Archived Outdoors

Make mud, not war: A good time had by all at Waynesville Mud Run

out frI’ve never been a huge fan of any sport that hinges on an ability to run swiftly or handle a ball with any measure of skill, and for that reason I’ve managed to maintain a remarkably clean life record when it to athletic accomplishments. 

Mud is another matter.

When word reached my ears last year that an event involving mud pits, climbing nets and creek splashing would be held less than a mile from my front door, the fact that I’d never entered an organized race before — and had in fact spent most of my life as an evangelist for not running — didn’t deter me. 

I had to do it, and I did, creating memories of muddy bliss achieved while splashing through pits of opaque gooeyness and bragging rights earned from the crazy rope burn resulting from an ill-fated shimmy over yet another patch of delightful grossness. When the 2014 race ended, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be taking yet another drain-clogging shower as summer in the Smokies gave way to fall. 

But foregone conclusions can be dangerous temptations of fate, as demonstrated by the fact that the Monday before the 2015 Building Bridges Mud Run in Waynesville, I took my dog out for her morning pee, stepped into the yard and turned my ankle on a root. The rest of the week, I was forced to drive rather than walk, keep the ankle wrapped and ice it regularly. The day before the race, I arrived at the dog park clearly favoring my wrapped right ankle, much to the chagrin of my teammate Tanya, there with her own canine. 

“Is that mud run-worthy?” she asked doubtfully. 

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“Don’t worry,” I told her, more confidently than I felt. “I’m definitely doing it.”

After all, I reasoned, in the annals of history, what would be most remembered? A Saturday spent watching Netflix on the couch, or a heroic assault on Happy Hill and the glorious pits of mud contained therein? All that’s assuming that history contains an annal dedicated exclusively to the weekend exploits of people in Waynesville during the year 2015, of course, which, while doubtful, is nice to think about. 

When morning came, I was ready. Though feeling slightly silly about bringing my not-quite-sprained ankle to the Lord’s attention given all the more weightly ills in the world, I prayed for that joint to stay strong through the race. I woke up early to spend a few minutes icing the thing and wrapped it up tight in an Ace bandage. Then, figuring I was as ready as I’d ever be, I set out to rendezvous with the team and pull on the sweet 60s-themed shirts our teammate Emily, a graphic designer, had made for us — team name: Make Mud, Not War. 

It was time. 

No-so-competitively placed last in the lineup for release to the course, we set out jogging up the hill from the Waynesville Recreation Center, along Howell Mill Road and then up the horrendously steep and ironically named Happy Hill Road. A pair of yellow-shirted volunteers laid into us with squirt guns as we neared our first obstacle — a pair of parked cars to climb across. I carefully picked my way over the SUV, selectively positioning that right ankle, while my teammate Arielle vaulted, in true Dukes of Hazzard style, over the sedan beside it, a graceful-looking tumble that nevertheless resulted in a nasty bruise.

That’s when we reached the mud. There was a large pit made all the deeper by the thrashing of the many who’d crossed it before us, a slippery slog up a bare-earth slope, and a neurocenter of obstacles greeting us at the top: a pit covered with a blue tarp, an elevated pipe to crawl through, a cargo net to climb and then a series of muddy pits impossible to cross daintily. 

I was as happy as a 4-year-old version of myself playing in a rain-filled drainage ditch, and as I faced the second half of the course I became more and more confident that I’d be able to cross the finish line with a still-intact ankle. 

Before that, however, came a downhill run back to the Rec Center, a splash across Richland Creek, a whole strip of muddy ground to run across, a mud mogul to leap and a marathon mud crawl through pits covered with logs, forcing the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your perspective) mudder to lean down low. Then it was back across the creek, up the Rec Center hill again, over a 10-foot-high pile of hay bales and then — finally — the finish line, marked by a well-soaped slip-n-slide and a fire hose to spray off the mud. 

From there, my ankle supported me, with barely a protest, all the way over to the beer garden for a refreshing pale ale, where my teammates and I basked in muddy glory — already casting a 2016 return as a foregone conclusion.

Of course, as previously established, foregone conclusions can be dangerous, so if next year you see a girl in a full-body cast attempting to thrash through a mud pit on Happy Hill, it’s probably me. In that case, do her a favor and tell her to quit while she’s ahead. 

Now in its second year, the Building Bridges Mud Run takes place in Waynesville and raises money for the Canton Lions Club and Lions Club International, supporting programs in Haywood County and service for the blind.

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