The Mogollon Monster Mudder 5K race Saturday was a parent’s worst nightmare.
Moms and Dads everywhere tell their children “don’t jump in the puddles ... don’t hit your brother in the eye with a wad of mud ... don’t climb up that rickety ladder ... and don’t run through the storm tunnel under the horse corral.”
All sound advice.
But the “Mudda of all Mudders” was the place to break all those rules, turning 269 participants into muddy monsters.
Not wanting my own family to miss the horror, I invited my parents up to watch and recruited my brother Caleb and his reluctant wife Sarah to participate.
We anxiously took our spots at the starting line in the parking lot of the Payson Event Center, the sun beating down on our heads and quickly drying up the muddy obstacles. My sister-in-law looked for a last-minute escape from the embarrassment she assumed awaited her on that three-mile collection of obstacles. But I gestured to the contestants in tutus, medieval wear and Home Depot aprons. Compared to that, we wore nothing more foolish than long, striped silly socks, which after the first obstacle were just a vestibule for rocks and sludge.
Working in waves of 40, organizers unleashed group after group. We jogged off with the Village People of sorts and quickly broke one of Mom’s rules: don’t run across a pile of wobbly river rocks. I paused, looked around for Mom, then embraced the freedom and merrily skipped across on rubber ankles. Soon, we were throwing ourselves over log walls and into pits of mud. I eased into the first puddle, letting the warm goo fill my shoes and hit my ankles. It was just a hint of what was to come.
As we rounded the corner and came back around to the crowd, my nieces looked on in puzzlement as their parents violated every rule they’d ever laid down.
We shimmied under a long field of barbed wire, sharp pebbles cutting our knees and elbows. Just a few hundred feet in and we were out of breath. Payson Tourism Director Cameron Davis’ words at the start line echoed in my head, “the firefighters and police officers who ran this course last night said it is as tough as any race they have tackled — it will test you.”
We grabbed a sandbag and lugged it over our shoulders, sinking ever deeper into the mud. One volunteer nearby said several shoes had already been lost in the muddy minefield.
We trudged on, working through more than two dozen obstacles, including the Tunnel of Dome, Arctic Trench, Coliseum of Terror and Hills of Peril.
The Tunnel of Dome, located under the rodeo horse corrals, was dark and musty. My brother suggested the muck wasn’t mere mud — so I tossed a glop at him.
We exited the tunnels into a deep, icy pit that was surprisingly refreshing.
After crossing through more pits, sliding into mud, crawling under tires and hiking around the outside of the course, we entered the home stretch in the Event Center. We carried firefighting hoses up and down the bleachers. Then up and down again.
Participant Janetta Broadhead said this is where she lost it. Although she had cautiously eaten a small breakfast, it came up, three times. Broadhead, who ran the course alone after her friends backed out, said she had trained for weeks for the event, watching videos on similar races and hiking the trails around Rim Country.
With a final time under one hour, Broadhead said she was proud of her effort and would “definitely do the race every year.”
Lots of survivors agreed, finding unexpected delight in rolling through unthinkable slush.
Announcers welcomed/patronized us as we entered the arena, mocking our efforts to circumvent the mud. Unable to read my brother’s number, one announcer told “the guy with the nice hair” to get under the barbed wire.
We crawled under a series of ATVs, up and over yellow nets and slippery ladders and through a final, brutal obstacle.
A favorite pastime from childhood, the slip-n-slide was a welcomed sight.
I got a running start and threw myself on the black plastic, then instantly regretted the decision. This was no slick slide, but a rocky torture pad. The left side of my body took the brunt, leaving my hips, knees and elbows bruised and bloody.
I got up and walked the rest of the way to the finish, a muddy smile plastered to my face and mud in my teeth.
Who knew breaking all the rules could be so fun, especially when your mom is cheering from the bleachers?