds fun. Trust me – it really wasn’t), streams, trees. It really was never ending. The water was often chest deep and icy cold. I’ve never been so cold. And then there was the smell! OMG I’ve never smelt so bad in my life. The swamp smell was all around us constantly. In fact it was all over us. There was no escaping it. We were constantly freezing cold, wet and muddy (understatement) and the course went on and on and on. We climbed, clambered, scrambled, launched, fell and dragged each other around.
It was hell. I can’t convey how truly awful it was. But there were good moments and laughs to be had. The teamwork was epic. We had to work together to get through it. That felt good. We all had moments of utter despair but there was always someone with words of encouragement, a hug or a hand to hold, or a shove from behind to help extraction from yet another bog. And even at the lowest of moments, just taking a second to remember why we were doing it was enough to encourage us get our shit together and carry on.
That feeling of eventually finishing was epic. I wasn’t filled with adrenaline and excitement for all I’d achieved. I was simply relieved that it was over and had made it back in one (very bruised) piece.
It took us 3 hours to get round that 5k course. Fitbits told us that we’d actually done closer to 10k and we never did work out whether we strayed into the longer 10k race by mistake (not as stupid as it sounds – the course marking was pretty bad) or simply zigzagged through the mud so much.
I absolutely will not be doing anything like this again. I’m all for pushing limits – in fact I think that when asking for sponsorship there should be an element of pushing yourself further and harder than ever before. But quite honestly this nearly finished me off. I feel like I earned and deserved every penny of sponsorship made on my behalf – in fact we all did. And the good news is that we raised thousands – the last I heard we’d raised over £15,000 including offline donations. Our Just Giving page (A Mud Run for FJ) is still open so if you never quite got round to donating it’s not too late.
*Pain. Not joy. Not pleasure. Not hilarity. Pure pain.