Here's mud in your eye: Racers get down and dirty
The Roanoke Times, Va.
Nearly 1,500 participants were expected to raise about $60,000 Saturday at the 18th annual Roanoke Marine Corps League Mud Run at Green Hill Park.
The 5K timed fun run and obstacle course featured the “mud pit” filled with 30,000 gallons of cold water and two dump truck loads of dirt. Contestants are required to crawl through the pit before crossing the finish line.
“It’s fun,” said Lucy Brizendine of Blacksburg. “Miserable and fun.”
This was Brizendine’s second mud run, so she came prepared with swimming goggles, which she pulled on before heading to the starting line.
Submerging your face in mud “gets really gross,” Brizendine said.
But perhaps the worst part, she said, was the first obstacle: crossing the Roanoke River.
“It’s waist high and freezing cold,” Brizendine said. “For the rest of the time, you’re freezing.”
The race course then took runners up “Mount Suribachi,” where they encountered various obstacles.
Many were puffing and red-faced before hitting the mud pit. Some wore earplugs, some goggles and some had waterproof video cameras strapped to their foreheads.
Everyone, from the elite runners to the youngsters doing the Pollywog Jog, had to crawl through the mudpit.
Entry fees, concessions and donations are expected to raise about $60,000 for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots initiative and other Roanoke Valley youth programs, said Michael Shepherd, one of the organizers.
The event has been held at Green Hill Park with help from Roanoke County Parks and Recreation for 18 years, Shepherd said.
It’s based on the Marine credo of never leaving a compatriot behind on the battlefield, and participants are encouraged to help fellow runners who need assistance to complete the course.
This year the event had a special guest. J.B. Kerns, a retired Marine corporal from Ararat, ran with his girlfriend, Katy Puckett, as a special guest of the organizers.
Kerns said he served three tours in Helmand Province in his short military career. On April 7, 2011, the 23-year-old veteran said he lost his legs and part of his right arm in an IED blast.
This was his first Marine Mud Run, but Kerns said he runs as much as he can. Next week he plans to do the Tunnel to Towers 5K in New York City. The event honors first responders and military personnel who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty.
While the crowd honored Kerns’ sacrifice, and many individuals thanked him for his service, it was also a day to have fun.
One triumvirate of runners dressed in yellow face paint, feathered T-shirts, headdresses, tights and “Angry Birds” underwear, drew attention before the individual race began. Several people asked to take their photos, and some runners asked to pose with them.
Brothers and former Navy men Stan and Don Malek and friend Lori Strabel came up with the costume idea in “20 minutes over a cold beer,” Stan Malek said.
Strabel and Don Malek traveled to Virginia from Buffalo, N.Y., for the mud run. Stan Malek lives in Salem and has done the event several times, he said.
This was Don Malek’s second time, and Strabel said she was new to it.
Strabel took up running after a divorce and found it a good stress reliever, she said.
But the mud run had a special meaning for her.
“I’m the mom of a Marine,” Strabel said. “I have a tough job.”
On their way to the finish line, the Maleks’ feathered headdresses bobbed above the espresso-colored water. And they, like the runners in front of and behind them, dripped mud across the finish line.
Tabitha Brown of Christiansburg was one of many Volvo workers who entered the event. Brown said she’s not a runner usually.
“But I enjoyed it, actually,” she said after crossing the finish line. “I didn’t think I’d so well.”
The hardest part for her was the mud pit, she said, because she was tired at the end of the run.
“But I feel great. I’m proud of myself,” Brown said. “It was worth it.”