Absolutely almost every kid growing up has enjoyed those marvelous and messy adventures of playing in the mud, splashing in the puddles and then running home to face their mothers looking like some sort of scary swamp monster. It will always be great fun, at least until having to get hosed down on the front lawn, ordered to strip off all our dirty wet duds in the garage, and then being sent directly to the bathtub and grounded for the rest of the day.
Now let’s fast forward to the 21st century, where some brave but fun-loving grownups have taken to playing and acting silly in the mud as a form of filthy fitness and not so clean fun. Thousands of teens and adults are now getting down and dirty during the summer weekends on wet and rugged courses around our scenic province. These competitive but enjoyable and invigorating events are called Mud Hero and Spartan Races that cover distances of five to 14 kilometres over, under, and through all sorts of hilly and tough terrain and obstacles. As well as mucking, slipping and sliding through the mud and water, participants are challenged by the likes of a 30-foot ‘muddy monkey,” deep mud pits, assorted slides, and many other sudden surprises. If he or she misses an obstacle they may be penalized “30 burpees” before they can move on to the next challenge.
While this new form of sport can be a physical and mental test, everyone is urged to compete at their own speed, and have fun. Another wonderful aspect of this newfound adventure is that many of the participants, whether competing as individuals, families, or teams have pledged to raise money for many special causes and events of their own choosing.
As this mud madness is rapidly catching on in many locations, some of the hosts are also featuring a smaller easier course for the children, so that they can proudly feel a part of the action just like the older folks in the family. What a treat it will be for them when their parents let them loose to go and play in mud and get real wet — all before dinner — and with no scolding at the end of a great day.
After growing up, I thought the only games played in the muck was mud wrestling or by those all-weather daredevils who manoeuvre their hopped up swamp buggies through nature’s toughest terrain. Then, when I read an article in the paper about this new mud mania and our daughter informed us that she and her husband and several friends were entered into the first Hero Mud Race at the Canyon Ski Hill near Red Deer this past weekend, we vowed we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
To our total amazement, and after taking an hour just to drive to the site, we joined in on the masses and sat back on a hill to watch several of the six-kilometre dashes, which featured 500 excited participants at each half-hour start, and would host close to 5000 in the first day alone. The area, which was surrounded by the pristine Red Deer River Valley and rolling countryside, was a beehive of activity and in a totally upbeat festive mood that included great music, lots of cheering and hype from hundreds of spirited fans and mud-boggers — all under a welcome and warm Alberta sun.
Those hardy souls taking part in the race came from all walks of life, many displaying the wild and wacky uniforms of their team and cause, all bound and determined just to finish the race, whether by running, walking, or crawling through the challenging hills, obstacles and tons of mud. As they approached the finish line you could see only the whites of their eyes; their sheer grit just to get it done was quite evident by the smiles and the cheers of joy. The end of the course was marked by a humongous pile of dirty runners and flip-flops, and while they couldn’t go and jump in the lake to wash off the layers of muck, there was a long line of portable showers, then a quick change of clothes, followed by a well deserved trip to the beer tent for a couple of coolers among a whole lot of tired but happy friends.
What I couldn’t help but notice as I watched all those great sports go by was that there were quite a few silver hairs among the mud, so maybe someday they will offer a gentler mud frolic for just seniors, with stops along the way for tea, a dash of oxygen and maybe even a massage or a nap. Whatever the case, just keep on having fun at your own pace, cheer on the efforts of your siblings and friends, and have a great week, all of you!