Three Senior Ladies Tackle Marine’s Mud

By Carrie Luger Slayback

“It will be fun,” Annie and Leslie, members of my ladies’ hiking group insist, coaxing me to join them in Camp Pendleton’s MUD RUN. Reluctantly, I pay close to $60 to experience 6.2 sloppy dirty miles. I consider backing out of the commitment all the way to the night before. I know I will hate the mud.

On June 18, 2011, we get up at 5:15 am and dress in old spandex pants, retired running shoes and shredded shirts. We tangle with freeway traffic, display I.D. at the gate, park on the Marine Base and finally, line up to begin.

At 9 am, six thousand “runners” push, dodge and scramble through the balloon arch marking the start. For the first three miles, Annie (61), Leslie (56) and I (67) run/walk, kicking up dust along California chaparral trails. We tramp beside marines in camouflage colors, listen to chattering participants, spot one fluffed up hawk on a telephone wire, but find nothing wet. Where is the mud? I allow a faint hope, “Maybe I’ll get through this dry.”

THEN, the first stream crossing cuts through the trail. I will NEVER dip my running shoes into water up to my calves!

The next instant I’m IN. Shoes fill with water and spandex slaps, sloshes, slips through the stream. Cool water, no danger of falling, mud at stream’s exit, I’m done and it’s fun.

At approximately Mile 4, we round a bush and come upon the biggest mud pit of the day – 30 feet across, waist deep with the smell of an excavated latrine site. I DO NOT EVER sink my skin into stink. I would run 15 miles to avoid this.

I slide in. The technique is to pull your feet along through the waist high, brown, outhouse-smelling mix. In about ten feet we meet a 4 foot wall. I grab the top, stiffen my arms and flip my feet over.

Protecting my bad knee, I flex my legs and splash into the big “toilet” on the other side, muck up to my armpits. Perfumed by the “doo doo” pool, I slog out, run a bit to catch Annie and Leslie and continue on, happily.

We trip along the trail, unfazed by the slime splattering from all body parts. We’ve survived the stink hole. Warm weather, blue skies, we are filthy and euphoric until I spot a huge lake-like reservoir.

“I can’t swim across that!” I scream. I buy running shoes two sizes too big to accommodate the fact that my feet swell when I run marathons. Today, each shoe is a mud-packed anchor. Swimming? Impossible.

“Hang on to me,” says Leslie, a triathelete, “and me,” says Annie, a swimmer, and they are IN.

I follow, desperate to keep up with my two living life rafts. Instead of holding on to the ladies, I grasp a line stretched across the water. So do 99% of the other participants. We WALK across. At 5’ 2” tall, I keep my head above water the whole way, I do not drink a drip of water which is good because just ahead of me, Annie is peeing in the reservoir.

The “swimming” part I dreaded turns out to be my favorite. Cool clean water – poo pit washed away.

Momentarily clean, we walk a half mile to another stream crossing. Fully initiated, I prance in, welcoming the cool current swirling around my ankles. My big running shoes store enough water at each toe to accommodate a couple of gold fish.

By the time we reach the second mud pit and wall, the water has drained from my shoes to be replaced with mud – sweeter smelling this time. I look at Annie’s back, pure sticky brown from shoulders down to ankles. Leslie turns to tell me, “Your face is full of mud.” Her face and blond hair are spotless.

A steep incline arises in front of us at about Mile 4.5, a hose shooting water down the path. We start uphill as water washes down. In spite of the fire hose, we make steady progress up, holding on to the fence wire, planting feet in the thick mud to prevent a backwards slide. Piece of cake, (gooey chocolate).

Next, a crawl through a pipe, the idea is to use hands and knees, but my knees have knobs which grind against the hard pipe, so I crab-walk – easy.

A half mile to a 20 foot stream with flags stretched across at 6 inches above the water level. We’re down on our bellies, heads under flags. People use arms to pull across, feet floating out behind. My water-filled size 8s do not float out behind me, so I crawl under the flags – refreshing.

We hear music and spot the FINISH ahead. We join hands and run down the chute, oops, wrong way. We are NOT registered as a team so somebody turns us around. We head backwards towards the “individual” chute, make a sharp left and squish on through, hands still joined, crossing at 1:42:22.

Marines provide showers but we all have commitments after the race, so we skip the long lines at the shower and stay filthy. We jump into Leslie’s Mercedes reeking of mud, satisfied with our mucky morning.

Quote from Annie: “I’m here because I like to do something new.”

Quote from Leslie: “I’m here because I can do this at my age and enjoy it.”

Quote from Carrie: “I like mud.”

We kiss each other good-bye; the only people on Earth who would touch us are us.

I am home by 1 pm. I shower and grab food to eat in the car. At 2 pm I sit in the Performing Arts Center, attention fixed upon the exquisitely classical National Ballet of Cuba. I gaze at the ideally feminine ballerinas on Pointe and the strong, leaping premier dancers. I sit on the edge of my seat and imagine myself moving in graceful synchrony with the dancers.

In truth, I’m better at slogging through a mud pit.

About this writer

  • Carrie Luger Slayback Carrie Luger Slayback is an award winning teacher and marathon runner. She writes on fitness and family matters. Her articles appear in the Los Angeles Times, and her series on preparing for the L.A. Marathon, 2014 was published in The Daily Pilot. Carrie lives in Newport Beach, California, with her husband and Chihuahuas.

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