This is not the message I ever envisioned writing to you all again. When we first started rescheduling events in March 2020, we had no idea we would still be doing it a year later and, in this case, moving Dirty Weekend for a second time. It is utterly disheartening to be penning this and I know this will be a blow to all of you too. I think we have all been looking forward to and hanging onto the idea of that big celebratory blow out on the fields of Burghley House this May to release ourselves from the funk of the whole Covid epoch.
Unfortunately, the simple truth is that we have just run out of time to see the event practically being able to take place in 12 weeks’ time. So, it with the heaviest of hearts that we must reschedule Dirty Weekend, again. I am hugely sorry we must do this but do it we must. There is something else, too. I am also announcing today that the 2022 edition of the event will be the LAST EVER Dirty Weekend. So, if you want to hear about how we plan to play you out on the highest of highs next May at Burghley House, please do read on as I want to explain our thinking on all of this.
Everyone on Earth will know that it has been a long old haul through Covid; and that is of course ongoing with no current clear timeline of how we get back to ‘normality’. I do not think you will be surprised to know that no-one really saw a second postponement in the runes here at Rat Race HQ when we made our first postponement announcement back in March 2020. Whilst hope is here in the form of vaccines and at some point in 2021, the world and the UK will unlock and move forwards, it is not a simple path for an event such as DW due to take place in just over 12 weeks’ time.
We know the return to relative normality is coming and there is almost fervour-like demand and anticipation building for our events in what I like to dub the mythical ‘land beyond Covid.’ But not all events are the same in the way in which they must be planned. It is possible that some smaller scale endurance or running events may well take place in May – that is not based on any science or guidance from the government – just a hunch. But the current absence of any plan or direction in terms of lockdown lifting does not help us at all now in ascertaining those possibilities. We just don’t know enough, yet and that is a problem for now and for May, for this event. That plan from Government is coming of course but it is not going to come in time for Dirty Weekend. Something like Dirty Weekend is a huge undertaking of planning and construction. In this respect it does not necessarily follow the same profile as many other running events and even many other obstacle-based events. The physical build takes 6 weeks and whilst we benefit from several impressive permanent obstacles on our site at Burghley House, these have not been used for nearly 2 years now: They need inspecting and there will be considerable maintenance to undertake which will extend the time our construction team need to be on site. We now don’t think that we have the time to do this prior to May, regardless of whether the all-clear is sounding for our type of activity by then.
We also have the whole on-site crew build to consider and its connotations with Covid-safe working. There is also the considerable pre-event in office organisation and spending that needs to start now, bookings need to be made and large amounts of money paid to operators this month. There is also then the entertainment and camping elements to consider. Even if we could operate, what would the event look like? This event oozes character and camaraderie from the sum-of-all-its-parts. It’s not ‘just a run.’ Far from it. It’s about everyone helping each other out on that course, getting a leg up from a stranger, a helping hand from someone at the top of a wall and a hug from the marshal when you achieve something you didn’t know you could. If we start having to rip the heart out of the thing to make it Covid-secure in a time when we are all still emerging from the virus, it may simply be a shell of what it should be.
So, we simply have to act now as we just do not have any ongoing certainty on what May is looking like and frankly, we cannot now see that certainty arriving in time for us to plan, build and then stage this event. There also comes an inflection point where we must balance reasonable time for our own planning and reasonable notice for those taking part – all the while with a reasonable best-assessment outlook on the Covid environment. Whilst the focus is rightly on the ongoing Public Health Emergency, we are out of time here for our own endeavours on Dirty Weekend. We must call it for this year.
Could we have postponed to later in 2021? Perhaps, but there is the calendar at Burghley to consider alongside our own jam-packed 2021. I do not doubt we will be running events this year. But a space in the calendar for us to carve out 6 weeks to build Dirty Weekend, in amongst the other 44 events and trips we have scheduled – is sadly impossible. It is with a considerable amount of humility therefore that I regret I must ask you – many of you for the second time – for your understanding on this and to allow us to reschedule the event. The support we have had thus far from you has been massive and our own actions and activities over the past 12 months have allowed us to weather this storm. We know it’s a huge blow to you all and we know there are many, many commitments involved in taking part in such events, over and above pressing the enter button. We therefore understand and are massively grateful to your commitment to us, in sticking with us through all of this. Truly we are.
