The world’s largest assault course returns to Stamford next month - as organisers prepare to unleash five hair-raising new obstacles.
The Rat Race Dirty Weekend takes place at Burghley House on Saturday, May 6, and features 20 miles of mud, cargo nets, tunnels, slides and freezing cold water, amid 200 obstacles guaranteed to obliterate muscles and shed nerves.
And now the race’s founder Jim Mee has added a handful of hellish new features, while making other existing challenges even tougher.
If you plan to compete, you’re going to need a head for heights.
This year, brand new for 2017, Dirty Weekend will debut a slide that’s five storeys high, a Gladiators-style uphill ‘travelator’ moving walkway, and a foam feature dubbed ‘The Washing Machine’.
More frightening yet is ‘The Rollercoaster’, a 20 ft high, 200 ft long balance bar obstacle that sees competitors snaking through the tree-tops along a wooden gangway less than 1 ft wide.
Rat Race will also be unveiling what they say is the Britain’s biggest ball pool - an obstacle voted for by the readers of mud-run website ‘Mudstacle’ and which will be filled with a whopping 50,000 plastic spheres.
Meanwhile a Dirty Weekend mainstay - a jump from a platform into a man-made lake, called ‘Take The Plunge’ - is getting a makeover, too.
Rather than plummeting a mere 20ft into the drink, the free-fall will be increased to 30ft.
Jim explains: “With over 200 challenges spread over a punishing 20 mile distance, Dirty Weekend is already the world’s biggest obstacle course.
“But we don’t rest on our laurels.
“Which is why we’re unveiling a host of new obstacles for 2017.
“We don’t want to spoil the fun by revealing too much at this point.
“But what we will say is that racers - or ‘Muckers’, as we call them - will be either jumping, swinging, swimming, climbing….or crying when it comes to the big day.
“Our new obstacle ‘The Rollercoaster’ is going to be particularly challenging. It’s high, and extremely exposed, and will take on an even tougher character when caked in slippery mud.
“There will be equipment on the ground to protect against a fall, but the fear-factor remains. I’m a mountaineer, and good with heights, but I definitely felt a little light-legged during testing!
“But, for us, it’s all about pushing the envelope, coming up with wacky new ideas to entertain the Muckers, and to make it exciting for the people who return to Dirty Weekend year after year.”
Dirty Weekend first launched in 2013 and has long been associated with world firsts.
It’s home to the world’s longest set of monkey bars, a 427 ft test of stamina that comes 11 miles into the event, when competitors are already sodden and fatigued.
In 2015 Rat Race attempted - but unfortunately failed - to set a new world record for the most amount of people running a separate 1km race…in their underpants.
And in 2017 Rat Race are gearing up for another world first, as they seek to break the record for the ‘The World’s Biggest Backwards Three-Legged Race!’
Jim added: “Everyone who joins us at 7pm on Friday for the Backwards Three-Legged Race will get a free half pint when they cross the finish line, and can then join in the merriment with music to get pumped up for Saturday morning.
“As you can imagine, it’s quite an obscure record.
“But that plays into our hands, because the record currently stands at around 300. We’re hoping to absolutely smash that.”
Meanwhile it’s hoped that about 7,000 racers, from all over the world and representing almost 40 different countries, will have enough energy to enjoy the world-famous afterparty. The evening event will be headlined by pop rockers The Hoosiers alongside dance legend Judge Jules and will take place in a Big Top tent.
The average runner will burn around 3,845 calories during the course of 20 miles, and fast racers will be looking to complete the course in about three and a half hours.
And for the truly hardy, there’s the ‘Dirty Double Ultra’, in which participants complete two laps, covering 40 miles in distance and a staggering 400 obstacles.
One of those to have run the ‘Double’ is ultra runner Darren Grigas, a 39-year-old father of two from Peterborough, says Dirty Weekend ‘gets better each year’.
Darren, who recently ran the notoriously-treacherous ‘Marathon des Sables’ covering 156 self-sufficient miles across the Sahara desert, said: “Each year Rat Race adds new obstacles to the Dirty Weekend, and each year it just keeps getting better and better.
“Some so-called mud runs charge £70 for a 5km sprint. They’ve become a bit boring - old hat.
“But with Rat Race you’re getting so much bang for your buck - especially if you’re doing it twice - because it’s such a big event.”
Now Darren plans to run this year’s event with his 16-year-old son, Ethan.
For those with younger children the ‘Young Muckers’ event will again take place for the third year.
It’s open to those aged between eight and 15, and there’s either a 3km or a 6km race to enter, with the longer one comprising around 20 obstacles.
The only tickets left are entry on the day which for the Young Mucker is £35, with £5 of that automatically going to the event’s nominated charity Children with Cancer UK.
Jim added: “Here at Rat Race, we’re really keen for our events to be family oriented.
“And fatherhood has certainly changed my perception when it comes to adventure events.
“I’ve two children myself - one who’s three-years-old and the other who is five months old - and becoming a parent has made me realise just how important it is for our races to be inclusive.”
Visit www.ratrace.com to find out more.
l Are you taking part in the Rat Race or Young Mucker? Tell us by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org