Down And Dirty: Are you ready for a Mud Run?

by Apr 24, 2012Events, North Brunswick

It’s the world’s dirtiest trend: the mud run. Athletes have tired of the traditional marathon — they’re demanding something more, something messier.

The concept of the mud run stems from a mix of military training and adventure racing. Courses are typically created on undeveloped land, offering raw terrain and a unique experience for every race.

Wooden walls, barbed wire, paintball shoots, tire flipping and water crossings are just a few of the obstacles that test the grit of extreme athletes and sorority girls alike. Races can range in length from one mile to marathon-length distances, allowing competitors to progressively ramp up their rank of grimy greatness. And herein lies the true beauty of a mud run — they’re extreme enough for accomplished athletes to feel challenged, yet there’s that fun factor that attracts first-time runners and even young rug rats.

The first mud run course was created more than a decade ago in Europe, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the extreme sport made its way to our side of the pond. The Muddy Buddy Ride and Run, sponsored by Columbia sportswear, was the first event of its kind held in the United States, and it was an immediate hit. The trend of mud runs has increased exponentially since, with more than 300 races held in the States in 2011 alone.

A quick Google search for mud runs in North Carolina returns dozens of results for some form of this icky endurance event, whether it’s a standalone race or part of a community festival. At this point, almost everyone you know has either heard about mud runs or is in the process of training for one.

Have you tired of regular road racing and are searching for a new thrill? Are you a newbie looking for a day of filthy fun and a trophy to prove your prowess? Or are you and a group of friends seeking a way to test your grit and support a worthy organization in the meantime? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are a (wo)man in need of a mud run.

So drop that greasy sandwich and start your squats, Brunswick County. It’s time to start training because there are several mud runs coming to a town near you this spring. Here are three of our favorites.


Step Up for Soldiers Combat Mud Run

Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)

Date: April 14

Location: Wilmington, National Guard Armory at 2412 Infantry Road

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Step Up For Soldiers (SUFS) is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disabled veterans and their families. The group hosts several fund-raisers each year to support its mission, and the Combat Mud Run is just one of these events.

Steve Ritter, the New Hanover County event coordinator for SUFS, is thrilled about the event, but he is more excited about what it will mean to the folks that they support.

“This is just one way we can raise money for a great cause,” Ritter explains. “We want to enlighten people. The TV talks about guys that are killed and wounded in combat. But all of these guys are hurt in some way. When you are 19 and 20 years old and you see your buddies get wounded, that’s tough. We want to be here to help them, to guide them along the way.”

All proceeds from the Combat Run will benefit the disabled soldiers and their families that SUFS supports. Ritter says that they are looking forward to the event for increasing awareness of the organization, but also for the fun.

“Everyone loves mud,” he says. “Our course will have four mud pits, climbing walls and a ton more. We’re not giving all our secrets away. We’re asking people that have participated in other mud runs what they liked most and least, then we’re adjusting our course to offer the best of the best features.”

The event will be timed, but participants may choose to attempt or bypass (for a penalty) each obstacle.

“We want it to be fun for everyone, not just hardcore runners,” Ritter says.

To further enhance the fun factor, an after party will be held for all participants and spectators. Guests will enjoy entertainment by Fort Bragg’s marching band and other bands, and there will be food and drink for refueling.

Race participants must be at least 14 years old. Different flights will be held for each age group, including one for those ages 90 and up, who, of course, receive free registration and beer at the finish line. Individual and team registrations are welcomed, as are spectators (for no charge) to cheer friends on at each obstacle.

“Come on out and do it,” encourages Ritter. “Let’s see what you’ve got!”


The Dirty Hog

Distance: 9 – 12 miles, or 5 miles

Date: May 5

Location: Laurinburg, Outback ATV Park at 19800 McGirts Bridge Road

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The Dirty Hog is an adventure race and obstacle course series developed by UNC-W graduate James Bonanno. It aims to test competitors’ strength, stamina and smarts while supporting Operation Homefront, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides services to the families of deployed service members across the nation.

Laurinburg, which is a little less than a two-hour drive from northern Brunswick County, will play host to the premier event on May 5, with several other races planned for 2012 around the United States and Canada.

Bonanno, a self-professed thrill seeker, called on the experience of retired U.S. Special Forces member Mike Evock and MTV reality TV celebrity Evan Starkman to map out the course for The Dirty Hog. Together, the three individuals drafted plans for an extreme sports event unlike any other.

“We saw something missing in the mud run,” says Bonanno. “We wanted something more than just expected military challenges and mud. We wanted to make it longer, dirtier, harder, more rewarding and more fun. So we consulted with the U.S. Special Forces and a few reality TV experts to create something better. That’s how we came up with The Dirty Hog. It has all the fun stuff in mud runs, but it gives you more challenges that allow you to determine your own adventure. And it will really kick your ass, which is what we were going for.”

