As I gently pulled the hair ties to let down my ponytails, something caught my eye. Yes, something was askew with my hair ties. They were white this afternoon. Now? Oh yes, I see. Those are splotches of mud. On my hair ties. This was now officially the dirtiest mud run of my brief trail running career. I’m pretty sure it was the slowest, too. And in the finally tally? The most fun. Let me walk you through it.
The Boston Mud Run is held in The Erie County Reforestation and Refuge area — also known simply as county forest land — in the rural part of Buffalo’s southtowns. Now in its 32nd year, the race has a cult following and grows each summer via word of mouth attracting high school kids, quality trail runners, good athletes, new athletes and curiosity seekers. It’s billed as a 6K, though the distance never quite seems to jive. And it has ice cream at the end. The ice cream is what sold me to try the race three years ago. Frankly, it helps keep me coming back.
In previous Mud Run excursions, I was nervous and anxious. For some reason, it was important for me to do well, though I wasn’t quite sure what my definition of “do well” was. I wanted to have a good finishing time. I wanted to impress the people around me. All of my “goals” it seems were based on my interpretation of someone else’s perspective. My head was filled with so many assumptions and circular thinking it is a wonder I didn’t fall off a ridge line during the run from self-induced mental dizziness.
But Monday evening, I let go of the assumptions. I didn’t care about the time or my place or what others would think when I crossed the finish line smiling and singing instead of battling it out with traditional huffing and puffing. I was in it to enjoy it and lucky for me, my friend Mary was in town to run with me, enhancing my experience tenfold. We took off on the run, through a field and up long, never-ending hill, and then heard the squeals of teenage girls — a sure sign that mud was nearby. “Jump Amy! Jump!” Mary yelled from behind me and I obliged, stomping my way through the mud puddle. Mary followed suit. We ran through the puddles and occasionally performed an emphatic two-foot jump into the puddle. “The harder you jump the higher it goes,” Mary said. I am sure that is a metaphor for something. I’m just not sure what. As we jumped into mud puddles with two feet, the splash deposited mud everywhere including, apparently, my hair.
While the first half of the run was through mud and wet forest, the second half of the run was mostly dry with lots of hills. Lots of hills. Some steep. Some longer than you’d like. Some downhills with rocks and twigs which negated the speed aspect, particularly when one of the few goals for the run was to not get injured. Mary, participating in her first off-road race, was unaware of the hills. Quite frankly, I had forgotten about the hills. My mind must block out the pain, suppressing the memory of how difficult this portion of the race is. But I trotted up the hills, shouting encouragement to Mary (“Hey look! Another challenge for us!”) while complementing some of the young girls who had rolled around in the mud to throughly cover themselves.
There was one woman I saw running with headphones, carefully avoiding every possible muddy spot. I found this odd. It’s one thing to not splash around. It’s even another thing if you’re competitive and running the path of least resistance, in which case you still get muddy but not covered. This woman, however, seemed to be eschewing both the social aspect of the race and its theme (um, it is the mud run after all). Initially, she annoyed me, but upon reflection, I hope she had a fun time. Perhaps her expression of fun is different than mine. And that’s OK. What I need to remember, too, is that there is nothing wrong with my definition of fun or my intentions and objectives for a particular activity/project/workout/race. At this race, I chose for the event to be all about the fun. I danced along the way (Mary and I have a special “Buzz Lightyear” dance move which is too complicated to explain here, but trust me, it’s entertaining) and offered a chorus of “whoop-whoop” from time to time. I jumped in mud puddles. I ran up hills. I played in the woods with my friend and had ice cream. Isn’t that what summer is all about?