Running is an adventure. It is a feeling of ecstasy, a feeling of freedom, a feeling of solidarity. You know you don't need anyone else, just your two legs carrying you to your destination. One foot after another, keeping the pace, breathing steadily to keep your heart rate at bay. Running is bliss.
Last spring, I drove to Tamiment, Pennsylvania to participate in a Mudderella race. I had never heard of Mudderella until I did a little research, and Googled "races in Pennsylvania." At that time, I really didn't care about what kind of race I signed up for, I just wanted to have the experience. I was nostalgic for my high school years when I ran both track and cross country. Once I learned about Mudderella, I immediately decided it was the race for me.
Mudderella is a race that involves obstacle courses and lots of mud... upon learning that, I was instantly hooked. Also, Mudderella races are just for women, and they focus on appreciating nature, being strong, and overcoming boundaries. One of my closest friends and I signed up immediately, paid the sixty bucks, and began preparing ourselves physically and mentally for our six miles in the mud.
On the day of the race, we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the event. The atmosphere was great. There was music playing, and an instructor guiding a large group of women how to properly stretch before the race. After we confirmed our registration, we went to the t-shirt tent where we received free Mudderella t-shirts and wristbands. Under the decorations tent, we were given temporary tattoos that said "own your strong" Mudderella's apparently famous phrase, and tape for our shoes. The workers said we would need the tape to keep our shoes on when we went through the deep pools of mud. After we were done, we were handed some free all-natural lemon iced tea and free granola bars. We followed a large group over to the starting line. The energy in the group was invigorating, and contagious. Women of all ages stood around me, some who were obviously just doing the race for fun, and some who had trained hard. I remember staring at the huge biceps and bulging calf muscles on some of the women and thinking "whoa, these women are strong."
By this time, it was almost twelve-thirty, the scheduled time of our race. The sidelines were filled with supportive family members and people with cameras. A woman who stood at the head of the group, who was apparently in charge and said her name was Nancy, spoke into a megaphone. "It is twelve twenty-eight! Everyone, get ready, and own your strong! Thank you for coming to Mudderella 2014!" There was cheering, hugging and singing as four other women joined Nancy at the starting line and blew their whistles to officially begin the race. We all ran full speed following spray-painted arrows in the grass that marked our path.
Soon we learned that the ten obstacles in the race were separated enough so we could catch our breath in between. The first obstacle was a mud tunnel dug into the ground that we had to crawl through on our hands and knees, the second a mesh tarp that we had to crawl under into a mud pit, and then a third obstacle where we had to jump on tire swings over a pool of mud. We were absolutely covered in mud by the second obstacle, and my Nikes made a lovely squelching sound as we ran along the path. When we ran, the caked mud dried on our skin, flaking in the creases of our elbows and knees. I was beyond dirty, but I felt like I was accomplishing something. This kind of running was something I had never experienced before.
There was a rope ladder we had to climb up, and jump off into another pool of mud. The best obstacle was definitely the four-foot deep mud pool we had to swim through. The sensation was the most bizarre, exhilarating feeling I have ever felt. The whole group of women was cheering for each member as she finished swimming across, and one of them grabbed my hand to help me out. I felt like I belonged in the group with those women, each one strong enough to brave the course, each one present because of what we all had in common... running.
It took us over two hours to complete the first nine obstacles. There was a large stretch of field to run across before I reached the tenth, and I took the moment to appreciate the feeling of striding over the dry, cracked dirt and the leftover leaves from last Autumn that were sprinkled everywhere. My muscles ached, my breathing was heavy, and I could feel dried mud caked on the back of my neck. But this was what I came here for. This was what I wanted to be part of. There is something perpetually beautiful about forcing your body to do something it has to fight at to succeed.
I finally made it to the tenth obstacle. I climbed up a high rope ladder, and slid down a plastic slide into a pool of water, where all my caked mud formed a circle around my waist and drifted off as I was splashed by my fellow runners. As I climbed out of the pool, I was handed a clean towel and a glass of hard apple cider.
My experience with Mudderella was really amazing and inspiring. I encourage all women to participate in a Mudderella obstacle course race! There are Mudderella events coming up in Chicago, Toronto, Colorado, and Pittsburgh this summer.