Wearing Mud as a Badge of Honor

Since last year I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about mud runs. You’ve probably heard the names, too—Tough Mudder, Muddy Buddy, and the Warrior Dash (to name a few). These races, just as the name implies, are heaving with a myriad of muddy obstacles. I decided to see if the races live up to the hype and, along with my boyfriend Teddy, signed up for the Warrior Dash in Johnson Creek, Wisc., about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison. Little did I know just how muddy this run would get.

As we turned down the long, narrow country road toward Milford Hills Hunt Club, a line of cars a mile long inched forward toward the race site, passengers geared up to get down and dirty. After parking, Teddy and I trekked up a lengthy driveway, passing not only muddy runners, but many muddy runners in costume. One man was ready to race in a long robe as the pope; another group was dressed as the Village People. You can imagine how heavy their clothing became after sliding into pools of mud!

After checking in and applying our race badges, Teddy and I were raring to go. We joined the other racers at the starting line, inching our way closer to the front to get a headstart. The countdown began, a burst of hot fire erupted, and we were off! Teddy had his eyes on the gold, so he bolted away from me like a flash of lightning. I was running hard in an effort to get ahead of the crowd—it was elbow to elbow—I just wanted a little more space. The uneven terrain gave my ankles a run for their money, but I (somehow) managed not to get injured.

mud raceThe 5K course was designed by an elite ex-Army Ranger and included 11 obstacles. It was a while before I hit the first obstacle—a small yet steep ditch filled with muddy water. I jumped in, slipped slightly on the way out, and kept right on running. The next obstacles were challenging but not muddy: clambering over a net, wriggling through trenches, and jumping over walls. Just when I thought I might actually finish this race without getting too dirty, I hit a slick and slippery slope. I reached the top with the help of a thick rope only to see that I had to slide back down into a giant pool of mud. Laughing, with a mouth full of mud, I got my bearings and stood up to climb yet another slippery slope. My shoes filled with muck. I could hardly lift my feet off the ground.

I was down nine obstacles when I finally spotted the finish line.

Only two obstacles to go. Weighed down by mud and holding on to my shorts (they were falling down), I jumped over a few fires (which, thankfully, weren’t too hot). I jumped over fire! Crazy!

One obstacle to go. I flopped down on my belly into a shallow pool of mud, letting my legs float behind me and crawling with my arms. Once I had cleared that obstacle, I stood up, legs slipping and sliding in the mud underneath me, and ran through the finish line. Teddy, who had come in first in our heat, was there to greet me. He took 16th overall. I was proud of him.

After we took some fun mud-streaked photos, we “washed off” in a pond (although, the pond was almost as muddy as the race itself!), toweled off, changed clothing, and got ready to celebrate. The after-race party included live music, beer, food, and games. I even indulged in a turkey leg. I never thought I’d eat a turkey leg, but it sure was tasty after a day of extreme competition!

Some mud run tips: bring a change of clothes and shoes (and a garbage bag for your muddy clothes), wear tight-fitting clothing (mud is heavy), don’t wear any jewelry that could slip off, stay hydrated, and remember sunscreen. Most importantly, have a good attitude as you race. Most people are there to experience a silly, fun, messy run.

If you’re as curious as I was about the appeal of running, climbing, and crawling through the mud, you have a few opportunities to check out upcoming mud runs before the weather gets too chilly: