Thursday, June 26, 2014

waist deep in the big muddy

When we signed up to be a part of MuckFest 2014, I made it very clear that I don't like to get dirty. Let me tell you, MuckFest is no place for someone who does not like to get dirty.

Mrs. P and I accompanied our neighbors, Rae and O., as they (they, not me!) participated in the 5K run to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Now, I am all for supporting a worthy charity, especially one that benefits from 100% of the funds that are raised (sorry, Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure"), but, a 5K run is a particularly daunting event for me. Actually, a 5 foot run is pretty fearsome. And 5K (a little over 3 miles to those of us who have not yet adopted the metric system) through rivers of mud is something I don't even wish to think about. The mental image itself has me running for a bar of soap.

We assembled for a pre-run breakfast on my neighbor's back porch, then set out for the site in separate cars. We lost them within seconds of leaving our neighborhood, but met up again at the parking facility in Newtown Square in the southwestern Philadelphia suburbs. We walked as a group — Mrs. P and me, along with Rae and O., their three children and their assorted friends — toward their dirt-clotted fate, passing earlier participants who were coated and caked with the remnants of wet earth — the bulk of which still clung fast despite a thorough hosing down. I gingerly sidestepped the clumps of sludge that trailed behind the filthy and weary runners.

The actual race site was a friggin' pigsty. There was mud everywhere, on everything and on everybody. While my neighbors went to register for their start time, I marveled at the amount of mud surrounding me. I stood by the course's finish line as wave after wave of muck-soaked runners stumbled and slid to completion, some enveloped in so much mud, it was difficult to determine their sex. 

Soon, O.'s family joined the queue for their pre-selected one o'clock start. The crowd teetered anxiously in their muddy shoes until an official ordered the participants down on their asses, as this particular leg of the race would begin with runners inching out of the starting gate butt first — muddy butt first. To add to the "ooziness" of the situation, a shower of water drenched the group as they made their way uphill to the first obstacle. Oh, did I mention there were obstacles? Well, there were.

I stepped back, so not to get splashed. The knot of runners slogged up the muddy incline towards a mass of bungee cords stretched and tangled above a thick pool of chocolate-brown slop. After negotiating a clear path through the mire, they collectively hung a left and disappeared into a wooded area.

They were gone from sight for a long time. A very long time.

Just under an hour after they were last seen, the members of the teenage contingency emerged from the brush — a little sweatier and a little dirtier (okay, a lot dirtier), but still filled with frenetic energy. I was there to snap a few pictures and cheer the youths on as they raced to the last few obstacles and, eventually, the finish line. It would be another hour until I saw their parents.

O. finally appeared, a little winded. He was helping Rae, who looked as though she had had enough of this about thirty minutes ago. But, they soldiered on, pushing their weakened, muck-swathed bodies to the end. Still ahead of them was a mud-filled tunnel, a mud-filled ditch and a mud-covered swing over a trench filled with... you'll never guess... mud.

O. and Rae dragged themselves across the finish line. They caught their breath and headed over to the communal rinsing-off station, taking advantage of some of the free products offered by event sponsor Redken. As we walked to the picnic area for some post-muck refreshments, I noticed that I got a small splash of mud on the bottom of my jeans. 


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