Rough Runner competitors

Down and dirty

Obstacle endurance racing is growing in popularity, so we decided to lace up our trainers and hit the muddy track in the name of journalistic integrity…

Rough Runner competitors getting ready next to the Audi A4 Saloon

Hurtling down a muddy 50ft chute probably wasn't what my girlfriend Natalina had in mind when she agreed to come away with me for a day in the countryside. But it's too late to turn back, and after coming round a bend, she splashes head-first into a large pool of freezing brown water.

Moments later I arrive and bump into her while attempting, in vain, to keep dry. We're both sodden but laughing hysterically as we pick ourselves up. Natalina jogs off a few paces before turning back to beckon me: 'Come on slow coach,' she calls with a grin on her face. 'I bet I beat you to the next challenge!'

We are taking part in Rough Runner: an endurance obstacle race where participants complete a cross-country running course scattered with a series of obstacles. It involves climbing, crawling, rolling, jumping, sliding and splashing on, under and over a wide array of inflatable structures through copious amounts of mud and water.

For some people it probably sounds like their idea of hell, but believe it or not, thousands are now paying to take part in similar events each weekend all over the country. Hundreds of different companies offer their own individual take on the formula, which ranges from hard-core military-style events with barbed wire, ice baths and electroshocks, to more light-hearted affairs such as Rough Runner, where the obstacles are inspired by popular television shows such as Gladiators and Total Wipeout.

'Our main priority is for people to have fun,' explains Rough Runner founder and CEO Jonathan Geitner. 'We give our participants the chance to try out things you can’t get anywhere else. It's not made for record-breakers and we don't time our run, the most important thing is that people try something new and finish with a smile on their face.'

Rough Runner holds a series of events in different locations around the UK, including Sussex and Oxfordshire, but today we have driven up to Ashley Hall in Cheshire at the helm of the new Audi A4 Saloon. The car is kitted out with plenty of official Audi accessories to help protect it from dirt, including rubber floor mats, a rubber boot liner and a load lip to protect the car's bumper.

These turn out to be invaluable. By the time we cross the finish line we’re almost unrecognisable – soaked to the bone and covered from head to toe in dirt. Despite the October sun, we quickly cool down as we change out of our muddy clothes, and a hot coffee from the Audi mobile espresso maker is a welcome treat to set up the long drive home.

Written by John Silcox; Photographs by Tom Cockram. Special thanks to Abbas Al-Samsam at Audi West London for his expert advice on the accessories.


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Rough Runner competitors running in a corn field

Rough Runner competitor running along an obstacle course

Rough Runner competitor hanging from obstacle course rings

Rough Runner competitor hanging from obstacle course

Muddy trainers on the Audi A4 Saloon car mat

Rough Runner competitors completing obstacle course

The Audi A4 Saloon parked next to the Rough Runner obstacle course