The Mud Factor was billed as an “obstacle run,” but as one could expect, there was much more than just running and jumping over things involved. It was an extremely fun event for anyone who doesn’t mind getting dirty. Or, if you’re like me, and you like to pretend you’re an action hero from a movie, it’s PERFECT.

ImageThe event was held at the Maryland International Speedway in Mechanicsville, MD, which is about an hour and a half drive from my house. I had to leave at 7am to make the 8:30 requested arrival time, but in fact I was lucky to be coming from the side of the state I was coming from. Right at the entrance to the Speedway parking lot was a head-on collision, and the opposite direction of traffic was completely stopped and couldn’t enter the Speedway.

My friends Ashley and Dennis, who ran with me at my very first 5K in May, were already parked and came and found me as I parked myself, but the rest of our team was stuck in the traffic behind the collision. We were signed up for the 9:30 wave but because of the delays a lot of the teams from the 9:30 wave ended up going with the 10:00 wave.

ImageThe only problem with the course itself I really had was the very beginning, because for the most part it was a LOT of fun since, unlike my last 5K which was a muddy trail run I did NOT sign up for (it did not let us know that in fact it was a steep and windy trail run until the NIGHT before), I was ready to pretty much walk this whole thing in the interest of safety and fun. But the problem was the beginning. There was a ton of clogging at the very beginning of the course because the very first obstacle was the one people probably had the most trouble with. It was jumping over a felled tree, and people were going one by one to give everyone room to not get kicked in the head. I gave it one good attempt and then used a stump to hitch myself up and over it, but a lot of people wouldn’t quit until they could pull themselves up and over – which just made everyone wait in line after the start of the race for a good 20 minutes.

This kind of set the tone that nobody gave a crap about time. I did run the flat-ish parts of the course, but there were some STEEP uphill trail sections that made it feel much more like a hike than a running race.

Our team stuck together for about the first half of the race, sliding down dirt slides and sloshing through muddy water, but we sort of split when the course came to a big open field that required a loop around it. At the turn of the loop was a Halfway House obstacle. One or two of our team members had fallen behind (there were 7 of us in all) and some stayed at the Halfway House to wait for the others to catch up. Two of us kept going. I scooted right up and over the Halfway House and then Mallory, who’s training for a marathon, and ran side by side through probably another 3/4 of a mile of the course. She had no problem scurrying up the steep inclines whereas I chose to walk them (note to self: not that it really mattered today, but I need to stop being afraid to do hill repeat training), and she finally went on ahead of me.

My favorite thing about today was that I actually passed a bunch of people who had started ahead of me. I never do that at races where most people are real runners. Most people there today were there just to have fun with their friends and probably were doing a lot of waiting up for their friends to catch up, or didn’t care about running, but I actually found myself not being able to help but start running when the trail was clear and not terribly steep. Even though I know in a “real” race it’ll be a while before I’m actually passing people and staying past them, it was a real confidence boost to finish and turn around and see people I had seen far ahead of me, or not far behind me, finish long after me.

Riding on that “favorite” part, I loved the two or three climbing wall obstacles on the course. At all of them, I scrambled up those things crazy quick, surprised at my own adrenaline and strength. At the second to last one, one dude had been struggling since I rounded the corner and got the obstacle in my sights to climb up the wall using the rope. But I just remembered the tip I got once from a rock climber that climbing is all about leg strength, very little to do with arm strength, and after finding my footing, just trusted the strength of my legs. I was over on the ground on the other side before he was off the ground on the first side. In a straight running race, he would have finished long ahead of me. Felt kinda cool about that. The key for me in climbing is to not stop – just keep moving to the next ledge, don’t look down, don’t think about it, just keep going up.

My left leg has been acting up this week, something to do with my hip joint, but I felt zero pain today and after the race. When I finally crested the very last hill and saw the wire crawl through the slushiest, thickest mud (it smelled fishily like plain old brown paint…) the finish line was so close I almost didn’t want to cross it. I’d had so much fun on the course, the only reason I bothered to finish instead of waiting up for the rest of my team was because…

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…we got medals!! This is my first finish line medal, and I was so excited to get it around my neck. I sometimes spend time looking up cool races to do just by Google searching what their finisher medals look like from past years – I certainly run for more than the medals but I also like shiny things that silently brag for me. And after climbing and hiking such steep hills and running at a steady pace instead of walking from obstacle to obstacle, I really felt like I’d earned this thing. I wore it proudly for the rest of the day.

ImageI had to change my top after the “showers” – most of the mud came off but it soaked my top and I was starving and knew I’d want to stop for a snack on the drive home and didn’t think wherever I stopped would appreciate me walking in in just my sports bra.

This wasn’t so much a race as it was a really fun social workout. It’s not the kind of thing I would do again unless I had, like today, a really fun handful of people to do it with. The medal was a super nice perk, and everyone (well, everyone except the two women who got into a fight at the showers at the end…) had awesome attitudes. Even when I lost my group, everyone I encountered along the way was cheering each other on through obstacles and hills.

The truly muddy photos aren’t available yet. And a lot of other people were complaining that the event was more like a “trail run with 4 obstacles,” but that’s okay with me. In my head the whole time I was thinking “5K” so the fact that there were long stretches of just running was just fine with me. I got it on the Groupon so I wouldn’t pay $50 for a 5K race (unless it was SUPER awesomely themed like the Redskins 5K Run I’m doing in September), but I personally was happy with the day.

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