General Running

July 14, 2010

Mud-splattered fun

Blackfoot run also is challenging

CHATSWORTH — Editor’s Note: On Saturday, June 26, Chris Stephens navigated the 3.2-mile Blackfoot Mud Run course in Murray County. This is a first-person account of his fun-filled experience.

I’m not sure if it was the rush of finishing or the surge of my first energy drink, but hours after completing the Blackfoot Mud Run on Saturday, I’m having a hard time talking myself into cleaning up.

And wondering if it’s too late for one more run through the course.

I’ve run thousands of miles over the past few years. I’ve finished six marathons, five half marathons and a handful of shorter races. But I can’t think of three miles that I’ve enjoyed more than Saturday’s run in Chatsworth.

Sure, running in the rain is fun, but running in the mud for 30 or so minutes takes you back to all the best parts of your childhood. Saturday’s run reminded me of why I started running in the first place.

There were no pace teams. No technical shirts. No medals. And none were needed.

Instead of hitting “the wall” and dreading the miles ahead, I went over the wall. And under the wall. And I couldn’t wait to see what challenge was next.

As a late entry, I was escorted to the start line just in time for the “Go!” command, joining a half dozen other thrill-seekers in my group on a 3.2-mile quest for some fun in the mud. No pre-race anxiety. No need to worry about when to take water or energy drinks.

After almost two miles of trail running to get our feet wet in Holly Creek a couple of times, a drink of water, one wrong turn and a quick stop to tie my shoes, we entered into the obstacle portion of the race.

Let the fun begin.

One of the first major obstacles was a water pit that included pulling yourself up and over a half dozen or so pipes sitting just above the water line. Once through and out of the water, I walked up a steep incline to a substantial mud slide that was actually an AstroTurf-covered hill smothered in baby oil. Yes, baby oil. At the bottom was another mud puddle. Awesome.

By now I was wet, muddy, sweaty and officially hooked.

With Fort Mountain as a backdrop and music blasting, fellow racers and spectators enjoyed the views from a nearby hill as we tackled climbing walls, multiple mud pits, hay rolls, tires, low crawls and even hanging upside down from a rope — going hand over hand and foot over foot.

While hanging upside down, it did enter my mind that it might be easier and refreshing to allow myself to drop into the water. But by the time I had made the decision to splash down, I was to the other side and off in search of the next obstacle.

With each obstacle came the decision. Walk around and skip it, or go through. But what would be the point of going around? I was having too much fun. Each step proved more and more challenging, with my shoes seemingly being sucked into the mud.

On two occasions, runners crawled on hands and knees under a low cover. And while some of the water pits were deep for my 5-foot-3 frame, crawling face first in the mud was no problem.

By now, and I think most racers would agree, we were looking for the muddiest and most slippery route possible.

With the end in sight, I slowly walked up one last log, looking forward to one final jump into the mud. Thinking of what stunt I might do to put an exclamation point on the day’s event, I ended up slipping on the top and falling in the mud on my bottom. I couldn’t have planned it better.

For the first time in a while, I wasn’t ready for the race to be over.

After the race while waiting to hose off, the winner of my group decided he had recovered enough to walk down to the creek to wash off.

Washing off in the creek after a race through the mud. What a perfect way to end the day.

I’ll keep running the roads. I’m still looking forward to the Dalton Half Marathon in the fall. I hope to do my third Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November. And the Varnell 10-miler and the Silver Bell Sprint 5K are great ways to end the running year.

But count me in when the Blackfoot Mud Run returns.

Chris Stephens is a former Daily Citizen sports writer and current designer of Dalton Magazine. He still has mud underneath his fingernails.

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