Yesterday was the MARSOC Mud, Sweat and Tears mud run.  I’d never actually done a mud run before, so wasn’t sure what to expect (except a lot of mud, of course!).  There were 1200 people registered, and the race coordinators continued to take race day registrations.  I was surprised at this – 1200 seemed like a large number for a short 5-mile course, especially on trails.  By the time all was said and done, they had close to 1400 people on the course.  So I prepared mentally for some starting and stopping, and likely bottlenecks.

The energy was high, with lots of families coming out for race day.  As we began to run, the kids quickly outpaced me.  I admit that I felt bad temporarily – how were the ten-year olds outrunning me?  But I recovered quickly.  After all, what was the likelihood that energy level could last for five miles? 

The first mud pit slowed us to a grinding halt.  I watched people struggle just to get their feet out of the mud.  I thought better of that, since it didn’t look like much fun anyway, and getting around was fairly easy.  I made my way through some branches and spiderwebs, beyond the mud (with a lot of other people).  I’m glad I did, because it put me out in front of a mass of individuals.  I later found out that it probably saved my shoes as well!

Both factors became crucial as I approached the next obstacle.  We ran for about a mile and half.  I came upon one man who had lost both shoes (and socks!) in the first mud pit.  Good on him, he was still running (and in very high spirits), though traversing the trails with its numerous roots, branches and rocks looked more than a bit painful.   Further on, I passed another gentleman who had only lost one shoe.  I’m sure his right foot appreciated still being in a shoe, but I wonder what that did for his gait!

Before I actually got to the next obstacle (low crawl through water), I hit another bottleneck.  I stopped to wait in line for about 10 minutes.  The low crawl was only wide enough to allow one person.  This time, the race coordinators adamantly refused to let people go around, so I (impatiently) waited to get all wet and muddy. 

The water was colder than anticipated, taking my breath away as I dove in.  Of course, that encouraged me to move quickly!  Exiting the low crawl, I continued on the trail, passing through more mud and running up and down what seemed like an innumerable amount of hills.   

Another mile or so into the race, I found our last obstacle.  A fairly long stretch, it was more water than mud.  With no easy way around, I decided to embrace the race (mud included) and charged ahead.  This part was a lot more fun than either of the previous obstacles.  With the low crawl bottleneck behind me, there were just enough other people on this part of the course to make it interesting.  As we traversed the mud/water combination, we shared some camaraderie as one after another of us fell into unseen holes (ranging from knee-high to chest-high!).  Our yelps of surprise delighted the MARSOC Marines on the sidelines, laughing at our travails.

Each of the racers helped one other un-stick from the mud that threatened to claim our feet as well as our shoes.  Twice I stepped forward only to find no ground beneath me, ending up chest-deep in mud.  I tripped and fell several more times, nearly losing my shoes!  A fellow racer stopped to assist me, at least ensuring that I had my feet if not my shoes.  (I managed to keep both shoes)

Finally on the other side, I walked up the hill that greeted me.  Two ladies in front of me began jogging again, inspiring me to pick up the pace.  My mud-heavy shoes made running interesting, but I persevered. 

All in all, the race ended up being a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I went.  I’ve got a really cool t-shirt, and a new medal to add to my collection.  And the showers at the end of any mud race always feel like a badge of honor – having gotten so muddy that you need a shower and some clean clothes before you can even get in your car!

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