“It gets a lot worse!” Called the volunteer at the side of the obstacle.
“How?!” I exclaimed. I was on my stomach crawling through puddles under a muddy net on a wet, arctic October morning. How could things possibly get any worse?!
“Because this happens...” The volunteer cackled, brandishing a hosepipe and spraying me with freezing cold water.
I could almost hear my Grandma Barbara’s trademark booming laughter overhead. The thought of her hearty chuckle sparked my own giggles and reminded me just why I was spending my Saturday slithering around in mud...
On Saturday 2nd October 2021, I was honoured to take part in the amazing Cancer Research UK Pretty Muddy 5k at Tatton Park in Knutsford, Cheshire. 🎀
Now I’ll be honest – I’m the sort of weedy person who shivers with cold in 50 degree tropic heat, so I had no hope on this bloody Baltic Autumn day! Not only was it absolutely glacial, but it was also pouring down and blowing a gale.
In hindsight, it was a complete waste of time that I spent a good 15 minutes meticulously applying pink glittery eye shadow for the occasion... Somewhere in the depths of my misguided mind, I’d imagined myself skipping across the finish line resembling Lara Croft with mildly mud-speckled legs...
The reality was that I had to shuffle through Knutsford draped in a towel looking as if I’d barely survived 10 rounds with a particularly aggy compost heap.
“We could go to the Botanist!” My husband suggested as we walked along King Street after the event.
I cast a glance towards the Botanist, where glowing people lined the windows, their Louis Vuitton bags boasting their own designated seats.
Mud dripped into my eyes and my hair was matted into one huge dried-mud mess. My feet squelched with every step and any sudden movement resulted in mystery clumps of mud falling out of my bra.
I’d not felt that out of place since my fellow reps dragged me away from the safety of my books and took me to San Antonio for the night while working in Ibiza.
“Or we could just go home and have some Cheerios...” my husband added hastily.
I’m confident in saying that every single of us unfortunately has our own link to cancer. I pray for a day when the mere word doesn’t send shockwaves of horror through us.
Cancer is everybody’s worst enemy but in this collective hatred, we are united in our determination to track it down and capture it once and for all. I do believe that day will come, and I believe that events like today bring us one step closer. We’re not only raising awareness and funds, but we’re also rearing our fighting spirit and finding alliances in one another.
Every time cancer messes with someone’s Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandad, son, daughter, partner, friend, the recruits in the army against it only multiply. We’re in this together – every one of us – running with our fists clenched, releasing the pain at the top of our lungs as we call it out, dare it to come out of hiding and face us, answer our questions.
WHY my Grandma?
WHY my friend?
WHY one in two?
WHY, WHY, WHY?
I often fondly mention my Grandma Barbara in my articles. When I share her name on my blog, I try to search for words fitting enough to describe even a fraction of her magnificence. I long to do her justice, to show her off in the way that she so deserves. I wish to share her with the world, because she truly made it a better place simply by being in it.
Cancer took my Grandma from me when I was 18 years old. I know I should feel lucky to have had a friend like Grandma Barbara for 18 whole years, but the impact of her absence is still so raw. I don’t ever envision a time whereby I won’t yearn for her brilliantly to-the-point advice, unending support and stunningly quick wit. She was unapologetically fierce, brimming with creativity and beheld an infinite supply of wisdom.
I never thought anyone or anything could get the better of my ferociously blunt and astoundingly strong German Grandma. But then cancer came in the dead of night and booted down the door, forcefully throwing its grenades of poison through the walls of our family bonds.
I’m still angry, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t live in fear of cancer’s next visit.
So today, I ran for my Grandma. I ran because I can, and because I want to fight on behalf of those who can’t.
I ran – with thousands of men and women - to kick cancer’s arse.
If you’re familiar with my Grandma Barbara through my previous blogs, you’ll know that she loved nature and the outdoors. Much of my childhood was spent outside with Grandma, be it striding (like I said – she was a proud German lady; she didn’t simply walk, she STRODE!) through National Trust parks much like Tatton, or tending to the garden in all weathers.
My Grandma Barbara would have LOVED Pretty Muddy. She would have found the sight of me hobbling between the obstacles caked in mud absolutely hilarious.
She’d have had a veritable feast of delicious home-made treats waiting for me, and she’d have almost certainly made me bin and possibly burn my muddy shoes before they went anywhere near her pristine house, but my God would she have roared with her delicious laughter. She’d probably have had my Grandad take a selection of ‘funny’ photos which would have inevitably made the front of the family Christmas card, a bit like the time I dressed up as a pumpkin at the age of 14...
My beautiful Grandma Barbara 💗
Pretty Muddy was pretty goddam FABULOUS!
I genuinely can’t recall the last time I had so much fun!
Despite the ‘adverse’ weather conditions and the fact that I was being attacked with hosepipes and enduring the odd sensation of a mud-filled bra, I actually found myself laughing hysterically throughout the whole thing.
There is something brilliantly liberating about running through puddles and mud without a care in the world. It just reminded me of being a child, long before the compression of growing up and looking presentable took away our beautifully careless freedom.
My trainers were plunged into a foot water at the very first obstacle, so I decided to just throw myself head first into this wicked event!
I vowed to tackle every single obstacle, including the rope climbing frame, the space hoppers, the tunnels and of course, the grand finale: the giant inflatable slide!
By the end of the 5k course, I was literally propelling myself towards random puddles along the paths, leaping into the centre of them with both feet. The feeling of muddy water and icy rain spraying my skin was oddly cathartic!
The landscape of Tatton Park was just as stunning as ever, and I dedicated my every thought to my Grandma as I savoured the scenery that she adored so much.
As I crashed down that slide into the mud pit at the end, I wasn’t thinking about how cold I was, or even about the fact that I looked like an unidentified, rogue creature that had escaped the pages of a David Walliams book. I was simply wishing that I could go round and do it all again!
The event staff were absolutely amazing! They were all so lovely and supportive. Their banter and kind words lifted my spirits at every obstacle just when I thought the atmosphere couldn’t possibly swell with anymore love and unity.
I’m big into my running. I like to run on my own, but when I attend running events, I also relish being a small fraction of the wider running community.
Today felt different – I didn’t just feel like a number, but rather an important part of the army fighting to make a difference for this noble cause. I was empowered by the gratitude I felt at being able to take part in an event like Pretty Muddy, surrounded by so many incredible and inspiring people, each with their own story and motivation.
Together, we WILL beat cancer. 💗
Cara Jasmine Bradley
🎀 To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click here: 🎀