Fun for your mudder
First River Partners mud run is a splashing success
“I understand that entering and participating in the Mudder Nature Challenge is a hazardous activity. I understand that Mudder Nature Challenge presents extreme obstacles including, but not limited to, water, mud pits and steep hills.”
Despite the somewhat foreboding language at the top of the waiver form—or maybe because of it—I was willing to assume all risks involved to take part in River Partners’ first-ever Mudder Nature Challenge 5K mud run/obstacle course. All told, there were about 500 thrill-seekers from all over Northern California willing to make the trip to Colusa County and converge at the gorgeous Willow Bend area of the Sacramento River on a particularly hot and humid morning last Saturday.
It was a fun and festive scene that felt kind of like a small-scale Bay to Breakers, with an announcer on the mic egging on racers who were there as much to show off their funky costumes and party as they were to run the race. The big-haired rockers of Muddly Crue played prop guitars; a couple of dudes in lavender headbands going by the name of Quantum Brotein were high-fiving and doing the Running Man; a guy stood ready to run decked out in a full business suit; and more than one group of women sporting tutus was whooping in anticipation.
Some were gathered in teams—The Untrainables, the Super Bad Ass crew, the Clean Machine team tempting fate with white T-shirts and the large contingencies representing sponsors Sierra Nevada (the Beer Drinkers and Mud Racers) and Norcal Strength & Conditioning—and some were solo runners like me, up for a unique challenge that was more interesting than your average community 5K.
And it turned out that, even with the “extreme obstacles”—which, in addition to the water, hills, mud, sticky heat and encumbering outfits, also included sand, hay bales, tires and some mischievous young girls squirting mud guns—all participants, this writer included, were able to navigate the course injury-free.
“I was really happy,” said River Partners President John Carlon, “just to see the whole community way out there enjoying the day.”
The race was a benefit for River Partners, with proceeds from entry fees to go toward the nonprofit’s mission of conserving and restoring riparian areas along streams and rivers throughout the Western United States.
“We’ve always been disappointed that the only publicity the river ever gets is when the river gets beat up,” said Carlon, referring to the oft-contentious Labor Day float down the mighty Sacramento. “[We wanted] an alternative event to celebrate the river.”
Originally, River Partners looked into hosting a triathlon, and brought in an events-management company—Nor Cal-based Seven Seas Industries—to help with the production. But once the people from Seven Seas saw the wild River Partners-owned parcel, tucked beyond the orchards west of Gridley, they knew they had a perfect spot for a mud run. “We were like, ‘What’s a mud run?’” said Carlon.
A mud run, as I found out, is a lot of running interrupted by occasional slogs through gaping, sticky pits of thick mud, with just enough time in between for the caked-on mud to dry in a layer of clay on your hot skin. As uncomfortable as that and the unseasonable mugginess was, completing the course with a victory plunge in the frigid river made it all worth it. Plus, it was high comedy watching everyone slip, slide and tumble their way through muck.
“[Mud runs] are becoming really popular, and I can see why now,” said Carlon, whose Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm fielded a team for the event. “It gives adults the opportunity to act like kids.”
The kids of Colusa High School were on site as well, providing meals of smoked chicken and coleslaw to the racers, and selling enough extra meals to spectators to raise $3,000 for school athletics.
And for River Partners, Carlon guessed that, after everything is tallied, “This first year, it’s going to be a break-even deal.”
Though they have to wait for the board to officially assess things and make a decision, Carlon and River Partners Development Director Julie Pokrandt, the race point-person, are optimistic that they’ll be hosting another mud run next summer.
“This is the first kind of event we’ve ever done,” said Pokrandt, who says she’s heard a lot of positive feedback and that the River Partners have made a lot of connections on Facebook and elsewhere, meeting one of the event’s goals of community outreach. “Everybody’s walking away talking about next year.”