Andrea Mara

Official website

Hell and Back and Smiling

“Don’t turn on the outdoor tap!”

“Don’t climb over the gate!”

“Come out from under the table!”

“Stop digging in the flower beds!”

It struck me recently that I spend a huge amount of time telling my five-year-old what he can’t do, and they’re very often things that in an ideal world, he could spend all his time doing. Climbing and crawling, running and rolling, making mud and making a big mess. He finds it difficult to sit still and concentrate all day at school, and could do with being let loose at home, but with all my good intentions to give him free rein, I don’t really want the garden flooded for the third time this week.

Then along came an opportunity to try Hell and Back – a kids’ version of the adult challenge. Running through mud, rolling under tyres, climbing over barriers, and wading through water. He’d love it.

So on Sunday June 18th, the kids put on their oldest clothes and we set out for Kilruddery in Bray, Co. Wicklow. It was one of the hottest days of the year – already 20 degrees when we arrived at 9am, and there were hundreds and hundreds of families already there, lining up to get wristbands and go through to the starting point. The queue moved quickly, and my only quibble was the parking – it was a flat €10 charge, which seems a lot when there’s no real alternative to driving there. But that aside, everything was very well organised, and there was a really lovely family atmosphere there, helped no doubt by the blazing sunshine.

My just-turned-eight-year-old was in the 9.45 am wave which was for eight- to twelve-year-olds. She looked teeny compared to her peers, all jostling in the pen at the starting point, and I wondered if she’d stick it out. There’s a talk at the beginning with lots of cheering and reminders that it’s a challenge not a race, that there’s no pushing or shoving, and that you don’t leave anyone behind.

One of the many things I loved about Hell and Back was the team focus – I saw dozens and dozens of people helping friends over barriers and reaching out ands to pull people up. The kids aren’t competing with one another – they’re competing with their own energy levels, stamina, and sheer force of will.

I needn’t have worried about my eight-year-old. She powered ahead, a look of intense concentration on her face as she ploughed through mud, climbed, crawled, rolled, waded and ran the 2.5 km course. Towards the end comes the highlight – a water slide into mud. She finished, completely elated, and said it was the best thing she’d ever done in her life.

Hell and Back - Office Mum

My five-year-old looked even smaller in his wave which was for five- to seven-year-olds. It’s a 1 km course, and we were able to run alongside cheering him on. I really didn’t know if he’d stick with it – he still chances asking to be carried for even the shortest distances, but wow did he surprise me.

muddy water hell and back - office mum

Like his big sister, with a look of sheer determination on his face, he powered his way through, even when his legs got tired and he was wet from head to foot.

Would we do it again? Absolutely. The two kids who did it said they definitely want to do it next year, and the one who didn’t says she wishes she’d tried it.

No, we definitely need more wipes

Would we do anything differently? Knowing now that running alongside the junior wave effectively means running through the same mud, I’d wear older runners.

A morning feeling challenged, exhilarated, and proud – and much better fun than flooding the garden at home, what’s not to love?


The next Hell and Back takes place on Saturday 10th September; there will be normal junior waves in the morning and a new Hell & Back Family event later on that day where over 10s can run the 7km course with their parents.

Early bird pricing is still available for the September Junior event at €22 and the price then is €25 per child.

Full details can be found at

We were invited to try Hell and Back free of charge, but all opinions are my own.





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