By Lisa Mullis
Arkansas in autumn is not only resplendent with color from the changing of the leaves but there is not a weekend that is lacking a long list of events on the Things To Do in Central Arkansas calendar. In October the State Fair comes to Little Rock, there are bicycle races and charity rides, 5Ks galore, Harvest Fests, Boo at the Zoo, and Chili Cook-Offs. Another time-honored October event is Little Rock’s Dirtiest 5K: The Mud Run.
The Mud Run benefits Little Rock’s Parks and Recreation Department. It’s advertised as a 5K-ish run, as the actual distance is a well guarded secret each year. As are the potential “obstacles” along the course. There have been tires, bales of hay, even potato sack races. This is one of the more entertaining 5Ks in which to participate and people line the 300 foot long mud “pit” just to watch and cheer. Or is that jeer? It could be either. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes while they walk, run, skip, trot, cavort, romp and/or frolic on their way to and while in the mud pit. This event is a spectator’s delight.
For many of the 8 years this race has been held, our family has participated in one form or another. We’ve done it as a 2-some, 3-some or 4-some. No matter what the configuration, it was always a great adventure. Sometimes a cold, wet, muddy adventure that involved losing shoes in the mud and requiring trash bags just to be able to get back in the car afterward. And that includes the year our costumes were made of trash bags and bubble wrap, we were still so filthy that even the trash bags had to be trashed.
Several local events coincided with long planned family celebrations for Saturday October 29th this year. I decided not to participate in any of the organized events but as part of a morning workout jog, I included the Mud Run location as my turn around point and stopped to enjoy the fun. On the way I happened upon a hot air balloon that had landed in a field along the Two Rivers Trail. It was a chilly but sunny morning; a perfect morning for a view from above.
The race director, AKA the Chick in Charge was giving instructions and leading warm up exercises complete with dance music for the racers when I arrived. Much like the 5K ish distance, the start time is 9 ish and it was definitely on the ish side of 9 when the ATV carrying the race rabbit led the racers out from the starting line. There were running pumpkins, bunches of grapes, Thing 1 and Thing 2, a pair of dice, a guy in a towel and shower cap (let’s hope for no wardrobe malfunctions!), a caveman, a pack of bow tie wearing nerds, and the requisite fairies, animals and cartoon characters. And one guy in nothing but a bright blue tutu and a pair of teensy blue wings.
As the runners made their way past me and out to the course I moseyed over to check out the mud. When I left the warmth of my car an hour or so before, I noticed it was 41 degrees. I don’t know how much warmer it had gotten but it wasn’t warm enough to get wet. Which made tutu guy seem all the more fanatical, but this is the Mud Run. Conduct such as this is not just condoned, it is encouraged! This run, at the core, is performance art. There are awards for best costume (of course) but there are also awards for best entry into the mud. Belly flops, dancing the can-can, the perfect cheer, I think I’ve seen it all happen in that glorious mud. There are mud marshals waiting to make sure you don’t pussy-foot through the pit. You must get dirty: the dirtier, the better. There are usually mud wrestling matches and good natured judo tosses. It wasn’t long before the announcement that the first runner was on his way to the mud. He ran across the sludge as if he was floating over it. I heard and the saw one of the marshals insisting that he get down and swim/crawl under the flags, it wouldn’t be right to end the race clean. Not right at all. Finisher #2 was close behind and then, as the rest of the pack started to arrive, the mayhem began. I saw the shower guy-no mishaps, his towel was still firmly on his waist. And the blue tutu guy, he didn’t act like he was cold but how could he not be? There was some nudging, a little pushing and a few screams. I’m not sure if they were having a good time screams or oh my gosh this water is COLD screams. Probably both. Then I noticed the beautiful rainbow in the stream of water from the firehouse faucet that was keeping all that muck at its muckiest.
As the crowd in the pit grew larger there was a bit of an interjection. The race organizers for Raid the Rock Urban Adventure Race had placed a checkpoint marker on the far side of the mud pit. The only guidance the RTR teams have for checkpoints are UTM coordinates and a map. I didn’t see the first team arrive in time to snap a photo but I got teams 2 and 3 coming across the pit, through the costumed craziness, to get their punch. Unlike the participants of the Mud Run who could immediately rinse off and change clothes, these guys had to live with those wet and muddy bike shoes for at least a few more hours while they finished their race.
Whether it’s a 17 minute run with 2 minutes sprinting through the mud, a 35 minute jog with 20 minutes playing in the mud or an all day adventure with hours of mud in those socks, the old adage about how it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters holds true. Except for the person/persons in 1st place. For them, I’ll bet it’s the destination.