Life is made up of marble and mud.~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Not just a little dirty (not even gardening dirty). I’m talking top of your head to the bottom of your shoes with not one clean inch in between dirty.
Maybe you’ve watched your kid get that dirty, or your dog. That doesn’t count. When did YOU last have copious amounts of mud on your face, arms, and legs, all at the same time? (Spa treatments don’t count either.)
Why, you may ask, would any adult in their right mind want to be covered in real (non-spa) mud?
I found out this past Saturday when I joined 14 other middle-aged moms from my boot camp class to run the 2013 Run Amuck race at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico. The 3.5-mile course included mud pits, fitness stations, fire hoses, random obstacles, and several very steep hills (nobody had told us about the hills).
The race is meant to be messy, as least in the designated mud pits. But this year was exceptional, thanks to 24 hours of rainfall prior to the event, courtesy of tropical storm Andrea.
You may have heard of ultra marathoners. We were ultra MUD-A-THONERS.
Why was it so much fun?
10 Reasons You Should Try a Mud Run
1) Provides a training goal. This is true of any race. I am a reluctant runner, and an even more reluctant racer. I committed to the mud run with my Grass Roots Fitness boot camp group months ago because I can’t say no to the instructors, Joann and Francine. They’re just too cute (even with those intimidating biceps) and too inspiring to turn down. Once it was on the calendar and registration fees were paid, there was nothing to do but train.
2) Bonding time with friends. I’m sure there were folks at the race running on their own, but I can guarantee they didn’t have as much fun as we did. The bonding started during our strength training classes and practice runs. The matching race outfits (pink shirts, pink camouflage socks, and grass skirts–the signature Grass Roots fashion statement) took it to the next level. The sisterhood thing got serious when we all wrapped duct tape around our shoes and ankles to protect against the loss of said shoes in the mud. And on the course, well, I’ve had my share of ladies’ lunches, but chatting over white wine and Cesar Salad doesn’t come close to the connection you feel when you’re pulling a friend loose from a mud pit. Or when you’re part of the circle of women helping another friend, jittery with a fear of heights, make it down a treacherously steep and slippery hill.
3) Appreciation for our servicemen and -women. All varieties of mud runs are out there, but we were lucky to take part in a Marine Corps Marathon event. That meant that our run was not only on a Marine Corps base, it was also staffed by men and women in uniform cheering us along, overseeing our crunches and push-ups, and high-fiving us after we scrambled over, under, and through the various obstacles. It was a little embarrassing, to tell you the truth, realizing I was there having fun, choosing to be in the mud in my silly grass skirt, when these Marines risk their lives in far worse conditions to protect our freedom. And there they were, inspiring ME to keep going. I wish I had come up with something more creative than “Thank you for your service” in response, but it was the best I could do in the mud.
4) Reconnects us with nature. Stumbling through a mud pit is the ultimate example of being one with nature. The non-stop rain the day before our race made the experience even messier than usual, not only in the designated mud pits, but for the duration of the 3.5-mile trail. It was nature’s version of a practical joke, if you ask me. It’s good to be reminded that nature can still take us down if it feels like it. We even came into contact with some real wildlife–I carried a surprised cicada with me for about half a mile, first on my shoulder, then on my hand, giving it the ride of its very short life. A little garter snake made some runners scream before I shooed it off the path to safety. (Boy mom, here.) Wish the National Geographic crew had been there to capture the excitement on film.
5) Reminds us it’s OK to be dirty sometimes. Some researchers say we Westerners have become too clean for our own good. Our super-clean lifestyles and excessive anti-bacterial product use, especially hand sanitizers, may be leading to more cases of asthma and allergies. The theory is that, without enough real germs to fight, our immune systems make allergens their target (check out this NBC News report to learn more). Bottom line: we need to get over our germ- and dirt-phobic tendencies. What better way than to run in the mud?
6) Reminds us that we’re lucky to be clean most of the time. I know, this is a bit of a contradiction with #5. But while it’s important to not be obsessed with cleanliness, it’s also important to be grateful for our clean and abundant water supply, which most of us take for granted. UNICEF estimates that roughly 4,000 children around the globe die each day from lack of access to safe water and sanitation services. (To learn more, click here.)
7) Reunites us with our ancestors. Tucked away in some deep, dark corner of our collective consciousness is a memory of the days when we held hands with our clansmen and danced around bon fires at midnight under a full moon. Go even farther back and you might remember yourself as that first fish emerging from the depths to find yourself wriggling along a muddy path towards the next puddle, thinking, “I could use me some legs here.” A mud run triggers these primeval memories (it did for me at least). Maybe that’s what the young woman in the parking lot was reenacting after the race when I saw her lie down in a “fresh” puddle of water to get the mud off of her back.
8) Shows us what our bodies can do. As I already mentioned, there are all sorts of mud runs out there, some of them more grueling than Run Amuck, some less grueling. The famed “Tough Mudder” races, for example, held at locations around the world, are 10-12 mile obstacle courses that include running through hanging live wires and forging streams. No thanks. Run Amuck provided just the right amount of challenge for this 49-year-old suburban mom. And for the record, I crossed more of the monkey bars than Francine did (I’ll never let her forget that).
9) Empowerment. This piggy-backs on #7, but there’s an even deeper empowerment that comes with challenging yourself physically in challenging conditions. Scrambling up a grassy incline can be hard enough. Scrambling up a slick, mud-covered incline with only some mud-covered netting to grasp brings it to another level. Knowing that you’ve done the training to get there, that you’re willing to get dirty in the process, that you’ve helped your buddies get through as well…that’s empowerment.
10) Inspiration, plain and simple. I was not only inspired by the Marines along the course; I was also inspired by the other racers. I’m not even talking about the speed demons (there were a few of those, but they started before we did). For me, the most inspiring racer, hands down, was the heavy-set, white haired grandmother who, with some help from the crowd, was pulling herself over the roughly 8-foot-high A-frame obstacle when our group arrived. As we cheered her on, she took a breather before descending on the other side, exclaiming, “My husband’s a Marine! My son’s a Marine! My son-in-law’s a Marine! I’m NOT going to quit!”
So go ahead and borrow a page from that grandma. Don’t limit your vision of what you think can do. And don’t be afraid to get dirty.
I’m here to tell you, there’s power in the mud!
If you enjoyed today’s entry and are not yet a subscriber, sign up above for free delivery of new posts to your email inbox. (I promise to never share your information.) Social media likes and shares are always appreciated as well!