I am not sure how others decide what OCR events they want to run or make a priority to take part and race, but for me it’s pretty simple, I love to try new events (large and small scale) and most of all I want to race any event/course that looks amazing and challenging. Rat Race Dirty Weekend fits the bill perfectly; it’s a 20 mile race with over 200 real deal obstacles, so from the moment I learned about it and watched the promo video I was caught, hook, line, and sinker!
I arrived on Thursday and was able to attend the world record attempt on Friday for the most runners in their underwear (which is over 2000 participants/runners). Because so many racers camp out for the entire weekend, there were at least 2000+ people already on site when it came time to attempt to break the record. Everyone in the big tent started to strip down, men had to be in only underwear, but women had the choice of being in a shirt top or bra. Right away, it was clear they had a big turnout, but it didn’t look to be close to even 2000. The crowd didn’t care and everyone (including me) was having a good time. We all went out and ran a 1K course and had a fun time with lots of laughs and smiles. As it turned out we didn’t break the record and had a total of 1146 runners, which was only about half of what was needed.
It is impossible to give an obstacle by obstacle description on this 20 mile course with over 200 obstacles. The course started out with a nice run for what felt like at least a half of a mile and then came to some simple obstacles like climbing over road barricades and a truck flat bed. Not far after this came a road cone carry for a very short distance and then I had to climb through a car that came from the local junk yard.
The course then went for another long trail sprint and it didn’t take long to come to the mile marker for mile # 2. At some point we came to an area that took us into a wooded area and up and over a few knee level barricades. I also came to a mud crawl, which was very muddy and required you crawl very low to the ground. At this point I had started to catch up to some other runners and while crawling through the mud took a sneaker to the face!
The course was designed in a way that some parts were long trail runs and then came area’s that had lots of obstacles packed together in a short distance. This type of set up really challenged all racers and made for a fun time for all 20 miles. The course had sections that had permanent obstacles, which most of the time were larger, harder, and intimidating challenges. This course had pretty much every type of obstacle I have seen over the past year at my 40+ obstacle course races minus a rope climb. I have completed three obstacle course races in England this year and yet to see one rope climb so far.
As the collage photos show, the course had many different kinds of climbing obstacles (tire, wall, rope ladders, wood ladders, etc). The course also included a fair amount of crawling obstacles which always seemed to show up as part of a chain of many obstacles in one section. One obstacle on the course had you pretty much almost entirely under water face up and required you drag yourself across a metal wire type fence (see photo), I personally love water obstacles and almost always dominate them, but even for me, this one gave a moment of a fear as I held my breath and attempted to cross the entire distance but ended up needing to get some air and for just a brief moment feared I wouldn’t be able to fill my lungs with air. If the obstacle got the best of me (even for only a moment), I can imagine how challenging it was for others.
The course had at least three different monkey bar obstacles throughout the 20 miles, but the one that everyone knows and fears is the mega long set. This section of the course has three versions of monkey bars, with one going on for what looks like forever and is also the longest monkey bars in the world. I was able to make it across the first three sections of the mega long one, but that was it. It was amazing to watch some racers make it across the entire mega long one. I was even told someone made it across the entire long version without using the rest area sections, which is amazing when you factor in this is not an early in the course obstacle and as well is part of an area of what had to be 10+ obstacles and this was one of the last ones.
