This past Saturday, I spent the gorgeous summer day slogging through creek-beds filled with mud, jumping over fiery logs and climbing (and falling) off 10-foot walls.
And I loved every second of it.
A few months ago, my best friend Janelle told me about a unique 5K that was coming to town in early June. It was a so-called mud run, and sounded pretty fun, though I didn’t think much of it until a few weeks later when she reminded me that registration for volunteers had finally opened up. After seeing that it involved 25 obstacles (including a 50-foot water slide) I panicked, closed my eyes, and quickly signed up to volunteer in the morning and run the race later that afternoon without letting myself think too much about it.
In the weeks since, I spent some time preparing, running a few times a week and doing some basic strength training. Still, when Saturday came around (much too quickly, I might add), I was more than nervous. I was terrified.
The Rugged Maniac is a 5K race where you complete more than 25 obstacles while running through 3 miles of mud. Some obstacles aren’t so bad, like walking on a balance beam across 4 foot of water, crawling under a bridge through a creek, or jumping on a trampoline into a small, muddy pool, while others — like climbing a 12-foot wall and jumping off of it or scaling huge cargo net structures — are a little harder.
Janelle and I volunteered in the morning, which meant we could run the race for free and pick up some pretty great volunteer swag. After arriving and getting our assignments at bag check, I spent the majority of the morning scouting out the other runners. Surprisingly, there was every type of body shape and age competing, from a super-buff man who said he was running it 5 times that day to a 60-year-old woman dressed in a Batman costume who was out to have a good time. As we got closer to our 1 p.m. start time, the nerves began to settle and I began to get excited.
We got our racing bibs and headed to the start line. In Rugged Maniac, you start the obstacles before you even take a step in the race. You need to first climb a roughly 5-foot wall to get to the start line. I didn’t think I could do it. But after taking a deep breath and shooting a “what the hell did you get me into” look to Janelle, I jumped and pushed myself up and over the wall. I felt great.
Though it was a simple obstacle, I got a huge confidence boost from it and I felt slightly better about the race ahead. We took off, and the first ½ mile or so was spent running a fairly level trail in and out of the woods. Then we hit the first obstacle: a giant ladder that you climbed up, shimmied across, and then back down. With little thought, we started climbing to the top.
We didn’t stop moving until we got to the end (minus a few back-ups at the obstacles). I tried to complete every obstacle (except for the Warped Wall, but that’s because I went up to try and help Janelle climb it), and by the end I was dirty and sore but extremely happy and proud of us.
Since I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I thought I’d share a few tips for other rookies and first-timers that may be thinking about doing a mud run.
- Think tight, long and synthetic when you’re choosing your outfit. Cotton is not your friend, especially when you’re covered head-to-toe in heavy, thick mud. Stick with something that quickly wicks away moisture (this goes for socks too!) and that won’t get caught on the barbed wire as you crawl underneath it. One thing that I found super important: Make sure your knees are covered. There’s a lot of crawling on and through stones and gravel. Even with capris on, my knees still got torn up, but I’m sure it would have been worse with shorts.
- Eat light (but plan for a fabulous meal after). As a volunteer, we were given plenty of protein bars and fruit to snack on before the race. (Extra tip: If you can volunteer, do it. You’ll get to run for free and it’s a ton of fun.) Thanks to a combination of nerves and the heat, I wasn’t super hungry and stuck to some toast and peanut butter in the morning, and a Cliff bar about 2 hours before the run. It was the right call. Afterwards, Janelle and I headed to California Bar and Grill for platefuls of wings, beer, fries, fried pickles and shrimp. It was heavenly after a full day of activity.
- Don’t leave right after the race. Even though it was towards the end of the day when we finally finished, there still was plenty of stuff to do in the festival area of the park. You could ride a mechanical bull, drink another beer (you get a free one for running the race), or grab food from vendors. I hit up the merchandise tent and grabbed a pretty sweet headband.
- Train, train, train. Even though these races are fun, they are pretty tough. I didn’t necessarily train as hard as I should have, and now a few days post-race, I’m still incredibly sore. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if I was just a bit stronger with a bit more endurance. Probably a lot more fun.
- Despite the blood, sweat and tears, you’ll want to do another one ASAP. This surprised me the most. I thought of Rugged Maniac as a challenge that I would overcome and be done with forever. But as soon as we left the parking lot, I was already Googling upcoming races. The idea of challenging yourself physically and mentally is just too addicting — and I can’t want to test myself again soon.