To­bias Mews dis­cov­ers there are no ob­sta­cles that ro­mance can’t over­come

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

When I told Zayne, my long-suf­fer­ing other half, that I was tak­ing her to Burgh­ley House, one of Eng­land’s finest El­iz­a­bethan coun­try es­tates, for a dirty weekend, she prac­ti­cally purred with de­light. What I per­haps failed to elab­o­rate on was the ex­act na­ture of our ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar. Now, you can throw sticks at me if I’m wrong, but when go­ing on a date, it would be fair to say most women (and men, for that mat­ter) don’t like be­ing wet, cold, hun­gry or tired. Nor do they ex­pect to emerge from said “date” bat­tered, bruised, cov­ered in mud and look­ing like they’ve been dragged through a bush. So, when I dropped the bomb­shell that our “Dirty Weekend” was, in fact, the world’s largest as­sault course, the purring was re­placed by a very fe­line scowl. In­spired by mil­i­tary train­ing ex­er­cises, ob­sta­cle course races have be­come all the rage over the past four or so years, al­though they’ve been around for much longer. The first time I looked an as­sault course in the eye was in 2003 as a rookie of­fi­cer cadet at the Royal Mil­i­tary Academy, Sand­hurst. In those days, it was my job to be able to leap over walls and crawl through ditches. To­day, I can do it for fun. We ar­rived at Burgh­ley to a scene vaguely rem­i­nis­cent of Glas­ton­bury: a gi­gan­tic mar­quee com­plete with mu­sic stage, beer and food tents, and camp­ing fa­cil­i­ties. In the cen­tre was the most enor­mous ob­sta­cle – a ver­i­ta­ble sky­scraper of three 8ft walls. At first look, I thought I’d need a stair climber to get over just one; I knew that Zayne and I would have to ne­go­ti­ate all three to be able to call our­selves “Full Muck­ers”. Al­though “ro­man­tic” wasn’t per­haps the word she had in mind when I told her the de­tails of the race and how we’d be shar­ing our date with 3,500 oth­ers, we both agreed there’d be plenty of op­por­tu­nity to get dirty. Very dirty. More­over, at 20 miles long and con­tain­ing 200 ob­sta­cles – in­clud­ing a world record­break­ing set of 395ft-long mon­key bars – I felt this was one event we’d have more fun run­ning to­gether than apart. To avoid con­ges­tion on the course, we opted to be in the “elite” first wave. Within 10 min­utes we’d al­ready scram­bled through wrecked cars, jumped a se­ries of gi­ant hay bales, played on a bouncy cas­tle and leop­ard-crawled through a ditch full of muddy wa­ter. And that was the easy bit. Over the next three-and-ahalf hours, we passed through the 20 zones in dazed shock, weary but smil­ing cheer­fully none the less. We trail-blazed through a wood, waded across a lake where the bot­tom was like a quag­mire, trudged through a mud run, jumped off a 12ft high plank, swam across a sec­ond lake full of ob­sta­cles akin to To­tal Wipe­out, clam­bered over horse jumps, and did a form of park­our in a con­struc­tion site. By the time we got to the mon­key bars, I didn’t feel much like run­ning an­other 120me­tres, let alone swing­ing for that dis­tance. So we opted for the slightly shorter, chicken route that had us jump­ing over bar­ri­ers – which was a core work­out in it­self. As the mile mark­ers ticked by and the gaps be­tween the com­peti­tors grew, Zayne and I helped each other – I’d give her a leg up, or she’d give me a tug, as we got over ob­sta­cle af­ter ob­sta­cle, pulling each other out of the wa­ter, shout­ing words of en­cour­age­ment and laugh­ing hap­pily at each other’s muddy ap­pear­ance. Fi­nally, we came to the se­ries of walls. They served as a clear re­minder that ob­sta­cle-course rac­ing is more fun – and more do-able – as a pair or part of a team than separately. Un­less you’re well over 6ft or have Spi­der­man dex­ter­ity, you’d strug­gle to get over the walls on your own. Per­haps you’d make the first, but by the sec­ond and third the puff sim­ply leaves your body. Com­peti­tors have to give each other a leg up to con­quer these beasts. And lend a hand they do. As we crossed the fin­ish line, we were ready to col­lapse. Sod­den, cold, bruised, di­shev­elled and cov­ered with mud, we clutched our medals and gave each other an enor­mous hug, be­fore head­ing back to Lon­don on the train. It wasn’t quite what Zayne had ex­pected, but we both agreed it was one of the best dirty week­ends ever. Visit ra­ to en­ter Dirty Weekend 2015 or one of their other 16 events this year

In­sep­a­ra­ble: Zayne and To­bias get down and dirty on the 20mile Burgh­ley as­sault course

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