Benjamin William-Pope, @benjaminTWG, the true meaning of a Grubby Gardener!

“With all the dry weather of late, there was some doubt in my mind as to whether there would be any mud; in hindsight this should have been the least of my worries! The race, appropriately named the ‘Dirty Dozen’ is set in the rolling hills of Kent, where low lying fields meet deciduous woodland, crisscrossed by a network of streams and drainage channels. The result is mud…a lot of MUD!

The race is twelve kilometres in length, mainly consisting of wading through water and mud, sometimes with the company of a log or tyre on your back. The objective is to jog, climb, swim, crawl and generally struggle from one obstacle to the next until you reach the finish line. In places it’s physically gruelling or mentally challenging and if the various wooden barriers and mud baths don’t tire you out, then the freezing water and cold wind will.

So I guess the logical question is why? Well firstly there are two obvious answers: The Challenge and The Cause.

The Challenge being to test one’s self by jumping out of your “Comfort Zone”. To see how you cope when exposed to physical and sometimes mental stress. I see this as a positive thing, a time when you discover new things about yourself, whilst gaining a sense of achievement and pride, not to mention the feeling of being truly alive (amazing what a dip in a cold stream can do!)… And in this case, perhaps a little crazy!

Then there is The Cause. For the Grubby Gardeners this is the charity Perennial, an organisation that helps everyday people within the horticultural community, giving advice, assistance and support when needed. It is a charity that I truly believe in and have personally witnessed the benefits it can bring to peoples’ lives.

Though perhaps a more personal reason for attending the race was the fact I got to relive those happy childhood memories of playing in the local brook and ‘baking’ mud pies, a privileged upbringing I know!

On the morning of the race I arrived at the site ready to meet all the other “Grubbies”. Our pre race rendezvous was a small café at the entrance of the site, serving all the usual drinks and treats. It was great to see a few familiar faces, as well as meet some new ones. Jovial chatting, laughs and smiles ensued as the pre-race nerves diminished. However all too soon it was time for us to register, change and warm up before the race.

So with my fellow teammates by my side we set off. It soon became clear that this was a race for “The Team” to win. Being different heights, sizes and abilities meant that we relied on each other for support. At every turn there was a helping hand, a friendly shove or some words of encouragement from other “Grubbies”. One by one we completed each obstacle with the rest of the team always close by to help and cheer. A few hours later we all crossed the finish line together… a little cold, slightly battered and bruised, but smiling at the fact we had survived the race.

The last few hours of the day were spent celebrating our success with a pint and some pub grub. Still smelling very much like a pond, we relaxed in the warmth and comfort of the pub, regaling tails of our afternoon’s muddy encounters.

As the day drew to a close we all left the race with a few bruises, cuts and scrapes. Old friendships had been forged a little stronger whilst some new ones had begun.

For myself it was definitely the “team” aspect that left the biggest mark. It felt great to be part of such a friendly bunch and knowing that when you were literally ‘stuck in the mud’ there was always a helpful hand near by.

I would like to thank the all the “Grubbies” and organisers at Perennial for making this event happen, along with all the kind support and donations from friends, families and colleagues. It’s great to know a charity like perennial exists, ready to help any of us if things get too difficult in our own mud race…!’”

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