Some time ago, I decided to train for a marathon. Then real life took over and fast forward a few months, I’m still in terrible shape. That’s why, when my friend Taylor invited me to join his team in the “Big Nasty Mud Run” in Bloomingdale, GA, a four mile journey through mud and obstacles, my initial reaction was “Hell yes!” Followed almost immediately by “I’m not sure I can do that.” I signed up nonetheless, and surprise registered my fiance, Zach, as well.
I immediately went out to the gym with the intention of running three miles on a treadmill I figured if I could do three miles today, then in two days (race day) I’d have the confidence to tackle the race. Well, I made it about five minutes. Here I was huffing and puffing after a few minutes at 5.5 MPH, but in order to complete the race in what I considered and “acceptable time” I’d have to keep it up for almost an hour! There was no way I could do that! I had signed up for a race that I couldn’t run, and I was going to be surrounded by elite athletes who would run past me at such great speed that I would be trampled into the mud.
Race Day arrived, and I was just a big bubble of anxiety, I’d tossed and turned all night from race related nightmares – yes nightmares, that’s how stressed I was! The saddest part is that they weren’t even cool crazy nightmares like I’m running the race and suddenly a demon is chasing me or something. Instead, I’m wandering around in some sort of lodge where all the racers are staying, I’m trying to find healthy food to fuel up, but the only thing available are pastries and cheese fries, and then I can’t find any shoes to run in, and then I realize I’ve already missed the race!
Back in real life, I managed to get some food in my mouth, and shoes on my feet, and we were off. Sure, I was going to horribly embarrass myself at the race, and sure, I was probably going to die, but all I could do now is keep going forward with this ill-advised plan of mine.
Zach and I met up with the four other members of our ‘team’ our friends Taylor and Gabby, and two Couch surfers from NC that Gabby had talked into coming.There were a few people who looked to be in worse shape than me – always reassuring, but generally everyone looked pretty serious, there were even a few teams who had matching shirts. Some guy had a megaphone and was yelling about how hard the race was, and then someone was yelling “3, 2, 1!” and then we were all running.
I didn’t have a camera on me, but I scoured some news articles and such for visual aids, and managed to find a video of the beginning of a race in which I’m clearly visible for about 5 frames (that’s about 1/6 of a second) Here’s the best frame:
You can see the whole video (complete with awesome soundtrack circa 1992!) here
The first “obstacle” was a giant dirt mound, on one side is was rounded and you could just run over it, on the other, you had to scrabble up a steep wall of lose dirt. Wanting the “full experience” I went over the steep side. Then there was our first puddle of muck.
It may look like just a puddle of muddy water, and that’s what I thought too, going in, but it was actually about a foot of water and then a foot or two of what they call “peanut butter mud” not for it’s nutty flavor, but for its consistency. As soon as you stepped in, your foot sank and you were pathetically splashing in the muck trying to free your legs, only to get stuck again on the next step. I scrambled to the other side and hauled myself out of the pit just as my friends were regaining their stride. I tried to run after them, but the added 3 pounds of mud on each foot were too much. My team was lost in a sea of muddy runners! It was like one of those dreams where you try to run but you can’t because you’re stuck in mud.
I wanted to cry. I thought about just giving up and going home, but the heavy one-way traffic of the race propelled me to hobble forward. I valiantly fought/jogged my way through a few obstacles and a lot of mud and before I knew it I was at mile 1. I ran past a girl puking by a fence, and thought “sucker.” I was finally warmed up, and starting to feel good.
Now, a lot of the race was a blur of obstacles that I can’t put into any real order. I made a few friends along the way, got mud in my ears (which is a terrible feeling) and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Though, that’s not to say I wasn’t in pain most of the way, because I was. I developed a little mantra, “the last mile’s the easiest”, not that I really thought it was true, it was just nice to pretend.
With each obstacle came the renewed sensation of dread and excitement, and somehow I found myself at the 4 mile marker. Now, almost as surprising as the fact that I’d made it there, was the fact that it was not, in fact, the finish line. I was still in the woods (literally).
What lay ahead was a brutal final half mile along a skinny path of thick black mud and giant mucky puddles. Perhaps a bit overzealous, and being egged on by an anonymous racing companion, I decided to forgo the relatively safe slippery edge of the puddles and just run right through the murky black pools of varying and surprising depth.
The second or third puddle I stepped into was about three feet deep. My foot caught in a root and I splooshed right into the ooze. My ankle got all twisted around and I dragged myself laughing and crying from the black ooze. It was painful to stand, much less run, I thought about giving up, but there wasn’t exactly a guy right behind me with a golf cart ready to give me a lift, so I hobbled along as best I could for a while, until the pain just totally went away, like magic. I started running again.
I cleared the woods and the finish line was in sight, but so was a wall-obstacle I had to climb over with a rope. The ropes were all occupied, so I was waiting my turn, when – I’m not too ashamed to admit this – I realized my breakfast was about to make a surprise appearance. I “stealthily” (my friends all still saw it from the finish line!) ran to some nearby tall grass and puked all over my shoe, which was unfortunate, to say the least, but I was already so covered in horrible smelling mud that I didn’t figure it mattered much. I guess that was my comeuppance for laughing at the girl who threw up at mile 1.
I wiped off what I could and hurried off to tackle the wall, which was sort of an anticlimactic final obstacle, there was a lady at the top yelling about how she “literally couldn’t do it” but at that point, I could do anything, so I ran right past her, over the wall and into the last mud puddle, a 30 foot beast, with the finish line at the end. I was so exhausted that I could barely take a few steps in the PB mud without falling. I even tried to swim for a minute, before deciding it was too gross. Then, with great satisfaction, I limped across the finish line. I came in more than ten minutes after the rest of my team, but I didn’t give a hoot. None of those horrible things I was worried about had happened (except throwing up in front of a crowd of strangers), I’d survived, and I wasn’t even that embarrassed – and I had an awesome time!
That afternoon we all celebrated with delicious burgers, and then a nice boat ride with some friends and a cooler of beer. Then I went home and slept for like, 14 hours.