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Mud puts fun in the run
Race highlights Smith River Fest on Saturday
Some of the 120 runners in the Helgramite Hustle Mud Run dash through the first mud pit at the start of Saturday’s race at the Smith River Sports Complex. The run was part of the Smith River Fest, which drew a crowd of more than 1,500. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Dr. Gordon Green, director of the West Piedmont Health District, was looking forward to being a kid again early Saturday afternoon.
Green was about to participate in the Helgramite Hustle 5K (3.1 miles) Mud Run at the Smith River Fest at the Smith River Sports Complex. The festival drew more than 1,500 people for river activities, crafts, music, games and other activities.
“How often do we get to play in the mud? I haven’t played in the mud in a long time,” Green said before the runners were called to line up for the mud run.
“I’ll probably have to walk-run,” he admitted. He said he runs, road-bikes and swims occasionally.
“This is a great turnout,” he said
With dozens of spectators on hand to cheer the racers on or just out of curiosity, the race began. About 120 men, women and youths, ranging in age from 8 to 60s, ran several dozen yards to a mud pit 15 to 20 yards wide and about 25 yards long. After maneuvering the calf-deep mud and water in the middle of the pit, the runners had to climb a muddy embankment roughly 15 to 20 feet high and then crawl over a waist-high wooden obstacle with hay bales on either end.
Then they ran around the edge of a field before disappearing from spectators’ view.
Cari Zimmer, Activate Martinsville-Henry County program director who was in charge of the mud run, said from there, participants went up a steep, rocky, wet hill with ropes. They then went across a mountain ridge and new trails with obstacles such as horse jumps, tires, a bridge jump and obstacles to crawl over, under or through, or jump down from.
During a stretch of the course that meandered through a winding creek, in places the song “Do the Hustle” played and disco balls were displayed — in line with name Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run. Helgramite is the larval stage of dobsonfly. They are prized fishing bait and are found in the Smith River in the Martinsville area.
The creek section of the course ended with racers having to climb about a 15-foot-high slippery embankment with a rope.
A few dozen spectators gathered in an area overlooking a section of the creek to watch a part of the race.
Early in the pack, racers generally were running through the water and were at least several feet apart, but later, many of the runners were walking and bunched up but maneuvering successfully. A few racers stumbled a bit in the water in what appeared to be a slippery section and some needed a hand (in addition to the rope) to get up the embankment. One woman fell and landed on her back on top of the embankment, then got up and continued.
Dr. Green maneuvered the creek and got up the embankment with the rope. “It helps to have long arms and legs,” he said later.
His wife, Annette Green, watched from the creek bank. “He’s doing very well,” she said. “He’s still got both his shoes on; some don’t. He said I’ll have to do it next year.”
And she probably will, she added.
Annette Green said she would have competed in the mud run this year had she not run and bicycled for six hours earlier on Saturday. She is training with two others from Martinsville to take part in an iron-man race in Wilmington, N.C.
At one point in the creek, one racer said out loud to someone, “I thought you said halfway up your calf,” as he maneuvered through water deeper than that.
Zimmer said after the creek section of the course, racers went though woods, over seven horse jumps, ran around a pond, came down a steep hill, went over a wooden bridge, maneuvered a switchback (which went back and forth up a mountain) and crawled over a tube at a turn in the switchback. They then ran through the woods, jumped over fallen trees, crawled eight feet under fencing, went around a field and maneuvered tires, hay bales, horse jumps and a steep set of stairs.
In the last part of the race, racers came down a steep hill and later had to go up a ramp and jump into a small mud pit. A bit farther they maneuvered the big mud pit they had gone through at the beginning of the race. Then they headed to the finish line.
Most maneuvered the big mud pit fairly easily. A few slipped and fell. A few shoeless racers stopped to look for their shoes, some successfully, feeling around in the muck and happily pulling out shoes.
One man wearing a lime-green bandanna, shorts and a light-colored T-shirt was covered in mud up to his arm pits as he headed for the finish line.
Chad Lang of Spencer stopped on his way down into the mud pit, then jumped into the water, landing on his back with a splash.
He needed the refreshment, he said later. He described the course as challenging but lots of fun. “That’s the most I’ve run since (the 1990s),” he said.
What he enjoyed most, he said, was doing the run with his 12-year-old son, Brian. Brian said he had fun, too.
Chad Lang said that at one point he was in water mid-belly deep in the creek, which was even deeper for Brian.
After completing the course, Dr. Green said the race was “great.” He said it was fun, challenging, well organized and had good volunteers along the way, for example offering water or, if needed, emergency services. He said that racers seemed to enjoy it, laughing at times.
“I’d do it again,” he said, and he encourages others to as well.
Claire Adkins of Martinsville, a competitive swimmer through USA swimming clubs; Grace Ann Edgerton of Fieldale, who plays field hockey at Lynchburg College; and their athletic trainer, Allison Wilkie of Martinsville, all said they enjoyed the course, which they said was fun and challenging.
Before the race began, participants Terry and Sherri Francisco of Danville said they had been in three mud races in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They are helping organize one in Danville through the Danville parks and recreation department and wanted to see how the Smith River Fest mud run was organized as well as take part in it.
A mud run is more challenging and more strenuous than a straight 5K run, Terry said. He and Sherri, who are in their 40s, have run in 100 or more 5Ks, he said,
“We like mud” and “getting dirty,” he said of mud runs.
“I just like having fun,” Sherri added.
Runner Blake Shumate, 33, of Martinsville, said before the race that he had been in one mud run, at Wintergreen resort. “It’s nice to see it local,” he said.
He said the mud run Saturday would be a chance for him to feel like “I’m 12 years old,” playing in the mud.
When he’s not playing in the mud, he’s an operations manager for American Global Logistics.