JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — After slopping through five miles of muddy terrain and elevation changes, Parker Howard waited patiently for family and friends to join him at the finish line of the annual MARSOC Mud, Sweat & Tears mud run Saturday at Stone Bay Rifle Range aboard Camp Lejeune.
With mud-caked hands, Howard, 16, of Jacksonville gestured encouragement to his companions as they made the final push.
“This run was very tiring,” Howard said. “I ran another one about a month ago. There was a lot more mud in that run, but this time it was a lot of running, which made it more difficult. I tried to push myself a little harder, too.”
Howard and 1,639 other runners, hit the terrain Saturday morning to test their strength, stamina and endurance in the course of forest terrain, dirt paths, winding trails, fallen-tree obstacles and multiple mud pits.
The run is part of Grand Prix races that runners compete on a point system with other runners throughout the year. Those who finish the race received a medallion.
Wearing the runner No. 1 this year was Commander of Marine Special Forces Maj. Gen Mark Clark. Representing Team Raiders, Clark donned neon attire and blue face paint akin to Mel Gibson’s in “Braveheart” before he started with the first wave of runners.
“I’m just going out here to have fun with everybody, get muddy, meet old acquaintances and hopefully make some new ones,” Clark said. “These events are always great. Not only does it bring out the people that work with the military but also the Jacksonville and Wilmington communities.”
Experienced runner Darcel Carver of Maysville was joined by her neighbors as she tackled the course with intentions to finish the five-mile run in less than an hour and 10 minutes. She finished in exactly one hour, besting her race time last year.
“Their wasn’t any bottlenecks and I was able to run right through the race and go through all the mud,” Carver said. “Was it challenging? I don’t know. Fun is what it is. Going through all the mud, going through the trails... this is what I like to do.”
According to data provided by race director Mike Marion, this year’s Mud, Sweat and Tears run was the largest and most successful since 1993.
Marion said this is partly because of a growing reputation for being a professionally run and family-friendly event.
“The people in the Grand Prix races are kind of like a big family,” Marion said. “We’ve got some runners that have been with us for 20 years and are still running to this day. The mud runs are the best thing in the world right now, and we always try to put out a professional-quality event with good administration.”
He said the race is slated again next year on the same date and at the same location.
“Maybe we will throw a couple wrenches into the courses to mix it up and make them a little different, some new obstacles or something,” he said.