Claire Vokins, @CEVokins, the gardening guru.

“After a year in which I had left a job of 7 years, suffered a triple clot DVT in my right calf and lost my father to cancer I was waiting for something to come along with a positive focus…and it did, in the shape of Andrew Wain. Having met at the Perennial Party, Andy asked if I would like to do an obstacle race to raise money for Perennial. I’d already volunteered for another Perennial fundraiser which hadn’t quite got off the ground, so I said that word; Yes. Andy said it would be fun. Andy said, no worries, you can do this. I believed him. Andy has this power, it’s like hypnosis. Without research (mistake number 1), I found the website for the race, paid my entry fee and signed up. I was now committed. I checked the site for what may be in store. I gulped, I wondered how I could get my money back. Then I thought “No, push yourself, see what you CAN do, and not confirm what you can’t”. This was seven weeks before the race (mistake number 2, more prep time needed). I spent the next 7 seven weeks training twice a week with a personal trainer, trying to get me to some level that may be helpful. Even with all the massive progress made in those 7 weeks, it was nowhere near enough. The night before the 12km, I had to force myself to stop watching online footage of previous DD12km races (mistake number 3). It was freaking me out. There was no way I could do this. I felt sick and was really losing my confidence. So instead I drowned out the negativity with some tunes and psyched myself up. On the morning of the race, I arrived in sunshine to find large crowds of people queuing to get into the races. I had no idea this was so popular. Once I met the rest of the team, along with Laura from Perennial and the ever present Jonathon Ward, I felt a little better. But now, it was here. We were being called to the start line. We were being hyped up by 2 overly energetic women on the stage, shouted at in true Braveheart style “…they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our DIRTY DOZEN GLORY!!!!!!!!” the urge to turn and run in the opposite direction was strong…. Now, I’m not built for speed, and I cannot run. I’ve done 3 half marathons and a 40 mile ridgeway timed competition, but I speed walked all of these. Even a light jog for a period is hard for me, luckily the first of the “non” running sections came up quite soon. A swamp. Ever seen the Neverending Story with the swamp of sadness?? Well this was called the swamp of Despair…mud, mud and more mud. Feet getting sucked down, people losing shoes. Then we came out..YAY..then we went back in..BOO…on and on like this. Then there were the streams…muddy, sometimes deeper than you and out. Getting in was ok, slide down the bank, getting out was another story. I lost all my dignity and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back!!! Big thank you to the guys who pulled me out/pushed from behind…you are stars!! After I while I began to struggle, I was dehydrated and cramping in both calf muscles, so some obstacles I had to miss, I just didn’t have the strength, and I feel bad about this, more than the team would know. Annoyed at myself, berating myself, my mood slipped and I just stomped on and became separated from the team for a while. I perked up at the log carrying, the tyre carrying, the sheep dip, climbing frames. These showed where my training had worked, other parts highlighted my weaknesses. On the tyre carrying section, I came across a young lad who was quite seriously unwell. Totally exhausted, he couldn’t stand up. I had a protein bar in my trouser pocket; I fished it out with muddy fingers and gave it to him. I saw him later in the race, he didn’t do anymore obstacles, but he finished. I also started seeing others who were suffering, and I started to feel a little better about myself. I wasn’t the only one. I had a number of conversations with people who were doing this for the first time…and we all had in common a hate for mud! I waited a bit, and the team came together again, the end was in sight. Again my weakness was apparent on a couple of obstacles, but we all crossed the line together. I am so proud of myself for even attempting this, even without the obstacles it would be hard. I am massively proud of all the team for achieving what they did, and I’m pleased that we raised so much money for Perennial. I have bruises which make me look like I’ve been hit by a bus. My ego is dented from not being able to do some of the obstacles, but deep down I’m seriously pleased I did this. It’s a massive challenge both physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve met some amazing people, and we all have this experience that will bind us in common. Finally, would I do this again??? Actually with continued training, of course. Who wouldn’t?”

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