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Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2018
5:33 PM ET, Fri July 20, 2018
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The annual Rat Race in England claims to be the longest obstacle course in the world. You can dispute that superlative, but it still may be the most fun.
The event takes place every year at Burghley House, pictured in background. It's reminiscent of "Downton Abbey" with its Elizabethan architecture and expansive grounds.
Rat Race Dirty Weekend has more than 230 obstacles spread over a single 20-mile loop, and attracted more than 5,000 rats this year.
Part of the massive "Ewok Village" of rope netting and balance beams in the woods.
One section required pulling yourself through troughs of muddy water and then over a wall of tires.
One of the toughest aspects that Dirty Weekend runners cited was the cold. The race has various parts in which you must get partially or fully wet.
Whether its sweat or muddy pond water, wetness cools your body even when you don't want it to.
The scariest obstacle for many -- judging by the reticence of so many competitors -- was the 25-foot plunge into a pool.
Dirty Weekend completion rate among adults is a whopping 84%.
After heights and water, another fear some competitors faced was confined spaces.
Newcomers should ease into the sport with shorter or less competitive races. The Dirty Weekend Rat Race, for example, offers a 13-mile option.
OCRs are all-body workouts: arms, legs, core, heart and lungs. "You use parts of your body you don't normally use," said Jim Mee, the event's founder. "That's part of the beauty of it."
Athletes need to master long-distance running, weight training and then specific skills related to obstacles, such as rope climbing, swimming, balancing and swinging from rings.
There is not a lot of gear required for OCR. "A pair of trainers, my mates, grit, determination, and that's all I need," said Mee.
The balance for the organizers is allowing adults to act like kids, while also making the course very challenging.
Most participants say their favorite obstacle is the last one: a 60-foot high water slide. Competitors barrel down the chute to a splashy end.