Dishing the Dirt on Mud, OCR and Perennial – An Interview with Michael Perry



Mud is an every day occurrence for our latest blog interviewee, Michael Perry. Hailed as the ‘new generation of gardener’, Michael explains to Dirty Dozen Races why, when not galavanting around the world looking for the latest innovative new plants, he likes to challenge himself by not only undertaking a Dirty Dozen race, but by trying to encourage a multitude of others to join his team (The Grubby Gardeners) and raise £20,000 for UK charity, Perennial…

I’m a gardener, so I should enjoy getting muddy right…?! Well, the style of mud in a Dirty Dozen Race is more than extreme, and you don’t exactly get the opportunity to wear any wellies!

To be honest, up until 18 months ago (and even though I had a lively mind) I actually did very little physical exercise. But after 4 months of dealing with the lethargy that comes with a virus, I wanted to kick myself into touch and see just what I could achieve physically. I needed a new challenge. That’s how I found myself enlisting the help of local Personal Trainer, Chris Lawson, who now runs up and coming fitness unit, Crossfit ISC.

With any fitness regime, you need something to aim for; after a few months of sessions filled with panting, and “I’m giving up” sad faces, Chris suggested I sign up for a local obstacle course race. The race was in April, and after regular training with Chris, with my friends, and a little bit alone (although I’m very bad at motivating myself!), I completed the course and was really happy with what I had achieved. I realised how fit I had become – something I’d have found hard to measure if I hadn’t joined the race! Amazingly, I achieved this fitness level within just a few months.

I ran the first race for fun and with a few friends, but for my next race I decided I wanted to compete. I entered a competitive race which took place in Cambridge, and this time I had extra motivation – my good friend, and top OCR athlete, Katie Keeble was also racing. Come race day, we started off together, but after some pep talking she soon disappeared into the distance. Despite this, I was ultra chuffed to finish in the top 30%, and managed 20 or so yards of monkey bars in front of a cheering crowd – funny how you can perform with an audience!

I was hooked. Knowing what fun these races are, I went on to recruit more friends and acquaintances for these obstacle races. Yes, I may have gone hell for leather on my first race, BUT you can also have a lot of fun in these races and they’re perfectly pitched for any level of skill and fitness.

In preparing for the 12km Dirty Dozen Race, my experience has told me not to panic about the distance; it isn’t like a half marathon where you have to run non-stop. The race is quite ‘start-stop’ as you navigate different terrains and wait patently for your fellow runners to complete obstacles. That’s fine though, it gives you a small amount of recovery time – which you’ll definitely need!

I’m really happy that I’ve managed to pull together around 20 horticulturists from all parts of the UK – We’re the ‘Grubby Gardeners’ and we are racing in the 5th April Dirty Dozen Race.

2687 Perennial 175th Logo MASTER (Green)It’s all in aid of Perennial too, the UK’s horticulture trade charity who help people working in or retired from horticulture who are facing times of crisis after illness, bereavement, disability or debt. After all, I have the tight bond with my grandparents to thank for bringing me into horticulture and kick starting a career I absolutely love, so it feels right that this year I’m giving something back to my industry colleagues in the year Perennial is celebrating its 175th anniversary!

To donate to The Grubby Gardeners, click here and go to their Just Giving page.  Michael can be reached on , or via his blog

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