Rachel Havers, @bakewithrachel, is a bit of a botanical baker…

“As I woke on Saturday morning, and remembered it was race day, I can definitely say I felt apprehensive.

I had dragged a few of my close friends down to Kent with me for moral support, and although their friendly teasing about my sanity in agreeing to participate in the race was making me laugh, I was starting to think ‘why did I agree to this? I’m no athlete!’

When we got to Hop Farm – the race site, I was surprised at how many people were there to run. There was a buzz of excitement in the air and everyone seemed happy, which put my mind at ease slightly.

I found the rest of the Grubby Gardeners and the Perennial team having breakfast in a quaint onsite cafe. I had only met a few of the team members before, so I was a little daunted to see so many people, however they all introduced themselves and were so welcoming I instantly felt like one of the team.

After rushing down breakfast, I found myself in the queue for the race, covering myself in race stickers and discussing race tactics… ‘Slow and steady to start, run around everyone at the finish line!’

Next thing I knew, we were off! Sun shining, a breeze in the air, I could get used to this… I thought, until I noticed a group of very muddy people running downstream in a river below us.

We entered a wooded area and the terrain got a lot more bumpy and slippy, I was still thinking it was do-able until the first couple of bogs came upon us. I began by attempting to pick my way carefully through the mud, this was noted by the rest of the team, who all laughed – they knew what was coming.

Soon the bogs became swaps of muddy water, starting at knee high, with one wrong footing turning it into waist deep mud.

I noticed an abandoned shoe floating in one of the pools of muddy water and at this point I realised it was really a ‘go hard or go home’ kind of situation.

I decided that I really wanted to give every challenge the best of my ability, so took to every obstacle with as much strength and determination as I could muster. There was absolutely no hope of me completing the course without a helping hand or two somewhere, however the Grubby Gardeners started as a team and remained as a team throughout, so there was always someone reaching out a hand (or leg) to drag me out of a muddy pit or river – so for that a I give you all a massive thank you!

I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying it all – even the mud! We had a lot of laughs together, the biggest laugh for me being when I slipped and fell chin deep into the dirtiest, swamp-like pool of water. I decided that since I was in it, I may as well swim to the other side and emerged covered in thick, sticky grey mud. It was completely out of my comfort zone but I went with it.

There was a real sense of comradery between everyone, even with runners that weren’t in our team, so the time seemed to pass quite quickly – except when we were forced to drag a tyre for an absurd amount of time – I hated that tyre!

I found myself flagging with the running nearer the end, but I was given so much encouragement from the team that I knew I had to push through. I overheard some spectators, who while watching us clamber through mud and swim through a river, said “look at that girl – she’s STILL smiling” and it realised it was me – I WAS smiling! Even though I was exhausted, I was still having fun – there was no way I was giving up.

Finally, as we were approaching the last field of running and high wall climbing I noticed my friends, beers in hands cheering me on! They promised a drink on completion and that was incentive enough to throw myself over the final 10ft wall with all the strength I had.

We started as a team and crossed the line as a team! I felt amazing!

I can honestly say that the Dirty Dozen 12k Race is the hardest physical thing I have ever done, and I am still feeling so happy with what I achieved, I’m not the fastest, the most confident or athletic but I know I gave it my best shot and that’s all that matters to me.

I’m thrilled with the money we have all raised for Perennial. I personally started with a £200 target but my total is currently around £305. Even though taking part in the Dirty Dozen 12k was all about fund raising for Perennial – I feel as though I owe them, since I enjoyed myself so much and made some fantastic new friends!

I’d like to say another massive thank you to all of the Grubby Gardeners for their help, support and encouragement!

Would I take part in the Dirty Dozen 12k again? ABSOLUTELY!”

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