I'm not a runner. While I do it sometimes because it makes me feel pretty good after the fact, running isn't a particularly enjoyable workout for me, and it inevitably includes lots of walking and grunts of discontent. So when I chose to run a 5k mud run at the Dominion Energy Riverrock sports and music festival in Richmond, Virginia, I thought of it as a kind of challenge for myself, one that I hoped would feel like a personal accomplishment in the end, and perhaps serve as a small source of inspiration to others who, like me, would much rather take a long walk than a short jog. Baby steps still count as progress, right?
In case you're wondering, yes, a "mud run" is exactly what it sounds like: At Riverrock, the "Filthy 5K-ish" involves running through mud and other natural obstacles (think rocks, uneven trails, etc.), and by the end, even on a dry, sunny day, you're crawling through a huge pit of dense, wet, muddy mud to get to the finish line. Basically, there is no way not to get completely soaked and dirty in a mud run.
And as for the muddiness of this particular mud run, it just so happened that on May 18, the day of the race, Richmond, Virginia was experiencing what multiple locals described to me as the most rain they'd seen in years — like epic, flood-warning levels of rain. In fact, every person I spoke to about the mud run in the hours leading up to it looked at me with what I believed was genuine concern in their eyes, and encouraged me to keep checking online to see if the race would be cancelled, since some of the other major events at Riverrock that day actually had been already.
But the Filthy 5K-ish was never cancelled. Rain or shine, flood or no flood, I was going to do a 5k, through the mud, in the pouring rain.
Now, did I consider asking my Uber driver to turn around and go back to my hotel as we made our way to the festival, blinded by sheets of rain? Yes, of course. Absolutely. But for some reason, I was hell-bent on running if the race was still on. So forge on, I did, despite the fact that it took us a really, really long time to find the spot where the race began, on a trail located along the James River.
I decided to go straight toward the back, where the running pace was about a 12- to 13-minute mile — because, you know, my mile time wasn't really a big concern at this point.
I'll admit, I initially arrived at the Filthy 5K-ish assuming that I would be jogging alongside some serious, New York City Marathon-level runners, and while there were some legit athletes out there on the trail, to my very, very pleasant surprise, the starting line was packed with families, dogs, and groups of friends. Despite feeling a bit grumpy when I first got to the starting line, the energy was so community-oriented, fun, and supportive, that I couldn't help but feel like I was going to have an awesome time, even in the pouring rain.
I ran through huge rocks, hills, and roots. I slid on my butt down steep, slippery dips in terrain — oh, and I literally ran through the James River.
The sound of squeaking sneakers was a lovely soundtrack to the whole experience.
The most difficult part of the experience was, by far, navigating all of that uneven terrain, since the minute I'd get used to being on flat ground, a hill, a bridge, or a massive puddle surrounded by tangled roots would suddenly appear. But, at the same time, what made the 5k difficult was also what made it more enjoyable: All of those unpredictable obstacles helped keep my mind present and my body moving at a steady pace. I normally get bored when I run, but in this 5k, there was no such thing as feeling "bored."
In fact, I actually jogged for most of the 5k, though I did take a little walking break, too — with no shame, might I add. Because while some people walked, some ran, and some jogged, everyone, and I mean everyone, seemed like they were having a great time. It made me realize how nice it is to be "competing" in a community setting, where people seem genuinely interested in just finishing the race and having some laughs in the mud. By the end, the rain began to pick up more, and I was actually laughing out loud as I crawled through the mud. I mean, what else can you possibly do in that moment, right?
Now, before I sound too corny about this whole experience, let me just say I'm not the only person who gets this much joy and support from these types of community-based workouts. After the mud run, I spoke with exercise physiologist Joanne Donoghue, Ph.D., about what makes group exercise feel so good — even when it's not exactly, you know, easy.
'There are times we all feel terrible and want to stop, but with a group, you have camaraderie and support of others who will help push you," Dr. Donoghue tells Elite Daily over email. "Nobody likes to suffer through a workout alone, but when you exercise as a group, there is a bond that you endured the workout together."
When I was finally finished with the mud run, I treated myself to a big ol' dinner of huevos rancheros, and a very lazy trip the next day to The Edgar Allan Poe Museum — because what's the point of reaching a goal without a little reward, right?