A team of 40 athletes from Hardcore Serious Fitness in Huntersville competed in the U.S. Marine Corps Mud Run last Sunday in Columbia.
In the dark, cold hours that morning, while most Lake Norman residents were fast asleep, a band of fitness fanatics quietly gathered in the parking lot of Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics.
At exactly 4:33 a.m., the Hardcore Serious Fitness team formed a convoy of cars heading south to Columbia. Arriving at Leatherneck in Gaston, S.C., at 6:30 a.m., the team descended on the venue before the sun was up to stretch and warm up. It was a brisk 52 degrees and many were thinking about how cold the mud, water and obstacles would be on the course.
Hardcore Serious Fitness fielded 10 teams of four. Some teams were all male; some were co-ed. All competitors were eager to get started. Teams had to check in and get their team numbers written on their arms. One team member had to wear a race bib with a timer chip attached. At the starting line, teams took off every 10 seconds.
In 2010 the USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run reached capacity with 3,600 teams and more than 14,000 participants, making it the largest mud run in North America. The USMC Mud Run is a 5.2-mile course with 36 obstacles that each team needs to maneuver, requiring teamwork and a lot of determination. The all-terrain course runs through mud holes, walls, trenches and other challenging obstacles that require swimming, crawling, climbing and jumping.
This annual race helps raise money to support Marines and their families from the Columbia area who have been wounded or killed while serving on active duty. Proceeds from the race also support several local college scholarships named after Marines who were killed serving their country and to local events that promote the Marine Corps in the community.
Bear Robinson, owner and team trainer at Hardcore Serious Fitness, blazed the way for the rest as he and his all-male team captured fourth place overall among nearly 3,000 teams competing.
I was asked to fill in for an injured team member. I agreed to compete, on less than 24 hours' notice. Having never met my teammates before, I was terrified that I would be the weak link and slow them down. I was hoping they were in it just to finish and not to win it.
Thankfully, everyone on the co-ed team that adopted me was extremely helpful and encouraging. Together, with a lot of teamwork, great attitude, team spirit and a dash of competitiveness, we finished well and all together, intact as one team.
Together we ran and then got into the mud. Ran some more and got into the mud. We had to submerge ourselves in muddy water to swim under logs. We sloshed through a trough of mud so thick and viscous that it made suction sounds when we moved through it. We had to jump 8 feet down into a 20-foot-deep pool of muddy water and swim to the other side.
The river walk was not like the last river walk I did in San Antonio, Texas. This one was actually in the river, where we tried to run, walk and maneuver through unseen debris in the water, including large roots, logs, branches, rocks and sinking sand pits. Scaling walls, climbing across monkey bars and parallel bars 20 feet up in the air added to the element of danger and excitement.
Crossing the finish line with my newfound friends and teammates, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. And I know I could not have done it without each of them. It was the most disgusting, filthy and gross morning, but I will definitely do it again next year.
For more information about the next Mud Run, visit www.usmcmudrun.org.