“Hey, Maria, look at the sun,” says Kate, one of my race partners.
I look to the sky to see the sun peeking out at dawn. It was the day of the Grand Rapids Mud Run of the Century, 2012.
I cast a look at the starting line, wishing we could just go, instead of starting in sections. I can’t wait to begin my first Mud Run.
Finally, finally, the official tells our section to go. I cross the starting line with my running partners – Kate, a teenager, and Pat, Diana, and Brooke, who are adults. Immediately we’re on a dry dirt path that’s shaded, but soon we approach our first obstacle. It’s five yellow barrels with strips of wooden fence. As I climb over, I see several others jump easily over the fences. I wish I could do that.
We keep running at a moderate pace until we near a vast land filled with mud pits, crowded with human pigs running around joyfully in the muck. I gasp. How in the world am I going to get through that?
“Keep close, Maria,” warns Brooke.
As I step into the pit, the mud reaches my waist and seems like quicksand. Man, this is tough even to walk in.
“Hurry up, slowpoke!” Kate yells, as all my partners move quickly through the mud, passing me. I labor to catch up with them. As we cross the vast mud land, I keep falling behind. Finally, we are out of the mud and enter shady woods again.
“What did you think of that, Maria?” asked Diana.
“Made me grateful I have duct tape on my shoes,” I grunted. No joke, I duct taped my shoes on to avoid losing them in the mud.
“Why are we walking?” I ask.
“We don’t want to use all our energy running,” Brooke replies. “Remember endurance, Maria. You need it most, since you like to run fast. Without endurance, this race can be really unpleasant.”
“Thanks a lot,” I mutter, trying not to blush. I don’t need Brooke pointing out my weakness in front of everyone.
To comfort myself, I slip into my dreamy mind. Even if I dislike being left behind, I love the feeling of mud and getting dirty! Where else can you get filthy without your parents yelling at you?
My daydream ends as I realize I’ve stepped out onto a sunlit dirt path. I’m approaching a maze made of black cargo netting and wood blocks. The cargo net is roughly two feet above a lot more mud. I squeeze under it. Through this crawling adventure, I feel like a climber on a rock wall, only the rocks are replaced with mud, my hands are replaced with my elbows, and I’m crawling instead of climbing. In an attempt to get through the maze at cheetah pace instead of a snail’s, I shove my elbows in faster. Sadly, it doesn’t work. So I stick to using my elbows at my snail’s pace and, what do you know, it works!
I look like a mud monster! I laugh to myself, but at least the muck keeps me cool from the sun.
“What’s next?” I call out anxiously, as we merge as a group again.
“You’ll see!” Brooke answers, running now.
On the path, I see a crowd of runners waiting for an obstacle that’s hidden from view. We wait, and I start scratching at the mud on my body; it comes off in layers.
Finally we reach the front of the line, and I glance up to see that the next obstacle is …
… a water slide!
From where I’m standing, it looks like the hill is covered with an enormous light blue plastic Slip’n’ Slide. Water is trickling down it about 60 feet. At the bottom is a another dirt path. My teammates all line up to go down at the same time.
This is so much fun! It feels like falling down a hole for a few precious seconds. On the way to the bottom, half of the mud is washed off of us. What a relief!
We do about eight more major obstacles after the water slide, including climbing through dirt tunnels, facing more mud pits, and climbing up a steep hill and sliding down the other side. Then, we redo the whole course – one lap equals 2.5K so two laps is a 5K. The second time is more relaxing because I know what to expect.
Nearing the finish line after the second lap, I realize with a jolt of lightning that I am feeling more relaxed than I have all week!
I smile at my mom and siblings as we cross the finish.
My mom asks, “How was the Mud Run?”
“Really muddy with lots of mud pits!” I gush. “I got stuck in one that was up to my neck! Pat helped me out. I was even daydreaming sometimes when we were walking.”
Mom laughs. “Well, do you want to do it again next year?” she asks.
“Yes! This is the most fun thing I’ve done in a long time!” I reply without hesitation. I learned that doing something you love, despite hardships, can bring more relaxation to your day than any other time. For me, it’s running, and today I did the Mud Run.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.