A few weeks ago I ran my first mud race ever. If you’re wondering what a mud race is, well, it’s a trail race filled with a lot of muddy places, basically. You run in nature and, on top of the mud holes, you also have to deal with a few human made obstacles: things you have to climb to, go over it, or hang from for a while.
Why Would You Run A Mud Race?
Briefly, it was about curiosity. I already ran 2 marathons, 2 half-marathons and a few 10k races, so I know how it is to run on flat ground. But I didn’t know how it is to run in the forest, not to mention in an obstacles race.
I wanted to see how I will perform in an unfriendly environment. I don’t think it was about the challenge in itself, as it was about curiosity: how will I perceive the conditions and how these conditions will affect my overall performance. The run wasn’t timed, but there was some prize for the winner (I knew I couldn’t win the prize, because there were a few professional runners lined up).
The weather was rather cold and the conditions were scarce, to say the least. I think the temperature was somewhere around 5 degrees Celsius. The race was around and through a forest near Bucharest and it turned out we didn’t have any place to change our clothes. No tents or other human made construction whatsoever. So, I strategically placed myself behind a car, a position which gave me the opportunity to feel the cold directly to my skin, and the humid earth underneath my bare feet. Those – rather unpleasant – sensations gave me bit of a hint on the feeling of being immersed in mud, later on. Or so I thought. Actually, it was about the get much worse than that.
We waited for about an hour in an open field until all the runners gathered and then we listened to the technical description of the race. After we learned where exactly we were supposed to run and got a short description of the obstacles we were going to encounter, we did a short warm up. Then, just like that, we started to run.
The first few hundreds meters were ok. Apart from the fact that it was really cold (and the warm up session didn’t solve this completely, leaving me with a sore feeling in my feet) everything was fine. Then, we hit the first obstacle. A mud hole. Literally, a hole in the ground, filled with mud up to the knees.
We just jumped into it, immersed in a cold, black substance that was sticking to the skin, and then, after a couple of “giant” steps, we crawled out of it. The first contact was brutal. The moment I felt the cold mud on my feet I almost stopped. Like being frozen or something. Then, slowly, I started to feel my feet again and started to move on. It was so cold it almost got painful. When I crawled back up, I also got dirty on my hands, up to my elbows. So, my extremities, the parts that are the most sensitive to temperature differences, were now a few degrees colder than normal. Uh.
And then, just after I ran a few more steps, I saw another mud hole. And then another one. The first obstacle was actually a string of 4 or 5 (can’t remember clearly) mud holes. At the end of it, I was completely black from the top to the bottom and my running gear was compromised (but I knew that will happen, and I did have some changing clothes with me, so, per se, that wasn’t much of a problem). We continued to run.
The next obstacle was a “laser net”. There were a few strings tied together at around half a meter above the ground, forming a small net. We were supposed to crawl on the ground without touching the net. I found this one to be surprisingly easy. It was much easier to slide on the mud than to walk through it. I almost didn’t feel that one.
Fortunately, after these two obstacles, the race got a bit easier. We still had to run, of course, but running in a forest, all of a sudden, seemed very easy. Compared with trying to walk in a mud hole, of course.
We hit a few more laser nets and, with just 1 km beyond the finish (it was a 5 kilometres run, by the way) we hit the last two obstacles. Which, of course, where the most difficult.
The first one was a “monkey ladder”, which was basically a wood stepladder placed horizontally at around two meters above another, yes, you guessed, mud hole. We were supposed to hang and advance by using only our hands, and, somehow, to get to the other side of the hole. But, alas, this wasn’t all. In order to reach to the wood handles, at around 2 meters above the ground, we had to climb on a rope. Which was wet. So, it was basically impossible to get there, if you were not in the first 20-30 runners (which had the chance to find the rope reasonably dry).
So, I jumped in the mud directly. That was even colder than the first time. I almost swam until I reached the end – about 5 meters later, not much, in absolute terms. But in relative terms, like after running 4 kilometres in cold and mud, well, that proved to be a little bit taxing.
And, of course, that wasn’t all. That wasn’t even remotely all. The next obstacle was a wall. Made of wood, about 1 and half meter high. At least something that wasn’t muddy. It was bit of a struggle to climb on top of it and then go back, but it felt much nicer than the mud. And then, just before the finish, we had another wall. This time it was a 3 meters high wall. That was a bit tougher. I was helped by another runner and I did it quite fast too. Before that, I helped another runner too at the first wall. I guess there is some truth in that thing about going around and coming around, if you know what I mean.
Well, that was it. I mean, the race.
Because the experience went on. Like I told you, we were in open field, near a forest. No running water whatsoever. So, we washed with (ice cold) water from a towed tanker parked in the race area. That was rough, but I didn’t feel it like something out of the picture with the entire theme of the race.
I stayed for a group picture, networked a bit and then found a ride home. Like asking other people if they have an extra seat in their car. Surprisingly, after I warmed up a bit, I didn’t feel tired at all. On the contrary, I felt energised, almost pumped up.
And that’s how I spent one of my Sundays this spring.
Quite a few people asked me afterwards why would I do something like this. It’s not the usual Sunday morning pastime, you know.
Like I said, it was because of curiosity. All that thing about getting out of the comfort zone, it starts with curiosity. How could you even imagine there’s another thing outside your comfort cocoon, if you’re not following your curiosity? Sometimes, curiosity ends bad, if you’re stepping on somebody else’s toes, for instance.
If you’re curious what’s happening if you push some people too much, even with the best intentions, well, this may have bad results.
But if you’re curious what may happen if you push yourself too much, well, that’s where the real fun is.