There’s no middle ground with the RunAmuck 5K. Either you’re seized by the idea of getting so filthy that you have to throw out your running shoes and clothing, or you aren’t.
“Some people are completely disgusted by it,” says RunAmuck head muck-a-muck Scott Johnsson. “And there’s a contingent of people who will say, ‘I have to do this’.” One look at an e-mail from a friend, and I knew I belonged to the second group.
Different kind of fun
Which is how I came to be at Lake Needwood in Rockville last Saturday with a couple thousand other runners — most of them in their 20s or early 30s and in outlandish costumes — duct-taping my running shoes to my ankles.
Johnsson believes that mud runs started in Southern California and have since spread across the country under names such as Muddy Buddy. The RunAmuck is a good, hard 5 km trail run with a difference: three crossings of the muddy lake in hip-deep water and shoe-sucking muck, two man-made mud pits, a few wooden barriers to climb and a couple of agility grids.
Throw in blaring music, the usual pre- and post-race goodies and the eccentrics who populate the running community, and you have a break from the typical weekend recreational run.
The RunAmuck Mud and Music Fest attracts people like “Runaway Brides” Jamie Gietz and Sarah McIntire, who ran in wedding gowns that were of purest white until they hit the lake. Will Martin (23) and Kim Anderson (20) came outfitted as vikings.
I’m not the costume type, but I did put on one of those T-shirts My Wife Won’t Let Me Wear in Public Anymore, my least-comfortable pair of running shorts and a pair of castoffs from my pile of ancient running shoes.
Not as easy as you’d think
The event was divided into six races — individuals, couples and teams, each with and without costumes — and was no walk in the park. I was in the first wave, which began at 9.30 am, so it was still relatively cool. After some hard running on the hilly first half of the course, I was ready for a plunge into the lake.
It wasn’t too cold, but I quickly sank ankle deep in the slime and slowed to a halting walk. There’s no question I would have left a shoe, maybe both, on the lake bottom if I hadn’t gone the duct tape route, as the RunAmuck Web site recommends. I badly lost my balance only once, on the last lake crossing, nearly becoming one of those scenes from an Animal Planet show (“Notice how the great beast wallows in the chilly water”) before I found my footing and plunged ahead.
The largest wooden barrier was outfitted with climbing pegs and proved to be no problem. The two man-made mud pits, one just before the finish line, also could have been worse. I thought we were going to have to crawl on our bellies to get under the bungee cords strung across the pits. But most of us made it on hands and knees.
The well-organised site included food, water and outdoor showers. There were men’s and women’s tents where we could change into clean clothes. After that, I unceremoniously dumped my shoes and clothes in a trash can.