So the last ever Dirty Weekend will take place on the 7th May 2022. You may well be wondering why we have decided that this will be the final year. Well, Covid has certainly played a part here and it has absolutely accelerated our decision-making in this respect. As a company, we have not done our day job since March 2020 and we must take the hard decisions to ensure that a strong company of 17 years standing remains strong throughout this scrum. It is an inescapable fact that it just costs a hell of a lot of £ to put on Dirty Weekend and it really does not yield Rat Race much in commercial return. There are some that may not believe that – but it’s a behemoth of an undertaking. The sum we spend on the food to feed our crew on site for 6 weeks alone will dwarf some events’ entire production budget. In the Covid era, such considerations are brought into stark relief and our ability to make decisions and take decisive actions has brought us through this period to a position of relative strength and choices, in an environment where many other companies in our sector have sadly fallen by the wayside.
But it’s not all about Covid and associated economics. There was always going to be a final Dirty Weekend. The Covid arena has perhaps brought forward our plans on when the last one will be. But our focus as a business has been shifting for some time, in line with a move away from the decreasing market of obstacle-running to other avenues of adventure that for us are huge growth areas: Such arenas as our international events, ultras and other concepts such as our ‘Man Vs’ wilderness series. I guess you could say that we are returning to our roots in the Great Outdoors and moving away from obstacles and we have been doing that for a while now. Covid is a catalyst in all of that, but this evolution was always our direction of travel and as a firm, we have always evolved our event portfolio in this way: The innovator, not the follower.
There is something else, too. Our company has been going for 17 years and we have no intention on stopping. We have had ‘the final’ event in several past undertakings: The final run of nearly 20 000 people through Battersea Power Station back in 2013, the final Rat Race Urban Adventure in 2011, the first (and final!) Barrel of Laps in 2017 and so on. Rat Race evolves its product and moves with our own feels in the market. We have always ploughed our own furrow and we have launched more new events in the past 12 months than ever before. There are only so many hours in the day and so many weekends in the year and we must continue to make space for the next generation of these events. So, with the motto ringing in our ears that ‘all good things must come to an end,’ this is no different.
But if it’s going to be the last ever then it needs to also be the best ever; the biggest ever; a real ‘thank you and goodnight.’ With something as grand as Dirty Weekend, those who make this epic date will require from us the ultimate send-off. We know it. And we intend to deliver it. If you can reschedule to next year, not only will you be sincerely helping Rat Race in tackling this ongoing hiatus; you will be guaranteeing yourself a spot at the last ever Rat Race Dirty Weekend, in the same wave that you have booked now and with all your extras guaranteed. That is a date you really do not want to miss as we’re going to go all out. Clearly with such news, this will be hotly anticipated amongst runners and a sell-out is almost a-given. Owing to last year’s deferrals, the 2021 event has been heavily subscribed for some time and of course we will advertise spaces in the 2022 event now as the last-ever. We will look to increase the capacity but it’s certainly not limitless and several of the plum waves are already sold out; and have been for some time.
What this also means is – the best course ever, the best after-party acts ever, the biggest ever field of Muckers and the most unbelievable weekend in sport as we blow the doors off of Burghley House one final time. Whether this was your first time taking part or you’re a veteran, if you want to experience Dirty Weekend one more time, this really is your last chance to do so. We would therefore advise that if you can, you should simply roll your space into the 2022 date. We have emailed all participants with the options open to them now in regards to their entry, please check your inbox and spam folders and if you haven't received it please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send you a copy.
Your understanding and ongoing commitment to Rat Race and to Dirty Weekend is massively appreciated and keenly felt. The messages of support we have received from customers across these past 12 months have lifted the spirits of our team and we are hugely grateful to you for sticking with us through this rollercoaster period we have all been living through. We are increasingly optimistic that we will be cheering Rat Racers across finish lines around the country once restrictions start receding and we honestly cannot wait to be back in action. Not all of our events (in fact, none of them) have the same profile as DW in terms of the length of build, the early season challenges and the convergence with the current Covid uncertainty; so we are confident that it’s not the same set of circumstances as to how the rest of the season will unfold in 2021 from summer onwards. I certainly think that owing to the pandemic, the sense of cabin fever is palpable, and this will mean our events that do come first, post-Covid, will just feel so liberating, alive and free. For all of us.
On that note, I raise a muddy glass of ale to you all and I knowingly nod my head in eager anticipation of the gathering storm that will signify the arrival of the you all – the participants in the last ever Dirty Weekend in May 2022.
Yours in adventure,
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