Mud racers brave elements for charity

PLUNGING waist high into river water and wading through mud is not an advisable thing to do on the warmest of days.But when the temperatures are only just above zero degrees and the winds are icy, it seems just plain madness.

By Juliette Maxam

PLUNGING waist high into river water and wading through mud is not an advisable thing to do on the warmest of days.

But when the temperatures are only just above zero degrees and the winds are icy, it seems just plain madness.

However, it did not deter over 150 hardy people from taking part in this year's Maldon Mud Race. Contestants cross the River Blackwater at low tide, struggle across mud to saltings opposite the town's historic Hythe Quay and then do the same thing all over again to get back.


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The winner, 21-year-old Gareth Parr, completed the course in just over five minutes. The last few took about half an hour and included brother and sister Bob Hamilton and Heather Tew, from Witham, who did the race dressed up as gorillas. Mr Hamilton said: "I didn't expect it to be so hard. It's my first time, but not the last."

Mr Parr, who comes from Truro, and is an outdoor education instructor, was joined by his father, Andrew Parr, part of the winning team, Caterham Real Ale Pram Pushers, who travelled up from Surrey to take part in the race for the second year running.

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A number of contestants wore fancy dress, ranging from fairies, women dressed up as men, African warriors, Superman and a fireman dressed in just a thong.

While Mr Parr finished the race with barely a trace of mud on his body, others were covered in it from head to toe, after crawling and in some cases almost swimming across the muddy river bottom.

The race, which was relayed live on Sky TV, is organised by the International Lions and Rotary Clubs of Maldon, with Maldon District Council's leisure services department.

Rotary Club spokesman Bill Geller said he hoped this year's event will raise in the region of £18,000.

"We are very pleased with the huge amount of public support. The estimate on spectator numbers is in excess of 6,000 which is best ever and everybody has enjoyed themselves. It looks as if it's a better result than last year," said Mr Geller.

All money raised will go to Little Haven Children's Hospice, Essex Air Ambulance and Buddies, a Maldon children's association, and charities nominated by individual competitors and teams.

The Maldon Mud Race started in 1973 when a dare was made in the Queen's Head pub, on the quay, challenging a local to serve a meal on the saltings on the other side of the river dressed in a full tuxedo.

The dare was carried out successfully and it was decided the next year a bar should open on the other side of the river. The following year about 20 people took part and drank a pint of beer each after dashing across the mud.

The race snowballed until the beer was scrapped because it was causing too much of a logjam, but the dash across the mud continued behind the Queen's Head until 1989. It was resurrected in 1993 by Maldon Carnival Association. It was not held for three years from 1998 to 2000 due to new health and safety regulations, but was started again by the lions and rotary clubs in 2001, who have organised it ever since.

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