My first mud run was Volkslauf held on Marine Corps Base El Toro, Calif., circa 1988. The challenge was a Marine Corps obstacle course separated by progressively deeper and thicker mud trenches. As the lightest member of our team, my job was to be the first to hit the mud trench, then wade, swim, crawl, or slime my way to the other side and allow the other members to stand on my shoulders to claw their way out. Once they were out, they would form a human chain, reach down and yank me out of the trench. No matter what, participants had to progress through the course and finish as a team - the course itself, required it. While many of the obstacles could be negotiated solo, there was no way an individual participant could progress through the course as quickly and efficiently as a team with good problem solving skills.
Unlike the triathlon I did that year, there was a huge post-race party where participants laughed and joked and teased each other about the challenges the course presented and the successes and failures we each experienced in negotiating them. Where triathlon celebrates individual achievement and dedication to a training regimen, “mud runs” like the Volkslauf celebrate a mixture of physical endurance, teamwork and the ability to think on your feet. Mud runs are a thinking man’s endurance event.
While I don’t think the Volkslauf is in existence any longer, mud runs like the Marine Mud Run Challenge at Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, NC, September 10) have been around for years raising money for charities like Operation Homefront, http://www.operationhomefront.net/nc/. Now a new breed of mud runs, each with their own unique approach to racing, are sweeping the national and international race scene. Events like the Warrior Dash (Huntersville, NC, August 27-28), the Spartan Race (Winnsboro, SC, June 25), and Tough Mudder (Wintergreen, VA, October 25-26) are raising the bar on endurance sports and creating events as challenging, if not more challenging, as Ironman.
One of the interesting challenges posed by mud runs is the unknown. There are no free training plans available on line. At best, I’ve found some recommending training - mostly CrossFit and Kettlebell training - but not plans, nor offers by coaches to create a plan. I love that uncertainty! The idea of an endurance-type mud run has rejuvenated my fitness goals. So, I’m signed up for my next mud run (and first since 1988). In December, I will participate in Tough Mudder and in between will likely tackle a Warrior Dash or Spartan Race where I will make my return to “mudjesty”.