20 October 2020

Event review: Rat Race Dirty Weekend

May 20, 2013
Event review: Rat Race Dirty Weekend

Around 5,500 participants came, saw and conquered the World’s Largest Assault Course in May by taking on 20 zones including 200 obstacles over a 20 mile route that weaved its way through the beautiful Burghley House estate in South Lincolnshire.


The Dirty Weekend is organised by events company Rat Race, who also run other endurance and obstacle races across the country including The London Urban Rat Race, The Soldier Challenge and The Mighty Deerstalker to name but a few. There were two race options on offer; the Half Mucker, 13 miles made up of 150 obstacles, and the Full Mucker being 20 miles of 200 obstacles. The event was available to compete individually or in teams of 5 or 10. Myself and two friends entered individually but decided to run it together.

The whole event was officially named the world’s biggest assault course but also included some Guinness World Record breaking obstacles including 110m of monkey bars! Another unique element of the event was the fact it spanned across the whole weekend with a huge after-party on offer to celebrate the many official as well as personal records being broken.

The Course

The course was separated into 20 main zones housing the majority of the obstacles. These zones followed themes that many of the events Rat Race run in their event series. The first zones, the ‘Car Park’ and ‘School Daze’, acted as good warm-up’s and served as an indicator of what was to be expected. First up we had to clamber our way through cars that had had most of their interior removed or flattened, then we had to negotiate our way through an inflatable assault course past several rugby players clutching tackle pads trying to block our way.

dirtyW_785For the next few zones we headed into the woods. Starting with the ‘Trailblazers Zone’,  we had to navigate our way through a narrow trail, ducking, diving and jumping under and over trees. In the “War Zone’ we found ourselves climbing up and crawling under some long cargo nets, scrambling under wooden tunnels and wires deep in mud emerging covered head to toe in the stuff!

It was hard to run carrying so much extra weight with the mud heavy on our clothes, but our prayers were soon answered as we turned to meet the ‘River Rat Zone’. This provided an opportunity to get clean(ish) by wading through the water and crawling through a tunnel submerged up to half way in water.

After the river section was one of the longest run sections, about 5 miles. Just as we had re-found our rhythm and managed to dry off, we saw the words ‘Mud Run Zone’ in large letters. This involved attempting to run through and getting face down in mud, scrambling under cargo nets, climbing through tyres, climbing over walls and balancing on beams. It was a tough section and we were incredibly grateful that there was a water stop shortly after it.

After climbing ducking and diving our way around the scaffolding obstacles in the ‘Construction Zone’, we had another opportunity to get clean as we met water again in the form of a reservoir in the ‘Water Wipe Out Zone’. This involved us swimming across the reservoir (which was very cold) and jumping off a platform from a very high level (I was too tired to hear what height it was from at this point), and finally we had reached the half-way point.


We found ourselves leaving the open landscape to again embrace the woodlands for some free running in the ‘Parkour Zone’ followed by obstacles high up in the tree-line in the ‘Éwok Village’. It reminded me a lot of Go Ape with very similar obstacles such as balancing on netting, roped ladders and wooden beams to get from one lookout building to another.

After embracing country life in the ‘Farmer Giles Zone’ by leaping over hay bales and negotiating tractors, we had just about managed to dry off when we were reunited with the ‘River Rat Zone’ again on the way back, yet this time instead of running though it we were met with inflatable obstacles spread across from one river bank to the other. This reminded me a lot of the TV programme ‘Total Wipeout’ and was great fun! As soon as we made it across we were in the hustle and bustle of the centre zones, which were intelligently grouped together to allow spectators to watch and support participants without having to go too far. This, the ‘Biggest, Baddest, Boldest Zone’ has the 110m monkey bar Guinness World record challenge. The atmosphere was fantastic and there were fairly large crowds egging participants on to try and make it. Out of the 5,500 participants, only 3 managed to defeat the challenge.


You couldn’t go to Burghley and not have a zone without some reference to the Horse Trials. We then galloped our way through the ‘Burghley Horseplay Zone’ jumping too many fences to reference. Some you could achieve on your own, some you needed to team up with other participants to help lift/pull you over.

The final zones included the fittingly entitled ‘Chariots of Fire’ and the ‘Final Furlong’ which involved wading through another small river, jumping through several runs of tyres, negotiating beams and fences. And finally, they couldn’t have a flat finish, the last part required covering more vertical distance than horizontal with 1-2m high steps and beam ladders undulating up and down all the way to the finish.

The event winner managed to complete the course in an astonishing 2 hours and 50 minutes. My friends and I managed to complete the course in 4 hours and 36 minutes. The feeling when we reached the finish line was of astonishment, self-hate (why did I put myself through this?!) and a huge sense of accomplishment.


Above: Clarissa Goodwin (centre)

Would I do it again?

I certainly would, especially as I believe this event has real potential as both a physical challenge with an excellent social element. This year was the first time the event has been held, and once the organisers have addressed a few of the teething problems, this could be a great challenge for anyone. I would suggest doing this as a team rather than as an individual, as this is an event to test team work and provides a great platform for team bonding. There are also some obstacles that require you to help each other to get over. I would stress that this is not a challenge you should take on without having done some type of shorter distance obstacle course first so you know what to expect.

Good Points

– Good distance between the challenges which broke up the 20 miles into nice manageable chunks

– Good communication pre-event

– Varied route and stunning location

– Event village had a great atmosphere at the start and finish. The fact they had centered a group of zones round Burghley House made it spectator friendly, allowing friends and familly the opportunity to support participants and access the amenities the Estate has to offer as a day out in itself.

– Good post-race pack and entertainment

– Event marshals were fantastic, providing excellent guidance, support and much needed morale at obstacles

Bad Points

– Queues at many of the obstacles due to only having 15 minutes between the start waves

– Too few toilets

– Water stations were under staffed and had very little food or drink on offer. There was also an incredibly amount of litter around them. The water stations were spread too far apart, there really should have been another one in between.

Want to give it a go?

You can already enter for the 2014 event on the official Dirty Weekend website. If this event seems too much too soon you can take a look at other events in the annual Rat Race series – good luck! More info: www.ratrace.com

Clarissa Goodwin, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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