Mud running with Esther Lafferty
"I hadn’t entirely believed them that it was fancy dress, expecting to show up in the minion onesie to find only hardcore trail running obsessives in trim shorts and focused expressions"
This year, like every other, I resolved to eat well, keep fit and maintain my body so that, strolling down the street, people suspect that my day job is ‘supermodel’: I’m sure I could put up with adulation from afar and the paparazzi in Tesco
However, this year, like every other, I’d have had equal success resolving to learn to play the harp one-handed, fly to the moon with Icarus feathers, and invent a Willy Wonka meal tablet that can be mass-produced for a pittance and solve the global challenges of hunger and malnutrition.
I discovered, in January, that I was not fit enough to battle the leisure centre car park which was teeming with resolutions stronger than mine, and so I focused on running in the great outdoors and the invigoration one feels (I’m told) when biting cold air whips through your hair and threatens to freeze your ears clean off.
Suddenly I found myself wrestling with a new challenge, and one I brought upon myself, albeit some time ago. No one told me that a sweet newborn which lay peacefully in my arms would, by his thirteenth birthday, look down upon my 5’9” and find a fondness for running trainers.
While youngsters have the inherent energy and fitness to deal with anything, I’m struggling with the mental challenge of being soundly thrashed by my own offspring who only started jogging at coffee time. With an apparent ease he can disappear over the horizon in the moment it takes me, on leaving the house, to pop the key in my pocket.
While The Middle Son is driven by the purity of ever-diminishing times for a 5km run, I decided it was time to diversify and, with The Significant Other, plunged into a different field of activity. Literally ‘plunged’ and literally ‘field’: mud running.
Out in the country where I live, mud-running is not really a choice: it’s a necessity you have to undertake to get home. However, there’s a growing taste in the UK for tough rural obstacle events for which the online marketing cunningly depicts smiling athletes thigh-deep in molten chocolate. One look at the Dairy Milk and The Significant Other and I were on the starting blocks.
As the field strung out across a swathe of countryside, there was a moment when we couldn’t see any other competitors and wondered whether we’d taken a wrong path and were now causing a great deal of astonishment to a Cotswold farmer watching two skimpily dressed lunatics zigzagging across his land and plunging through his slurry pits. Fortunately, we hadn’t, and after another six miles of cargo nets, kamikaze routes and swamp action, we were back at the car park. What’s not to like?
I was also encouraged by some girls from the local running club to sign up for an equestrian event which involved no riding, but did have a plethora of horse-jumps. I hadn’t entirely believed them that it was fancy dress, expecting to show up in the minion onesie to find only hardcore trail running obsessives in trim shorts and focused expressions. The relief that a tribe of Where’s Wallys and a man in a Mr Incredible morph-suit brought was indescribable.
The Outer Minion, however, was not designed for speed, albeit ideal for curling up on the sofa with a Horlicks. At the first water jump, the fabric transferred buckets of freezing mud solution right up to my neckline, both doubling my bodyweight and reducing my core temperature to sub zero. I didn’t reached the finish line with a record-breaking time, but luckily the official photographer captured the finest moment of my race, a mid-river grapple with an inflatable dolphin. However, while it’s an undeniably striking photo (for a running event), I have to admit it isn’t going to be a good one for the supermodel portfolio. I better put that off, again, until next year.
Esther Lafferty is the organiser of Oxfordshire Artweeks, a visual arts festival, and the oldest open studios event in the UK, involving around 1000 artists and over 400 venues each year. She is married with three children and lives in Faringdon. This hyperactive mermaid lists her hobbies as triathlon, kayaking, dancing, writing, theatre and cryptic crosswords.
Related Articles: Boat building in Oxfordshire