Mud & Guts

Madtown 5K Mud Run,
Oldham’s Mud Run challenging

Extreme events give runners
a new twist on testing their limits

(May 2018) – Anyone entering the parking lot at the Lide Girls & Boys Club in Madison, Ind., will see an odd collection of poles and boxes sticking up from the ground in the adjacent lot. The items do not look menacing, but then, Club Director Ray Black has not yet strung the barbed wire or filled the mud pits for the fifth annual 5K Madtown Mud Run, scheduled for Saturday, May 19.
The event is both a very challenging physical event for local athletes but also a fun event for families, Black says. The club is located at 1551 M.S.H. Northgate Rd., near the Madison State Hospital grounds.
“Last year, we had 179 people registered and 175 showed up,” said Black. “This is my last year as executive director of the club,” Black added. “I step down on Aug. 15.”
Black has been at the club since Jan. 1, 1984. Brandi Poling, who has been Ray’s assistant for 18 years, will take over his position.

Photo by John Sheckler

After serving as his assistant for 18 years, Brandi Poling (left) soon will be taking over for retiring Ray Black at the Lide White Boys & Girls Club in Madison, Ind.

“This is bitter sweet,” said Black. “This club has been a huge part of my life.”
One of Black’s happy memories was when he was playing games with children when he was in his late 50s.
“One of the kids said, ‘I wish you would marry my mom,’ ”Black recalled. “He thought I was younger than her. Kids keep me warm at heart.”
Black has an impressive record as a wrestling coach, which is one of the reasons he was able to set up such a challenging event. He is still coaching wrestling.
“We have the youngest team in our league,” Black said with pride. “We have 25 kids,  and 17 are age 6 and younger. I like to help them learn the lessons they can learn. I hope to continue to have influence on children.”
It takes a lot of people to set up a mud run. The Hanover college football team helps, Black said.
The mud run has added a team competition this year.
“We hope to have five-person teams with a minimum of two ladies in a competition for the Beast Cup,” said Black. “We try and encourage fitness places and sports teams. On the Beast Cup competition, the last person on a team to cross the finish line will set the team time.”
When they hit the grassy area near the finish, they need to pick up a team member and carry on a back board for 1/8 mile.”
By the time they reach the back-board challenge, they will have already finished 20 obstacles. “The most difficult job is staying on the board,” said Black.
Solo mud runners may receive help at the obstacles, but not the Beast Cup runners.
The brutal course starts at the what was the former location of the Boys & Girls Club downtown before it became home to the VisitMadison Inc. tourism office and offices for the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site at 601 W. First St.
Mud Run participants will run down Vaughn Drive to the Heritage Trail, where they must navigate through a maze of 100 car tires. Then they traverse through what organizers call the stinky hurdles at sewage plant. Then it is under a bridge then over the arch walkway.
“In my opinion, the hardest thing to do is pick up a tire and run through the creek,” said Black. “It is then up the hill with wet shoes.”
Half way up the hill, runners do a series of squat thrusts called burpees.
When they reach the top, there is a tractor tire flip, then a box jump before picking up a 4x4 board and carrying it to the health department.
Once runners reach the Boys & Girls Club property on the hilltop, they encounter an eight-foot wall and a 24-foot balance beam before crawling through the mud under 16 foot of barbed wire.
They also crawl through darkened tubes and face 16-foot length of monkey bars, mud pit, more high hurdles and a chin up station.
Near the finish, they must jump a fire pit and crawl through a 16-foot pool of ice water in a two and one-half foot deep pit.
“Its all about the kids,” said Black. “We have a great staff which has done fantastic things. I am thankful for every kid we can pull off the fence who was on the way to dark side.”
Black laments the battles kids must face in today’s society.
“Drugs are destroying family life,” said Black “When I was raised, there were real parents. Now kids may be raised by grandparents, if they are lucky to have anyone at all.”
This is Black’s 38th professional year. Club members also have many years of service.
The people who organize the mud run make it a family affair.
“My granddaughter will come back and run again this year,” Black says with pride. “She won her age group last year. My grandson would run, but he has a soccer game.”
Poling said she has not done the mud run and is thankful that she can’t participate because she has to work the event.
“There is no way I could run up the hill,” said Poling. “There is one section where you carry a tractor tire through the creek, and I am just not coordinated enough to do that.”
Even after the hill, there are things she would rather avoid doing.
“At the box jump at the top of the hill, I would just fall off,” she added. “I still would try, but it would be hysterical to watch me.”
“Ninety-eight percent of the people who do mud run, do it for fun,” said Poling. “This is a small community, so we expect families to have their kids with them. Last year, the youngest runner was 5 years old.”
Poling points out the success rate for the event.
“Everyone who started, finished,” she said. “Some took 38 minutes; some took an hour a half. They don’t have to do every obstacle. No one is there checking their time. We celebrate small victories.”
Some people who are out of shape get to some of the stations and need help. Then comradery steps in, and people help each other.”
The majority of runners are from sponsoring companies. There are very few individual runners.
“It is all about your state of mind,” said Poling. “Even the best will wait for the slower runners. It is more about building friendship instead of competition.”
Down & Dirty Obstacle Mud Run in Buckner, Ky.
Across the river in Kentucky, meanwhile, a second event taking place on May 19 is the Down & Dirty Obstacle Mud Run. It will take place at Wendell Moore Park, 1551 N. Hwy. 393 in Buckner, Ky. This third annual event is organized by the Oldham County Parks & Recreation Department and sponsored by 360 Chiropractic.
The Down & Dirty Obstacle Mud Run takes family participation a step further. The first wave of runners starts at 9 a.m., and a party area with food trucks and a disc jockey opens at 9:30 a.m.
“This is a family friendly event,” said Oldham County Parks Director Tim Curtis. It is a tough course but not so tough that families can’t participate. It is challenging. There are a variety of obstacles that runners must go over, under or through. We made it even muddier this year.”
Two popular local restaurants are at the center of the after party, Gustavo’s Mexican Grill and Bully Barbecue.
“It is a fun festive time,” said assistant parks director Gary Parsons. “All mud run participants receive a dog tag and a T-shirt and a $5 voucher for food at the after party.”
There were 110 participants in 2017. With the addition of the family wave and the after party, event organizers hope to double that number this year.
Children age 7 or older are allowed in the family wave if they are with anyone 16 or older.
For the mud part of the event, the parks department has dug a series of pits 12 foot long and three foot deep.
“We water them down if mother nature doesn’t help,” said Parsons. “We put plastic fencing on top to force the runners to crawl through the mud pits on their bellies.”
There are other obstacles, like monkey bars and a 12-foot wall.
“People need to use a rope to go up and then down the wall,” Parsons added.

• For more information about the Mud Run in Madison, call (812) 365-5811 or visit the website www.MadtownMudRun.com. For information about the Oldham County run, visit the Oldham County Parks and Recreation Facebook page, or contact Tim Curtis at tcurtis@oldhamcountyky.gov or call (502) 225-0655.

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