THE 362 runners in an inaugural 10k adventure run at Traquair House, near Innerleithen, did not need to wait long for a clue as to what lay in store over the obstacle-filled course.
Just five minutes into Saturday's Mighty Deerstalker race, they were suddenly plunging up to their waists in freezing water for a five-metre muddy pond crossing.
Soaked through, the 66 ladies and 300 men from across Britain, many of them already choosing to walk, then faced a relentless, zig-zagging climb to the top of nearby Cardonbank Woods.
But even at the summit, there was no let up. With wobbling, aching legs, each participant was required to tackle a series of testing forestry obstacles, including narrow plank walks, eerie tunnels and mad ladder-jumps.
And so the amazingly good-spirited, but truly bizarre race continued. Among the highlights – or lowlights, depending on your view – runners faced a punishing descent of a bumpy, twisting mountain bike trail; a 100m upstream river dash; a gutting ascent of a 500ft rocky scree slope to reach the top of Pirn Craig; kilometre upon kilometre of rutted or rocky off-road terrain; as well as a dank, flooded tunnel.
As if this were not enough, much of the event – which in reality was closer to 15k than 10k – was run in darkness, with participants aided only by individual head torches.
"We had promised runners an adventure and we weren't lying," said Gary Tompsett, race director with Detail Events, the company behind the Mighty Deerstalker.
"Most people were utterly gobsmacked by what was involved, but they dug in hard and pushed on.
"The great thing was, though, that the overriding atmosphere was one of fun and spirited endeavour."
After one hour, 27 minutes and 23 seconds of hard-fought contest, the first competitor, Shane Ohly of Sheffield, came home to great applause.
Throughout the race, the 30-year-old owner of adventure website PlanetFear had been neck-and-neck with other front-runners including Steven Fortune, who came home second in 1.28.02 and third male Geraint Fionda-James in 1.29.43.
"There were so many times during the race that my lead of a few hundred metres was destroyed by a tricky obstacle or a wrong turning," said Ohly this week.
"There were a few of us that were racing each other hard. We kept overtaking each other. In the end, at the top of the last hill, I just went for it and practically threw myself down to the bottom.
"It was crazy, but fantastic fun. I actually couldn't believe that I'd won because the whole event felt so surreal."
The first lady to cross the finish line was 26-year-old Emma Dennis, of Kent, in 1.48.48, scoring an overall position of 42nd. In second place, and 60th overall, was Ohly's girlfriend, Heather Clark, also from Sheffield, in 1.51.09.
And in third place, but the first lady to cross the line flying the flag for Scotland was, well, me. Coming 70th overall, I completed the course in 1.58.17.
The Mighty Deerstalker race was the culmination of a day-long family-focused event at Traquair. Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the sun and descended on the Deerstalker Village buying a range of local produce from stalls, listening to local bands and watching displays, including mountain bike skills.
At 5pm, many day-trippers also witnessed the start of the shorter sister Deerstalker event, a 5k course that included a section of the Mighty Deerstalker event.
The 5k winner was Stephen Both in 55.39, while the first lady home was Anna Rattray in 1.06.02.
For full results, including local entries, see: www.themightydeerstalker.com