Down and Dirty

by Lisa Dinsmore

It's all Stacy B's fault. I hate exercise. I'm not a runner. Yet somehow I found myself wrapped up in her enthusiasm for extreme sporting events and agreed to run my first 10k. Though not just your, run-of-the-mill road race, but the annual Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Mud Run. A 6.3 mile race where I would be constantly wet, covered in mud and guaranteed to come away from the experience scraped and bruised like a week-old tomato that fell off the truck. Did I mention that I also detest being wet? Perhaps I was a cat in a past life. Of course, if I was, hoisting myself over those 5-foot walls should have been a whole lot easier.


My generally philosophy with life is if you're going to do something you don't enjoy at least make it as interesting as possible. When I attempted to learn how to play golf, I always chose to play on courses that were, at the very least, visually stunning. No wide-open, flat, burned-out, public courses for me. That way I could distract myself with the natural beauty of my surroundings (the ocean, mountains or grapevines) instead of focusing my white-hot, internal rage on the tiny, unruly white ball that failed to do my bidding. Which is how I came to the Mud Run. No boring, flat, road race was going to do. Give me an obstacle course filled with walls, rivers, a lake, crawling through tubes and under fences. Usually, my response to people asking me if I would ever run a long distance race has always been, "Only if there's a chainsaw-wielding murderer running behind me." The buffed-up, no-nonense Marines that line the course, screaming at you and hosing you down provide – not life-threatening – but similar motivation. They are not amused by slackers and they let you know it. You do NOT want to catch their attention.


That they run this exact course in full gear in around a half an hour is inspiring, amazing...and never gonna happen for me. Granted I have a few decades of wear and tear that they don't, but I'm more than aware I don't have what it takes. I am highly competitive though and the last thing I wanted was for our team to come in last place. You have to finish the course in under 3 hours. No exceptions.


While the Marines are clearly having fun watching the civilians suffer – and most of the runners are having fun too (I mean when's the last time you wantonly played in a mud puddle?) – it's also clear that they're going to brook no nonsense from us either. When some smart-ass talked back to a marine ("Let's see you do it.") on the super-muddy, 50-degree incline, aptly-named Slippery Hill, the marine showed him – climbing the grade in 30 seconds flat in between at least 100 other people just trying not to fall down. "Got something else to say? I thought not. Now run, dummy!" OK, he didn't say that, but I know in my mind that's what the Marine was thinking. I know I was.


The whole operation is executed with mind-blowing precision. I know, they're the Marines and one should expect nothing less, but we were all impressed nonetheless. They wanted everyone to have a good time, but there was also an underlying awareness of their physical presence and readiness. They could take you out in a blink of an eye, so no f**cking around people. Our military bases are closed to the public most days of the year for a reason, so thanks for coming and getting dirty, now clean up, drink your beer and get the hell out. We've got real work to do. We'll see you next year. And they do. This event (with 3 runs over two weekends) sold out the first day this year. Three years ago, it took a week to fill all the spaces, about 5500-6000 per race. So, if you're planning on participating in this event in 2011, don't get too hungover on New Year's Eve because sign-up begins first-thing January 1st. Or like our co-ordinator Stacy B, just don't go to bed.


After sitting out the last time Team Limoncello ran the course – I was first alternate – I'm glad I took the plunge this time around and challenged myself. While we certainly didn't burn up the course, we weren't last either, which for a group of 36-44-year-olds – who could probably medal if drinking and eating were Olympic sports – wasn't so bad. For the record, we finished in just under two hours about 10 minutes slower than the last time out for the team. It was my fault, but I WILL be better next time. The best part of the race was  the bonding experience of our team with everyone rallying each other all along the course. It gave us a small glimpse into the lives of the men and women (Go ladies!) who protect our country, who also have to rely on each other to survive. That all the money raised goes to help their families while they're deployed around the world, just makes the experience mean that much more. It didn't inspire me to run other 10Ks, but I will be back for this one. Me and those mud pits will meet again.

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We lost our cameraman this year due to a pre-race injury, so the middle pics are from Team Limoncello's 2008 Mud Run, as you may be able to tell from the white as opposed to the yellow shirts. Just wanted to show what the course was all about. 


Lisa Dinsmore is a writer, web programmer, movie and wine lover. She currently runs two review websites to share her passions: and She is also the Managing Editor of One for the Table.  

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