Most of you know that being a writer is only a small part of who I am. I am also a teacher, and a traveler, and a musician, and an exercise-lover. I blogged a couple weeks ago about why exercise is so important to me -- it always has been. Movement, sweating, friendly competition -- it's been part of my life since I was a child. Even now, in my mid-forties, it still is.
Which is why I decided to join three of my (much younger) friends in running a Mudderella this past weekend in New Jersey.
I'd never done any kind of "mud run" but they are becoming hugely popular, from the Tough Mudder to the Spartan Run to the Warrior Dash and more. The Mudderella prides itself on being exclusively for women (men can only participate if they're on a team with women), It is untimed, focuses on teamwork, and has the slogan "own your strong," with proceeds from the entry fee going to raising awareness about, and reducing, domestic violence. It is a 5-ish mile course with 12-15 obstacles along the way. There are aid/water stations throughout, along with porta-potties and ample places to rest, walk, and skip obstacles if you want to.
From all accounts, most women LOVE their Mudderella experience, which puts me in the minority. I did a lot of reading on the Internet before the race, trying to get a sense of what to expect, and so I figured I would share my own experience with readers and potential Mudderella-runners. So here goes...
You SHOULD do the Mudderella if...
1. You want to have a good time with your girlfriends. There is definitely a party atmosphere. Teams dress in all kinds of costumes, with matching t-shirts with clever sayings being the most common. But I also saw tutus, boas, and crazy headpieces. The event isn't timed, which means there's no pressure to rush or finish in a certain time or place. You can stop anywhere you want, you can take as long as you want for a water/potty break, and there's a lot of laughter. While not all the obstacles require teamwork, some do, and there's a positive feel at each one, as the women cheer each other on, even if they don't know each other.
2. You've been thinking about doing an exercise event. If you've been working out at all, you won't find the course impossible to tackle. It will take you 2+ hours to finish, but you can run and walk as you want. The obstacles do require upper body strength, leg strength, and balance and coordination (as well as some guts), but they're manageable for most people. This is a fun, no-pressure way to enter an athletic event and move from start line to finish line with the feeling of accomplishment at the end.
3. You want to get motivated to get in (better) shape. Because all those obstacles require strength and agility, as well as cardio stamina to make it through the whole course, training for the Mudderella will definitely put you in better shape. Their website has a whole 6-week training program, with specific moves and workouts that will strengthen you overall.
4. You don't mind getting dirty. Yes, there is mud. A lot of it. You will crawl through it, jump into it, climb over it, and find it everywhere in and on your clothes and body when you finish (including places mud should never, ever be). Some of the obstacles are scary (especially the high ones, including the slide into the pool which is basically a 2-story vertical drop). But that's part of the challenge, and part of the fun!
So it sounds like a great time, right? Well, there are some cons to this event too.
You should probably NOT do the Mudderella if...
1. You value organization. For an event that hosts thousands of women, this one was stunningly understaffed. After we checked in, there was no one (and I mean NO ONE) to answer questions or tell us where to go to get in line for our start. Start times are assigned randomly, as far as I know (we requested an 11:00 start time and were assigned 1:15), but once there, we ended up having to wait in a serpentine line that wound around the parking lot for almost an hour. We ended up starting just before 2:00. They don't check your start time, though, so you could really arrive and start anytime you wanted to. Also, aside from the water stops and the slide obstacle, there were almost NO staff or volunteers along the course itself, which I found surprising given the risks involved. I can't believe they wouldn't have had a Mudderella rep at each obstacle simply to make sure no one got hurt, to give support, or to manage the crowds.
2. You are (or have been) a competitive athlete. Speaking of crowds, some of the obstacles got really backed up. At the climbing wall, we waited almost 30 minutes for our turn to go over. The other lines weren't as long, but if you're used to running races or participating in events where the crowd thins out and you aren't behind slower people, you might not like the Mudderella. In several spots, the trail narrowed and women were walking, so if you wanted to run (or even walk faster than those ahead of you), you couldn't. And if you like having the motivation of a clock, forget that here. Water stops can turn into 5-10 minutes if your teammates want to use the bathroom, chat, have a protein bar, or just take a rest along the course.
3. You work out regularly and like to be challenged by your workout. I don't go crazy, but I do run or go to the gym a few times a week. I was worried about the obstacles in the Mudderella -- but I didn't need to be. They were very, very easy. For me, I would have liked more of a challenge. I also wished all of the obstacles required teamwork. Most of them you could do by yourself, and it was just a matter of waiting for your whole team to finish each one. I was tired at the end, but that was probably because I was doing steady low-rate cardio along with lifting my own body weight for 2.5 hours. I crashed that night, but the next morning I felt fine. No lingering body pain or excessive exhaustion.
So...is the Mudderella for you? Maybe. I don't know that I'll do it again -- especially for the steep entry fee (I paid over $100 for a regular, non-early bird entry). If you want to have fun with your girlfriends, you might want to give it a try. I'm glad I did it once -- now I might look for another experience next time around.
Happy Monday, everyone! And remember, the most important thing is to keep moving. Always!