What makes an overweight, out-of-shape parent spend upwards of $60 to endure 1 to 5 miles of physical activity they have been avoiding for years? Mud! And not just mud, but a family mud run event, where the appropriate mindset requires participants to dress as if it were Halloween to tackle a military-inspired obstacle course. That, and the irrational goal of putting mud, sweat and tears between yourself and a great expereince with your kids. Who in their right mind would pay for this? As it turns out, hundreds of thousands of people, all dressed like they’re going to the next Marvel movie premier.
So, what is the allure of a mud run for kids? A family mud run is a mix of whimsical fun and physical exertion; it’s the perfect event for a parent who is ready to make a change but needs a cloak to do it under. It’s also the perfect reminder for a lot of people that they’re not in as good of shape as they think they are—and that they’re not getting any younger either, but thier kids love mud and want to do something with them. How would I know this? Because I’m that person.
My wife and two kids signed up for a family mud run race last year after a few inspired but ultimately failed attempts at running. I think we had an unspoken agreement between each other that we had to do something before all of these years of being busy parents and sitting in office chairs caught up with us. It’s pathetic what an office chair will do to your health. We needed something that was extreme, and what better way to throw ourselves into that fire pit than to willingly sign up for an event that ends by literally jumping over a line of burning logs and ankle-singeing flames? We didn’t train for the event beyond a few P90X workouts over a couple of weeks, and we weren’t exactly ready for the amount of fun we would have with our kids.
So when race day came, we made our way to a park in New York, lined up with the rest of team “not in shape,” and ran for the hills. The starting line jockey of parents and kids had the crowd bouncing up and down like a Limp Bizkit concert as the horn sounded. It was at this moment that one of a few things became very clear:
Tip 1: When at an event with more than 1,000 people including kids, no one really “takes off” from the starting line like you see in movies. Everyone just kind of tiptoes forward until they find enough space to take a full step. It’s really anti-climactic, and a bit of a buzzkill.
Tip 2: Once the obstacle race starts, any nerves you had about the family mud run event melt away in the first quarter mile.
The reason your nerves regain their composure after a quarter mile is because you realize that the first obstacle is almost a half-mile from the start line. Nobody mentioned that part, and by the time we finished the initial run, we were looking up a large hill with a tire obstacle staring right back at us. This was immediately followed by a few other overcrowded mud run obstacles and one last decline before we hit “the pit.” The reason we were all here was then right in front of me: When I got to it, I jumped in with all I had, landing feet-first in two feet of filthy glory. It’s awesome and it was absolutely worth the effort to get there wiyth my kids. At that point, a couple more things became very clear:
Tip 3: Don’t jump feet-first into the mud pit. As it turns out, the top is a manageable liquid, but the bottom is a bit more like the pile of industrial glue that Wile E. Coyote would find himself in after almost catching the Road Runner. I was ankle-deep in mud so thick that the only way I was getting my foot back was to loose my shoe. I spent the next 60 seconds chest-deep, fumbling in the muck, searching for a shoe that would never be the same again. I did manage to dig it out finally and slosh through the remainder of the pit with one bare foot, but found I was now missing my sock and couldn’t even fit my foot back in the shoe because it was so full of mud.
Tip 4: As it turns out, the guy wearing only a loincloth was probably the best-dressed runner for the mud pit. It’s a bold statement and certainly debatable on moral grounds (not to mention requiring a certain level of self-assurance), but most of the mud that he collected in the pit was quickly washed away by the anxious 8-year-old girl with a garden hose standing outside the pit. My athletic, lightweight, wicking, stretchy, breathable shirt was hanging to my knees and the neck was somewhere around my belly button—maybe a jock strap and a Jason mask would have been a better choice.
After the mud pit, the rest of the kids mud run course is painfully slippery and slow. I was now carrying an extra 10 pounds of mud, running without a sock in a mud-packed shoe and doing my best to hold my shirt above my knees. The crowd was now divided into two teams: those who were in shape and just getting a little dirty before getting back to the party at base camp, and those who were with their kids enjoying every moment of this family mud run event. While I found myself in the latter group, I knew then that I never wanted to be in that group again. We balanced on beams, climbed walls, bloodyed our knees on cargo nets and eventually burned off all of our ankle hairs on gasoline-soaked logs.
The kids obstacle race was over, but even then, there were still a few more lessons to be learned:
Tip 5: You will have mud in every little crevice of your body. Yep, even there! You’ll wonder how little kids can possibly deal with this muddy mess too.
Tip 6: It’s a long walk back to the car. We had to walk for a good half-mile to get to our car, then walk the distance back again to the showers to clean up.
Tip 7: Be prepared to shower with 50 of your newest friends. It was fun to see the kids getting hosed off and trying to get all the mud from all the interesting places it had gone.
In spite of all of these discoveries, as we walked up from the showers and tossed our shoes in a recycle pile near the porta potties, I felt proud that I’d survived my first ever family mud run—hell, my first organized run of any type. It was awesome to finsh with my kids in tow. Having done it made me want more from this family time. I said to my wife and kids, “This is pretty cool. We should do this every year.” And we will. This year, we’ll all be at the start line again, jumping in anticipation and tip-toeing our way to a new set of obstacles that we’ve put between ourselves and an absolutely great time with my kids. I can’t wait!