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Once upon a time, I had this crazy notion that I wanted to run in the mud. Somehow I convinced a perfectly sane person to run in the mud too…and she convinced others. And together we ran Mud Hero – a 6 km, 18 obstacle race!

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Big Guy and I: Before the Mud!

Big Guy and I: Before the Mud!

3…2…1…the air horn sounds, people shout and fist pump in the air, the crowd surges forward, and as the space starts to clear around me, I shout and fist pump too…and I start to run…For the first stretch and up the first hill, I manage to keep pace with our leader, who is running in the middle of our “team pack”. But by the second hill, I am quickly losing ground…my heart is pumping and my lungs are burning. By the third hill, I have lost sight of everyone. I know one person is behind me but I have no idea where Big Guy and G.I. Jane are…who’s going to push and pull me through? I remind myself: “slow and steady”. The team wait for me at the first obstacle. By the fourth hill, I was thinking “I must be almost there”. I head down a short hill and around the corner, thinking “this isn’t so ba…oh crap!” This isn’t a hill – this is a freakin’ mountain! Cue “Platoon” moment now! Ok, it wasn’t a mountain but my oxygen-deprived brain was perceiving this steep, rugged upward incline as a mountain. People were groaning and sliding all around me as we dug in yet again. I was determined not to die in the first kilometer. When we broke through the trees and began running along the road, to the amusement of the runners trekking to the entrance from the parking lot, I recognized that this was the area where I first heard the sounds of “death screams” erupting from the woods. Surely it was only a matter of minutes before I would be among the wailers and gnashers of teeth.

After more hills (I swear, this run was all uphill except for the one steep hill down – with skinny trees to hug on the descent lest we fall and wipe out those going before us), I reached the first obstacle. To get to it, I first had to skirt the edge of a 10 foot patch of 3” thick mud that reeked of sewage. Only one team member was MIA, which gave me a moment to catch my breath. The first obstacle was a sloshing mud pit, about waist high. The edges were sloped and caked with thick black mucky mud, making it difficult to descend without sliding right in. I plunge in anyway, the mud threatening to suck off my shoes and trap me forever. I manage to slosh across the pit, ducking under thick logs with just enough room to not drag my chin in it. Others chose to back stroke under them. A team mate helped me up the thick incline on the other side, and with heavy feet (our shoes were filled with mud and water after all), we ran…

Obstacle #2 was the Deep Woods run. As the path stretched further into the woods and became more rugged – tree limbs, uneven ground, pits and hollows. We climbed over fallen trees on the path and still we ran. Three team members were behind me; the remainder had vanished on the shifting horizon.

Obstacle #3 – Over and Under. The obstacle consisted of three 3½-4 foot wooden walls (without benefit of hand/foot holds) to scale and 3 logs to crawl under. I had no problem with the Under, but I needed a boost for the Over! More running past the 2 kilometer mark to a traffic jam at Obstacle #4…another wall to scale without benefit of rope or hand/foot holds. It was only 5 feet tall; I am only 5’1½” tall (the ½” is important. It was about a 15 minute wait for our turn, giving us lots of time to cool off and joke around. Big Guy thought I was still too clean, so planted a few wet hand prints on my back. Even after rinsing and washing my t-shirt, one hand print stain remains! I’m proud to say that I took a run at that wall and I scaled her, baby! All. By. Myself! My team cheered from the top of the hill…and we ran…

We ran into a clear space…right next to the D.J. and the starter pit, lined with spectators. I had to keep running so I didn’t look so pathetic! Obstacle #5: Cars! Do you have any idea how hard it is to climb onto the hood of a car with muddy shoes? Obstacle #5 involved 2 cars parked back to back, with the windows covered in plywood. Getting up was easier than getting off – slide down the back of the car and hope you don’t fall off! Run…and do it again! I nearly fell off the fourth vehicle and when I started to slide, I leaped and prayed I’d be like a cat – land on my feet! I did!

Cargo Climb (from Mud Hero’s website). I’m not in it – but I did go over it!

We chugged a cup of cool water before Obstacle #6, the Super Hero Cargo Climb, also in full view of spectators! The rope was course on my hands and it swayed with the force of several climbers. An official photographer snapped my picture and I’m keeping an eye out, just in case my face shows up in some of their promotional photos. I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Normally heights don’t bother me and climbing up and down, it didn’t. It was only in that brief moment when I reached the top and my hand hold was now down by my knees and not at my shoulders, that I felt my heart in my throat. I felt light, unencumbered, strong…

I could see Big Guy and our leader watching from the ground, smiling encouragingly, so I kept moving. I had made it this far, but I could see the next obstacle, and it was the one that had been keeping me awake for nights…