Like most 10-year-olds, Flea has a thirst for adventure that makes me proud while equally making me want to cry a bit – as a single Mum, I’m often dragged along for the ride against my better judgment.
However, good news – this summer your kids can get filthy on an adventure all of their own, and grown-ups are not required to join in (although you can if you’d like to…)
Earlier this month, Flea and I headed down to London to the Tough Mudder race taking place near Henley-on-Thames. Our challenge wasn’t the Tough Mudder, a 10-mile race that includes obstacles that involve jumping into iced water or being electrocuted – but rather the junior version of that challenge, the Mini Mudder.
Now in its second year, the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder is a Tough Mudder style challenge with all the mud and none of the near-psychotic violence of the adult version. Sponsored by Robinsons, the Mini Mudder is suitable for kids aged 7 to 12, and takes place around the country throughout the summer – check out the Mini Mudder website for details of races near you.
We arrived in Henley in good time for our meet-up time of 11am – kids in the Mini Mudder run in hourly groups, and the races can get busier later in the day, so it’s a good idea to shoot for an early start time if you can.
I’d never really heard much about Tough Mudder but these events are HUGE with tens of thousands of participants. When you arrive on site, it’s a bit like a festival – there are food stands and refreshment stalls, and screens and sponsors and that sort of thing. You pay a small fee to spectate and another to participate, and everyone is given a wristband that allows them access to the event. Family tickets for Mini Mudder with two kids participating and two adult spectators cost £25.
It’s definitely worth a day out – certainly, there’s a lot of fun to be had just absorbing the atmosphere. The guys and women running the adult race are completely psyched up and Flea had a blast watching them jumping off high ropes and crawling under live electrical wires, with hilarious commentary from the on-site announcers all the while.
Once we arrived, it was fairly simple to register and get Flea’s race number – although you WILL need to sign some fairly scary looking disclaimers before you’re allowed to participate or spectate. The kids’ race is set just off to the side of the main start line, and you’ll need to register again here after registering at the main gate.
Once your allotted time comes around, the kids are whisked off for a warm-up session with some activity coaches, and then the race begins. It’s set up so parents can basically be on the sidelines all the way round the course, offering encouragement and the odd helping hand if needed.
Actually, the course is mostly based around the idea that kids love to get dirty. REALLY dirty.
There are mini versions of some Tough Mudder obstacles like the Mud Mile, which involves crawling through a series of shallow ditches filled with muddy water, and sliding through tunnels, landing in another ditch. Or the hero walls – a sort of vertical half-pipe that kids need to work together to scale, especially once it’s slippery with mud.
The course itself is a quarter of a mile long with about 10 obstacles, and the children do four laps, meaning they’ll need to run a mile in total. It’s short enough to be manageable for even younger children, but long enough to feel like an achievement.
I really liked that the Mini Mudder is described by all the staff as a ‘challenge’ not a race – there’s no pressure on kids to win, or to beat each other, the challenge is to work as a team and for everyone to finish, with a little help, if needed. There are on-site stewards who will also give kids a little helping hand where needed.
For Flea, though, the fun was in just how filthy she could get in the space of 40 minutes. And the answer is… completely filthy.
Fortunately for my car upholstery, there are huge shower platforms that are basically rigging with hosepipes attached, where kids can strip down while you give them a good wash down.
Top tip: do remember to bring big sacks to dump the dirty clothes and shoes, a towel to dry off, and some clean clothes to put on afterwards. Be warned in advance, this is not your local gym’s changing room. It’s a platform, in the middle of a muddy field, with cold water from hoses, and pretty much zero privacy. There are some privacy barriers for ladies/gents changing, but set your expectations accordingly would be my advice. This is a rough and ready set-up.
If you’d like to explore the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder with your family, events are taking place in Scotland (June), Yorkshire (August), the South West (August) and in London and the North West (September). Check out the website for more details.
Want to see more? Here’s Flea’s vlog of her experience running the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder:
Disclosure: We were invited to attend the Mini Mudder as guests of Robinsons Fruit Shoot and our expenses were covered in attending this event. However, the mud and disgustingness you see in this post is 100% genuine. And it smelled so, so bad.