Participants will progress through 20 to 25 obstacles, such as the paintball challenge “Shoot the Butcher” and “Where Pigs Fly” — a test where they must ascend a rope climb and jump into a deep mud pit. In other sections of the course, participants will find themselves running up a watered-down hill with high knees through tires, wriggling through treacherous conditions in the “Barbed Wire Saw Dust Crawl,” sprinting long distances on a slick motocross track, flipping tractor tires, carrying sand bags through deep mud, trying their luck at mental challenges, and pushing through several reality TV–inspired mystery challenges.

“Even though it’s a blast, we didn’t think running 9 to 12 miles through a muddy obstacle course was fun enough,” Bonanno says. “At The Dirty Hog, participants determine their own fate, creating a longer course, earning shortcuts, penalty obstacles and special rewards. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure race on steroids.”

Inspiration for the reward-based challenges came through Bonanno’s partnership with Starkman, best known as the winner of MTV reality game shows “Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Duel 2” and “The Ruins”. Other Dirty Hog concepts stemmed from Evock’s connections with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bonanno says The Dirty Hog seeks to entertain all participants and spectators with a carnival-like atmosphere, including live music, camping, food, an official Hog Pit After Party, games, a 5-mile course option and a special half-mile Piglet Run for young children.

“I found the majority of mud runs were smaller 5Ks that my grandmother could run, but ours? She wouldn’t even think about trying ours,” Bonanno says. “This is a long, tough, intimidating course — but we guarantee you’ll have fun.”

Participants may register as an individual or team. Spectator tickets are available for $15.


Myrtle Beach Mud Run

Distance: 3.75 miles

Date: May 12

Location: Myrtle Beach, Grande Dunes Marina

More Info:

With a desire to support the community and a love for racing, Jason Greene was searching for a way to put a new twist on the traditional 5K.

“I was talking with the guy that does my race timing about how there was a downward trend in 5K race participation because they aren’t that exciting,” explains Greene. “We started thinking about different types of races that we could do that would be more fun, and we came up with this idea of a race series.”

Greene developed the Myrtle Beach Race Series, a collection of unique races that support local charities and nonprofits. Races are held throughout the year (from November through May) and each features a different theme. From the Grand Strand Turkey Trot to a bench press (or pump and run) event, Big Daddy’s Boot Camp race to the Myrtle Beach Stair Climb, each race is unique, challenging and fun. The culmination of the race series is the Myrtle Beach Mud Run, held on May 12. Although the races are part of a series, registration is open for individuals to participate in any one or all events.

“The mud run is really cool, which is why it’s the last event of the series,” says Greene. “It’s actually a trail and mud run — the course is on one of the few undeveloped areas in Myrtle Beach.”

This is the second year of the Myrtle Beach Mud Run, and Greene is utilizing feedback from the 2011 event to improve his course.

“We’re increasing the number of obstacles from 21 last year to 30 this year,” he says. “We’ve also added more distance and, yes, a lot more mud.”

Greene says that his race is for beginners and intermediate runners. Individuals who have never participated in a race before can accomplish the course with no problem.

“Start doing push-ups and jogging four to five miles now, though,” he advises. “And stay tuned to our Facebook pages for training tips.”

At just less than 4 miles, the main course is open to those ages 14 and older. Two mini mud run events will be available to little ones: a 1.5 mile course with fewer obstacles for children ages 10 to 13 and a 100-yard loop course for ages 1 to 13.

An after party will be held, where awards for the race and for the series championship will be presented while guests enjoy music and refreshments. Spectators are welcome (for no charge), but must remain at the start/finish line’s main mud pit for safety reasons.

“It’s a really fun event,” says Greene. “The little ones love the mud, so that’s the highlight of the morning for me. But my main motivation is to support the community.”

Each event in the race series supports a different organization, from the Arthritis Foundation and Habitat for Humanity to the YMCA and Fostering Hope. Greene selected the Grand Strand Humane Society as the beneficiary for the mud run, though, for personal reasons.

“A few years ago my wife and I were looking for a dog to adopt,” says Greene. “We went to the Humane Society Adopt-a-Thon and fell in love. We appreciate so much what they are doing and just wanted to help however we could. I asked if we could develop an event to benefit them and then starting planning. We raised $7,000 for them last year and hope to exceed that goal with this year’s event.”

Participants are encouraged to register before April 1 in order to meet a pet food–drive deadline. For each person registered before April 1, event sponsors have pledged to donate 1.5 pounds of cat and dog food up to 2,500 pounds for the Humane Society.

Other Area Mud Runs:

Rugged Maniac: Charleston, SC; March 24.

X-Treme Endurance Challenge: Verona, NC; April 14

Patriot Combat Run: Kure Beach, NC; April 21

Rugged Maniac: Asheboro, NC; April 21

Mud, Sweat and Tears: Camp Lejeune, NC; May 12

Warrior Dash: Huntersville, NC; May 19, 20

Dirty Myrtle Mud Run: Myrtle Beach, SC; May 26

Getcher Mud On: Burgaw, NC; July 28

Carolinas Mud Run: Winnsboro, SC; October 13

Warrior Dash: Gaston, SC; November 3

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