"There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud." - Carl Sandburg
Look through any running magazine lately and you see many ads for these "manly-man" mud & obstacle laden races popping up. Suddenly, there's a niche for falling in knee-deep mud, hurdling fire pits, jumping over barbed wire, and throwing in a little running. Of course, this is all topped off with copious amounts of beer drinking and slapping each other on the butts about a job well done. Guess I'm a little too old for this challenge...well, count me in for the beer drinking. The Muddy-Buddy series around the country seems like a ton of fun where you and a partner alternate running and then riding/pushing/carrying a bike through, over, and around super dirty messy obstacles. But, this fun has morphed into "Warrior Dashes" where it seems you're risking a lot more than an age-group position at the end of the race.
Back, a few weeks ago, I was running with Sam, a friend I've known for a long time but just don't see very often. He told me he had recently done one of these Warrior races in Georgia and how much fun it was. I'm not sure where these races began, but I remember back when I did one of the first Mud Runs back in '99. No fire, no barbed wire, no near death experience...just fun in the mud.
I had just done the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon with TNT, when, a week later, I got a call from my son, Michael, who lived in San Diego. He and three of his friends found this run called the Camp Pendelton Mud Run. It's run on the Marine base, north of SD, and the 10k run had several mud obstacles including finishing in the "Mud Pits". Turns out they needed a 5th member for the team. Took about 5 minutes for me to have my flight back to the left coast confirmed.
The first thing, well two things, I noticed when we got to the race site was duct tape and goggles worn by folks that looked like they had done this before. I had thought about goggles, but we're real men and we don't need no stinkin' goggles. Now, get this - counting the individuals and the 5 person teams, there were over 3500 at this race! The gun (cannon) fired and we were off. About 200 yards from the start, the marines doused us with fire hoses. They were trying to break our spirits early! Then it was down the dusty trail, and we hit the tire drill, like the football players do. Ok, let's sprain our ankles now and get it out of the way. Then we hit the Steeple Jump - a 3 foot high barrier on the other side of which was calf deep mud for 10 yards. "Is that all you've got?". How 'bout the sand crawl? On all fours, you crawl 25 yards under two foot high wire. Sand hurts! We splash through a stream or two, then it's up mile-long Suicide Hill (Don't ask), past bombed out targets (buildings, tanks, etc) called Combat Town (cute!). Now, it gets interesting as we approached the first BIG mud pit. There was a pit about 30 yards of the gloppiest, thickest, smelliest, knee deep mud. The bottom would suck your legs to the knees, and the "water", which had the consistency of Ovaltine, would be at your hips. In the middle of this was a 6 ft wall you had to scale and splash down on the other side. Ok, now I'm really dirty! And now, I see what the duct tape was for - it wasn't just to try to keep 5# of mud out of your shoes, but to try to keep your shoes on your feet!! A half mile later, we had to traverse a chest deep lake for about 150 yards. Of course, the chest deep water sat atop knee deep mud! Now, it was on to Mud Pit #2, which was like the first one, except the wall was 7 ft high. When you're 5'6", it's not easy to jump up in soft mud and try to grab the top to pull yourself over. I felt like one of those mammoths stuck in the tar pits. I made it, but came awfully close to screaming (or crying). I literally had to scale the wall and fall over into the mud on the other side. Next, it was up 50 yard long "Slippery Hill". Why is it called that? Because the Marines are dousing you from the top again with the fire hoses. There's a certain ettiquite in running and pulling down the shorts of the guy next to you to try to get up the hill is apparently allowed in this part of the country. Remember, the whole run is on trails or dirt roads, so this made it like Wet & Wild. Then, it was the out-of-control run down the wet hill to "the tunnels" - 20 yds of PVC pipe to crawl through that ended in what? You guessed it...MORE MUD!! Finally, right before the finish came the Mud Crawl, a huge pit with unbarbed wire across it forcing you to fully submerge under the wire and belly crawl in this pudding of foul, gross, Marine created slop. Why not just call it the Malaria Run? It was all feel and crawl. I tried to open my eyes and see at one point and all I could see was a brown film, so I tried to wipe the mud off my goggles - Oh yeah! I don't need no stinkin' goggles! I thought "this can't be good. Standing at the end of the Pit, Michael & I looked like chocolate covered gingerbread men. We just stared at each other until finally Michael said "Dad?". Standing next to each other, we literally didn't recognize one another.
This whole adventure was capped off with an ice cold communal outside shower (shorts had to stay on, but everything else went in the trash). I can honestly say that I've never 1) been so dirty, 2) laughed so much during a run, and 3) had such a good time, doing such a crazy thing, and doing it with the one person in the world I would want to do it with. Oh, did I say we did this on Father's Day? Perfect!
OK guys, just a reminder if you're running with us here in Birmingham - next week (Dec 18th), we are running from downtown. We will meet at Boutwell Auditorium @ 6:30 AM and run one loop of the Mercedes Marathon course (13 miles). Half marathoners will do 9 miles. You can view several different distances from Boutwell on maps on this Trak Shak Newsletter. Gotta run...I'll see you all on the roads - AL
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