As I get closer and closer to the marathon, each run gains a bit more importance. I need to remember my posture. I need to keep my breathing in check. I need to take closer inventory of my body. Now, I've learned to really love running, but there is a bit of an element of "work" - it's not pure fun.
At least, there wasn't until I ran the mud run.
As much in my life does, this started on Twitter. I've become friends with a group of people in & around West Chester, PA. It just so happens that running happens to be one of the things that this group is into. A few months ago, I drove out & ran a 5k with them - and when Kim sent out a note asking who might be interested in running a mud run with her, well, I jumped at the opportunity without really thinking about what a mud run might involve.
After agreeing to run, I looked things up. The mud run was basically a 5k race on a dirt trail that would include muddy obstacles. It was going to rock.
I woke up at 4AM on the day of the run to drive out to Wende's house because it was easy to park (it's now 6AM). We drove out to and picked up Kim before driving down to Delaware to pick up T before driving out to a Wawa where we boarded Kim's sisters' (Tina & Gina) minivan and drove into the event.
Early on, we noticed that the "costume contest" wasn't taken lightly. The four of us were dressed comfortably, but without coordination. We quickly discovered that many of the teams, however, made their own shirts for the event. And not a small fraction of teams came in full costume - for awhile, it seemed that each costumed team was more creative than the last. There were professional wrestlers, angels, princesses, superheroes. "The Smurfs" won the costume contest, hands-down.
After people watching for awhile, preparing for the race, and checking out the hardcore tailgaters, it was time to start. Normally, in any running event, I maintain my "asshole technique" and hang out at the start line until the crowd is all gone. Then, I run - the elite runners, well, I never stand a chance of running with them anyway. But, starting a minute late allows me to get the feeling of passing a bunch of people while never getting passed myself. Hey - I'm an asshole, it's about time you learned to deal with it :-)
However, since we were a team here, the asshole technique wasn't going to work - we ran. The event was supposed to have three heats - since we signed up early, we were part of the first heat. Well, I say "supposed to" because a shitload of runners with numbers outside of that first heat ran with us. That, in itself, is fine, because really, at the end of the day, a mud run is about having a good time and raising money for a charity (because cancer fucking sucks). But, it means that the start is super congested, and considering this was a trail run, it made for some very, very slow going.
Still, though, we made it out of the weeds and it wasn't too long before we hit the first obstacle - simply the trail was cut away and the hole was then flooded. In other words, we ran through a big muddle puddle. There were two of these, and then a little more running, and then a third. Somehow, during this third mud puddle, I took the absolute slipperiest route getting out of the muck. Poor Kim, who weighs like 1/3 of what I do, had to help me up.
Throughout the rest of the run, we encountered several obstacles. Some were as easy as hay bales that we had to hurdle over. The longest span of straight running was probably right around a single mile with a pretty significant hill, and the guys ran to keep an eye on each of the female runners (there was a LOT of drinking on the course, and some of the teams wanted to get a bit handsy . . . I may not be a specimen of fitness, but I'm 6'3" with a good amount of heft behind me -- if it looks like I'm looking out for somebody, you might think twice about copping an unwelcome feel). The obstacles ranged from simple (hay bale hurdles) to truly complex (tripwire that you had to cross underwater). All said, there were two walls that we had to scale, a set of log balance beams, a rope climb (where you had to pull yourself up a rope in order to get to a higher point), a two-rope bridge (where you walked on one rope using another rope to keep your balance . . . here, I felt really bad for Kimmie because I'm quite tall and she's quite short - I ended up having to be near parallel to the ground in order to cross this obstacle where she could have just kept her hands at eye level and gone across vertically), a tripwire grid (where you had to step through the holes in the wire), a barbed-wire dirt pit (where you had to "army crawl" under the obstacle in loose dirt), and two sets of sewer drains (each were about twenty feet long, with water coming up about 1/3 of the way - you had to propel yourself through them).
This, easily, was the most fun I've ever had working out.
As we got cleaned up and stuff, we realized a few things. First, we need to make sure that we come in costume next year - we're thinking nude body stockings. Teams are set as teams of four, but there's nothing preventing us from coming with multiple teams all geared together. And, while we had a few beers for a post-race cocktail, we need bloody marys for a pre-event high. As we pulled away, I saw that my "asshole running technique" would absolutely have failed, as there was a long line for many of the obstacles.
This is certainly something I plan to do again, and I highly recommend any mudrun to anyone who enjoys running.