Mud was the perfect remedy for Saturday’s heat and humidity along the Smith River.
That and a challenging 3.1-mile obstacle course provided loads of fun for hundreds of participants in the second annual Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run at the Smith River Fest held at the Smith River Sports Complex.
With rain clouds threatening in the heat of the afternoon, a plethora of mud pits helped runners cool off throughout the race. However, Activate Martinsville-Henry County program director Cari Zimmer said rain would have only enhanced the experience for runners.
“I heard the course this year was really fun and we added a bunch of mud pits. (Runners) go through 10 mud pits with over 18 obstacles,” Zimmer said. “People just like to be challenged, slip and slide, and have fun. It makes me feel good, like we’ve created the right ambiance on the course and the challenges to get muddy and dirty.”
With more participants this year, there were plenty of first-time runners in both the competitive and fun races, which lasted about an hour each. A total of 225 runners participated – 85 in the competitive race and 140 in the secondary fun run. With a variety of obstacles that required competitors to climb over or maneuver under, mud and water were almost constantly present.
By the end of the race, almost everyone looked relieved to cross the finish line.
Mike “Khaki” Coulson of Fieldale joined his wife and sons and wore long pants in the race. When asked why, he simply replied, “I don’t have any shorts.” It didn’t seem to stop him from having fun in the final muddy trench just before the finish line.
“My wife is the runner and she tricked me into running this. I’ve never done something like this before,” Coulson said. “I ran the Rooster Walk race, but I don’t normally run. My favorite part was the end and to dive in the mud. Everyone had a lot of fun.”
But first, they all had to go through a mud pit at the start of the race. Runners had to jump down into a 15 to 20 foot water-filled ditch and then climb up the slight muddy hill over a makeshift hay bale. From there, they meandered through sloping terrain before looping back around covered in mud.
Martinsville natives Tracy and Amy Hatfield decided to use the fun-run as a wedding anniversary gift. The couple helped each other past the final hurdle before crossing the finish line together with symmetric smiles.
“It’s our 12th year anniversary and we were married in Martinsville,” Amy said. “This was our anniversary present. He went down the one slide face first, did a jump in the air and I was like ‘that’s my husband.’”
Tracy, who spent 12 years in the military stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, said the race was an enjoyable challenge.
“The last two years we’ve done the Martinsville YMCA half marathon, and this was different,” he said. “The challenge and the camaraderie is enjoyable. Everyone gets to play in the mud together and everyone enjoys it.”
While some people took the competitive race at a leisurely pace, others, such as former Bassett High School soccer player Garrett Cooper, decided to take the so-called “fun run” a bit more seriously.
“I’m a very competitive person and the obstacles were hard and I just went as fast as I could,” said Cooper, who won the secondary race. “This was my first time and my girlfriend talked me into do this. There was a mud pit that you had to crawl through, go under something and then go back through the pit. That was probably the biggest one out there.”
Another area soccer standout, Martinsville’s Bryson Collins, now a sophomore at Patrick Henry Community College, used the opportunity to continue working his body back into shape for the upcoming soccer season. Collins suffered a season-ending ankle injury that forced him into several tough months of rehab, but he said Saturday’s experience is one he’d like to duplicate.
His PHCC teammate Alfredo Garcia won the overall race. The first woman to cross the finish line was Angela Oh Park.
“It’s been fun to run again, kick a soccer ball and do activities on my feet like this that I wasn’t able to do,” Collins said. “I thought it was fun going face first through mud for a couple of obstacles. I would love to do something like this again when they have it in Roanoke, Danville or anywhere else close.
“At first you want to jump down into one of the pits but then realize it’s probably not a smart thing to do. Your feet get stuck a lot, you start sliding around, but overall it was definitely a fun first-time experience,” he added.
Zimmer said her staff was better prepared this year in organizing the event and handling the large number of walk up registrations. The mud run has received lots of positive feedback, she said.
“This is the second year for this event and it’s a major undertaking. We needed to be better prepared ahead of time because there are things you don’t think about then on race day. There were a lot of walk-up registrations (today) and people don’t like to plan ahead and tend to do things at the spur of the moment. We worked around it and I was delighted by the turnout,” she said.