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2011 Spring Madison Mud Run: Here's Mud in Your Eye

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Mud. It’s not fancy. It’s not pretty. But it’s pure magic. Need proof? Take a bunch of adults, add a metric ton or two of mud and some general silliness, say “On your mark, get set, GO!” - and you turn them into kids again. Kids that love to jump, run, dress up, and leap over tall obstacles in a single bound.

The Madison Mud Run by Race Day Events debuted in 2010 and quickly became one of the most popular races in the area. Offered in both spring and fall, it’s a race that requires a sense of humor and a strategic approach to post-event laundry. And for the Spring 2011 Mud Run, superhero costumes were optional.

Yes, superhero costumes.

It helped if they were insulated, considering that the temperature at starting time was about 49 degrees F.  Of course, with time and exertion, things warmed up. Many racers altered their costumes accordingly as they went along, which for racer Kimberly Olney was one of the funniest memories of the day. “Pieces of [costumes] ended up on the race course as racers stripped them,” Olney said.

Focal Flame Photographer Clint Thayer took photographs of the 1,263 mud-soaked participants. “I love this race,” he said. “The smile ratio is so high. You have to be ready for some splatters on the photography equipment, though,” he joked.

Many runners participated as teams. Racers could also compete in special categories such as Military, EMT, Firefighters, Police, or Fraternity/Sorority, with military and police/fire/EMS racers required to wear full work boots and uniforms or other work-related clothing while racing.

Focal Flame Photography caught up with several members of the Fleet Feet running store team and asked them to share their experiences.

“I always wanted to do a mud run since I've heard they were fun,” said Cheryl Weiss. “So when I found out about one being held here in Madison I signed up to see what it was all about.  I wasn't disappointed at all.”

More than a running race, the Mud Run involved 16 obstacles such as climbing walls, teeter-totters, a slip-and-slide, and (of course!) a knee-deep mud pit. Olney said that the most challenging one was a sheer-faced wall near the finish. “[It was difficult] mostly because I was cold,” she said. “But being short, [I] could not get a grip to pull myself over, so I had to go around.” Olney suggested the addition of a hay bale or rope on one side of the obstacle to help the vertically challenged.

Weiss had a memorable encounter with the waist-deep water crossing at the start of the course. “I was caught off guard by hearing my name being called as I was about to take my first step into the water.  Since I was caught off guard I pretty much slid into the water up to my neck [and] at the same time, I figured out it was one of the firefighters watching that obstacle who happened to know me [and called my name].”

The monkey bars also proved tough for Weiss. “I had a problem reaching the bars just to start, but once I got a little boost it was fine only made it halfway, so next year's goal is to get all the way across.”

Kelly Engle said, “How many times does a mom get to jump in a creek, fly down a slip-n-slide and get disgustingly dirty?” With joyful enthusiasm, she added, “I would do it again in a heartbeat!”

First place overall male was Will Smith of Mt. Horeb, WI, finishing in 26:42. The overall first place female was Tiffany Virag of Middleton, WI with a time of 35:04, and the top team was Madison Multisport, with a combined team time (four participants: Tom Zuhlke, Daniel Hearn, Troy Blodgett, and Erin Blodgett) of 2:32:08.

At the finish line, racers warmed themselves up and enjoyed laughing over their experiments. Refreshments including chicken wings from sponsor Quaker Steak & Lube and beer from Capital Brewery were on hand. “[I loved] running into other people I knew and hearing their stories from the race,” said Weiss.

But make no mistake, although the race may have been pure whimsy, the athletic acheivement was serious. “This was one of the neatest things that I have ever done in my life, as far as inner feeling of accomplishment,” said Terri Tessman.

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So could plain old mud be the fountain of youth? Take a look at the photos, the grins, and the hugs – you be the judge.

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And if you’re ready to join in with “Madison’s Dirtiest Race,” the Fall Halloween Challenge version of the Madison Mud Run will be held on October 29, 2011. Registration is open!