SOME loved it, many loathed it, and others participated out of duty – but few adults ever forget their early experiences of cross country running.

For the elite, the sport provided an excellent opportunity to win school representative honours at local or national level – while at the other end of the scale, the less willing had ample practice in strolling through fields, taking short cuts, and forging sick notes for PE lessons.

Of course, the concept of cross country running at both junior and senior level is still very much alive today – but in the ever evolving world of demanding endurance events, a new phenomenon has now emerged.

Like many I suspect, prior to this feature my experience of a ‘mud run’ extended to flicking through online photos of race goers smiling their way to the finish line, while wearing sports clothing caked in grit and dirt.

Furthermore, my perception of it was jogging through marshy land, splashing in a few puddles, and hurdling over the occasional hay bale.

Therefore, it’s fair to say I was given a rude awakening when on one foul winters day, I accepted an invitation from my old friends down at Man-up UK, Fintan Godkin and Carwyn Richards, to trial run their course ahead of the much anticipated ‘Man up in the mud’ event in December.

The bi-annual race begins and ends at Pwllcaerog Farm, the home of Celtic Camping, and incorporates obstacles on Trecenny and Caerhys Organic farms as well.

I learnt that with the help of Celtic Camping owner Ian Griffiths, Fintan and Carwyn had set up a 10 kilometre course that included ice cold lakes, trenches, and barbed wire fences. Suddenly, the prospect of breezing around a few farm fields at three quarter pace became that little bit harder.

My first question for Fintan was an obvious one, why had a concept that appeared so gruelling and unruly, ultimately become so popular?

“It’s a physical activity that is a bit different and can be tackled in so many ways,” he said.

“Obviously it presents a personal challenge for individuals – and although we don’t have winners as such in our mud runs, everyone who takes part is timed.

“But more importantly, it’s a bit different and can be a lot of fun. Although some people will choose to run around at a fast pace, others will jog or walk the course with friends and just enjoy it.

“We have people who take part in fancy dress – and groups who go round together for a bit of a laugh or some team bonding.”

Indeed, support for the event has risen dramatically since Man up-UK’s inaugural mud run in December 2013, and Fintan explained that entrants now included returning competitors of all ages, as well as those who travelled from much further afield than St Davids or Pembrokeshire.

“We’ve had great backing.

“Not just from the competitors – but from Ian (Griffiths) and other local landowners.

“Proceeds from our mud run events currently go towards the proposed Ysgol Dewi Sant sports tour in late 2015 – and as a result we have a great deal of youngsters from the school, as well as St Davids RFC and Porthmawr Surf Lifesaving Club, helping to marshal and guide people around.”

But how do you keep the event appealing and original?

“Designing the course is a constant process,” admitted Fintan.

“After every mud run we get feedback and make changes to both the route and the obstacles. It is important that people aren’t doing the same run every time they take part.”

Mind you, as I set out in the driving wind and rain, simply surviving the course, and not the originality of the 10 kilometre route, was my primary concern.

The opening moments were straight forward enough, as despite underestimating the nuisance of cold water on my newly shaved head, a bit of adverse weather was nothing I hadn’t encountered before in west Wales.

But a less than graceful crawl through the opening ‘trench’, soon negated any sense of confidence.

With my stomach muscles pulling in all directions, and my face planted in the mud, I emerged with considerably less energy than before I had gone in – and with clothes that would need more than a customary spin in the washing machine afterwards.

This became a common theme with every hindrance I encountered – from forcing myself under logs, climbing through barbed wire fences, hurling over hay and straw bales, or wading through pools of water. Each proved physically draining, and avoiding the dirt was simply not an option.

Furthermore, when it came to guiding myself through the lake, I realised I had made a grave rookie error.

Justifiably concerned about the impact of the course on my newly acquired white trainers, I had chosen a shabby blue pair; with the view to sending them out with the following week’s garbage should they be ruined.

But the decision to neglect sturdy footwear came back to haunt me as my feet sank deeper and deeper – and the thick grime and water came perilously close to removing each shoe. Not only was I up to my chin in freezing water, I was quite literally, stuck in the mud.

Eventually, some impromptu doggy paddling saw me to the other side, and once I had adapted to the unfavourable conditions, not to mention nettle stings, – adrenaline helped me through the final few stages.

However, not before I had to go through a strategically placed skip just yards from the finish line, and duck my head into what I suspect was slightly more complex than purified water.

At the conclusion, I acknowledged the run had been a real challenge – but at the same time, a thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling one.

“People do take part just for fun but you also have to be prepared to challenge yourself,” said Fintan.

“It can be very demanding and tests your stamina and core strength. Whether you choose to run or walk around the course, you do have to be ready to put the effort in otherwise you’ll be caught out.”

He’s not wrong, but the sense of satisfaction at finishing, and no doubt the opportunity to have fun with friends as you tackle the various surprises thrown up, far outweighs the inconvenience of needing a prolonged shower afterwards.

And sure enough, the week after my ‘trial’, more than 100 people took part in ‘Man up in the Mud’ – while many have already booked their place at the Really Wild Mud Run in May, which will again be hosted by Celtic Camping alongside the Really Wild Food Festival.

To anyone considering it, irrespective of whether it be for competitive purposes or enjoyment, I fully recommend taking the challenge.

But wear proper trainers, whatever you do.

Later this year Man-up UK will team up with Celtic Camping to host the The Really Wild Mud Run, that takes place on Saturday, May 23 at 12pm. This will be the fourth mud run organised by the company, and again, the route and obstacles will be different. Entry is £23 per person, which includes a free event t-shirt, and entry into the Really Wild Food Festival which is also taking place at the venue that weekend. To enter, or for more information on other Man-up Uk events in 2015, visit