This weekend hundreds of lunatics travelled to Leisure Lakes in Tarleton to willingly undergo a form of torture: No Ego Challenge, a 10km military obstacle race designed by marine commandos.
At some point around the 10km obstacle course every competitor undoubtedly asked themselves one simple question: ‘Why on earth am I doing this?”
For me it came towards the end of the assault course when I found myself submerged with dozens of strangers in an eight foot drainage ditch trudging hundreds of yards through nipple-high, cockroach infested mud in what felt like a scene from Apocalypse Now.
Except I am no war hero. I am just a clean-freak journalist who was skiving from the office to investigate just why more and more grown men and women choose to pay good money to fling themselves over military obstacles, into muddy trenches and under barbed wire fences in the name of fun.
Never did I think that two hours in I’d be covered from head to toe in sludge, sifting bugs from my ears nursing a bruised and battered body deep in a dark trench pining for the tidy confines of my desk.
But as I trudged on, trying not to think about what nasties lurked beneath the thick mud, it hit me. Events like these tend to start out as individual challenges - cushy jobbed office workers fulfilling their would-be soldier fantasies, middle-aged Top Gear fans testing their endurance, out of shape mums looking for a ‘fun’ way drop a few pounds.
But, ultimately, strong or weak, the mud, sweat and grazed knees level everyone to the same dirty playing field and something beautiful happens: the individual challenge becomes a collective experience.
Everyone starts pulling together, pulling each other over the slippery trenches, over and under the hellish obstacles, with one shared goal to get to the finish line, where perfect strangers are overwhelmed with an addictive mix of exhaustion, euphoria and camaraderie. Come the finish line, there isn’t a sniff of the competitiveness of that pervades the start line - just the sweet smell of mud, sweat and burger van onions.
It’s not for everyone, but where else can grown men and women come together to play in muddy puddles in acceptable society and not get locked away for it. My washing machine won’t thank me, but I’m certainly on the lookout for the next brutal challenge.