I approached the water area and was told I needed to put on a life vest/PFD. I put the vest on and entered the water, which was cold and with a high wind felt like it had a current. I was doing really good in the water and passed at least 20+ racers before reaching the first float. With the life vest on, it was very difficult to climb out of the water and on to the float without assistance, so I helped the person next to me get on the float and then asked him to give me a hand getting on it as well. I climbed up a few levels on this float and could feel the strong winds, I surveyed the water and I could see a great deal of fear on almost every racers face. I then proceeded to do a dive in the water and made my way to the next float, while swimming to the next one, I realized my little water proof IPOD came off my shirt and was literally dangling in the water just by the headphones cord; I was able to rescue it before it was lost! I didn’t want to lose the MP3 player, so I placed it in my mouth for the rest of this section! With the same assistance as float # 1, I was able to make my way on to the next two floats and both times performed a dive back into the water. It was funny to see some of the faces, as I would come up for air after the dive, as the racers around me clearly thought I was nuts! After exiting the water, if I recall, we then made our way over to a very cool water slide and went right back in the water (MP3 player still in my mouth) and then the course made its way right over to a high cliff jump, which I jumped off the highest point with enjoyment (MP3 player still in my mouth).
The course ended with two obstacles that had racers climb up walls. The first of these two obstacles was basically several stairs built for a giant and 10 meters high, after completing almost 20/13 miles and over 200 obstacles most racers were beat up/exhausted and this obstacle was very difficult without helping each other. I not only enjoyed getting up and over this obstacle, but also being able to help others climb up it as well. I witnessed a fair amount of female racers come to this obstacle and realize they were almost done and this brought them to tears. The second wall obstacle is far smaller and has foot and hand holdings to help get up it, so this one was a lot easier and also the last obstacle of the course!
20 miles and 200+ obstacles seemed to go on and on forever and I enjoyed every part of the course, I loved being able to do obstacles I have never seen or just don't see that often. The course is easily one of the hardest and best OCR’s I have run so far and it’s not just because it’s 20 miles, but due to an amazing assortment of obstacles and challenges the entire time. I wish I could go into more detail about every single challenge/obstacle but I don't remember them all and cannot write an article that massive in size. I suggest looking at the collage pictures included with this article to really get the full understanding of the obstacles and challenges this course had.
The after party was amazing and included several bands with the biggest band being Ash, and then followed by DJ/record mixer Craig Charles that for the most part killed it with good dance music. Everyone was having an amazing time and many of us danced for hours (after just completing a long obstacle course race). For the most part a lot of people got pretty drunk, but I didn’t see any fights or problems throughout the entire after party!
I cannot justify going to England often for an obstacle course race, as it’s expensive and I have to use time off from work, but I felt Rat Race Dirty Weekend was worth it and I am happy to say I would go again knowing what I do now, the course was amazing and one of the best challenges I have had to date. The Rat Race staff puts on a great event and it’s easy to see why they are one of the biggest and best OCR’s in England. I would love to go back in the future for another Rat Race for sure. I also suggest any racers that want to travel across the pond for consider the next Rat Race Dirty Weekend for sure!
The medal is very cool and sexy and the yellow shirt is nice, racers also received a rubber wrist band with their wave number on it which is a nice touch.
Overall event rating:
I ran the first wave of the day (all be it a little late) and didn’t experience that many long lines (the British refer to the lines as queues) on obstacles, but I did make it a point to ask other racers later at the after party what they experienced and most did report some long lines/delays. To be fair, the event had over 6500 participants on the day and is either a 13 or 20 mile course, so it’s easy to understand why some delays would happen. They had if I recall a total of 19 waves from 8 AM to 1 PM so that works out to about 340 runners per wave throughout a five hour span of time, so it’s clear they attempted to keep waves to a number that would help keep the delays down. Based on my experience with the course, after party, and input from other racers, I am rating the event a 4.9 out of 5 stars!
The whole experience from the World Record attempt on Friday, to the race and after party were amazing and I am so happy I went and experienced the weekend. The only thing I would change next time, is I would camp on site to enjoy the event even more! I have to give a shout out and big props to the 30+ racers that successfully completed the Rat Race Dirty Weekend Double Mucker, which was two laps of the course (40 miles and 400+ obstacles). I also cannot end without mentioning Jonathan Albon and his continued domination in the OCR world. He killed this course and his competition and I cannot be the only person that wants to see the two best OCR athletes in the world go head to head early and often. Ryan Atkins and Jonathan need to battle and battle often!