A hippo on acid: How our PR man took on Irchester Dirt Run

We sent our marketing man and occasional runner Craig Lewis out to take on the mud, rain and slippery slopes of the Irchester Dirt Run last month.

This is his report…

When your tattered trail trainers are slipping deeper into the mud and a fellow competitor strides past you with the words ‘fell runner’ emblazoned on their top, you know it’s going to be an interesting day.

All around me, runners are limbering up, gliding through the mud like some kind of apocalyptic version of Torvill and Dean.

Meanwhile, I am squelching around like a hippo on acid, at once excited to get the Irchester Dirt Run underway and simultaneously wallowing in the apparently glorious, blood cooling brown stuff.

I’ve signed-up to take on the 15k version of the event – there are also five and 10k runs available. It equates to three loops round Irchester Country Park, featuring one rather large hill, a fair bit of undulation all round, and – well – plenty of dirt.

For those looking to take part in future years, it’s worth noting the course reverses each year – today’s was the Uphill version, which basically meant we went up the big, muddy hill. Anyone doing it in future years who fancies the idea of a ‘downhill’ course should get that out of their heads as there are plenty of ups and downs throughout aside from the big one.

And so to the run itself. The first thing to say is that Irchester Country Park is beautiful. It’s a fantastic and peaceful companion as you push yourself along the trails and skip through the mud.

Of course, there are the super speedy so-and-so’s at the front who disappear off into the distance within the first few metres, somehow having no problem gliding over the sodden course to record times mere mortals can only dream about on the track. This being a lapped event, you occasionally get to see these trail gazelles whizz by in the opposite direction on their way to Dirt Run immortality.

Meanwhile, the likes of this mediocre mid-packer can only smile as they slip and slide through the forest. On one spectacular occasion my feet lose traction with the deceitful dirt and I start to slide, like a car with balding tyres on thin ice, careering towards seemingly certain doom. Somehow, via a tortuous twist I didn’t realise my middle-aged body was capable of I manage to correct myself and plough onwards. The mud spattered and stained backs and backsides of other runners suggest they weren’t so lucky.

There are moments within each lap where solid trails greet your feet like an old friend, and even where you are swept downhill. My advice would be to embrace those interludes and take full advantage of their kindness. The mud and rain and hills will be sure to find you again, like your worst hangover ready to welcome you after you’ve endulged in too many good times.

But if all this sounds like trial by trails, fear not. The very muddy hell of the Dirt Run is what makes it so great. You have no choice but to laugh and smile as you trot along. Yes, the joy of physical challenge is there, but so is that of getting out in the countryside, and of being with like-minded lunatics, and of running like a child straight through the biggest puddle because you can.

Before I know it, there I am. Three laps down. Fifteen kilometres done. One pair of trainers that will never be the same. The finish.

A quick shout of recognition from Go Beyond supremo Simon Hollis, and it is all over. No more mud, no more rain, no more uphill.

And, incredibly, stupefyingly, at least one fellow dirt lover with a ‘fell runner’ t-shirt finishing behind me.

Next year is downhill you say?

You can find more information about the Irchester Dirt Run by clicking this link