by Joanna Giesey
What a treat it is when your expectations are more than pleasantly exceeded!! Well, this was the case with the AIDS Orphans Mud Run. I have to admit, I was slightly apprehensive about the quality of course that I would encounter when running the AIDS Orphans Mud Run. After all, it was being put on by a small, local group at the Teen Missions property at north Merritt Island (which is basically where I grew up). With only 2 other rather small mud run event under their belt, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was able to participate in the test run on Tuesday, May 3rd and again during the main event on Saturday, May 7th. During both laps on the course, I had a blast. I kept thinking how impressed I was with the variety of the obstacles, the use of terrain, and the great use of natural and permanent play structures/obstacles on the property.
Upon arrival to the venue, parking was free and allowed for easy access to the registration tables. The volunteers and Teen Missions staff were very helpful and organized. Packet pick up went smoothly and each racer’s bag was pre-packed with bib, safety pins, shirt, medal (hand crafted from Africa and a perfect fit for the charity the run was supporting), course map, and informational flyers.
Before beginning the race, each wave was briefed with a short speech about the AIDS Orphans charity the run was raising money for. It allowed runners to understand that not only was this a fun event, but it was also benefiting some children who had less than ideal circumstances. Staff members and their guests were very thankful to all participants.
The AIDS Orphans Mud Fun offered a full 5k course and a shortened version for families who wanted to run together. Both courses overlapped. For the shortened version, runners turned left after obstacle 18 and cut across the course to meet back up at obstacle 28.
Along the course, there was a great blend of obstacles that were (mostly) comfortable enough for 1st timers (and kids) to conquer, yet unique enough to keep the interest of regular mud run enthusiasts. Of the 35 obstacles, only two or three were possibly unobtainable or extremely challenging for newbies: Bell Ringer (straight up rope climb starting in the water), The Tower (A frame wall with a rope), and the Blob (The blob was not very stable and it felt like it was deflating. Each time we jumped on it, it rolled and sunk in a bit…maybe it needed more air??). Although none of the obstacles were of extreme difficulty for an experienced mud runner, the variety of obstacles was enough to keep everyone satisfied with an enjoyable run. Because some of the obstacles were unique to this run, it allowed all to have a level of excitement for attempting something new.
There were several water crossings, muddy streams, ponds, and ditches which allowed for refreshing cool periods throughout the course, as well as a way to get rid of some of the caked on mud. Permanent obstacles on the property included The Carousel and a cargo net leading up to The Tree House. Shady, mud laden trails allowed for a true trail run experience. Parts of the course required focus on each step and attention to the ground. The heavily wooded parts of the trails included rocks, holes, and roots. Other parts of the course were flat grass or compacted dirt trails.
Some of the highlighted and signature obstacles of the run included Tire Mountain (I have never seen so many tires piled together to climb across! This was tricky to maneuver. Strategy and foot placement was important for a smooth crossing.); The Carousel (Let’s be real, who doesn’t love swinging from a rope and jumping into a lake! There were 4 ropes attached to a swinging structure over the lake. Each runner had to grab the rope on the platform and hang on as the carousel turned. Upon reaching the opposite side of the carousel, runners hoped for a perfect release time that would aim them into a floating hula-hoop landing target.); And The Worm Maker” (This was one of the muddiest pits I’ve ever army crawled through. I would say it was equivalent to crawling through chunky brownie batter for approximate distance of 35-40 feet. Once the army crawling under ropes was completed, runners stood up to continue a slow trek through the ‘chocolate pudding like’ mud ).
Other obstacles included The Cliffhanger (similar to a rock wall), The Shimmy Shimmy (wide slippery pipe to straddle and shimmy across without falling into the water below), Red Sea Crossing (giant cargo net that went up and over the small ‘river’ that we had waded through earlier on the course), The Maze Runner (literally, we were like giant rats trying to find our way through a maze), The Slough (rope swing across a water hole), and Tight Ropes (traversing ropes over a water crossing. There was a foot rope and a hand rope).
Thanks to the final obstacle of the course, The Worm Maker, everyone finished the course covered head to toe in mud! There were plenty of hoses to rinse off and a close by lake, appropriately named Bathtub Lake, for after race clean up. Bathtub Lake was equipped with another “carousel” and an additional rope swing where kids and adults squeezed in a few extra minutes of playtime before fully cleaning off.
There were so many first time mud runners and families getting bitten by “the mud run bug” at this race. I heard so much talk of runners already planning to participate next year and invite others. It was great to see all the smiles along the course and at the finish line. Kids and adults posed for pictures flexing their muscles with huge grins across their faces.
To support my mud run/OCR habit, I am a 1st grade teacher. Being that this race was only 15 minutes from my house and 20 minutes from the school I teach at, there were many people that I knew participating…including one of my students. One of the highlights of the race was that I got to give one of my first graders a mud pie to the top of his head. We happen to be conquering The Worm Maker at the same time and this was a perfect opportunity for me to strike. I’m hoping that’s a memory he’ll always keep about his 1st grade teacher.
Overall, I enjoyed this run very much. My only disappointment was that by the time I ran the course on Saturday (final wave of the day at 1:15pm) with my daughter and 2 brand new mud runners, there were no photographers on the course. There were so many moments that I wished a photographer would have been around to capture. Especially for my daughter completing the adult course, and the two brand new mud runners with me. I treasure all of my race pictures (and I’m pushing 50 races) so I know the first time mud run pictures are especially important. Luckily for us, we had some friends chasing us down along the course to grab a few pictures of us at certain obstacles.
I highly recommend trying out this run next year if your schedule allows. Whether you’re a novice or a self-proclaimed pro, you’ll enjoy it!
For a quick video on some of the Obstacles, check this video out. A Hardcore Gamer’s 2nd Mud Run.