Reporting from Camp Pendleton — On terrain normally reserved for the training of young combatants, more than 4,500 civilians of various ages, body types and costumes ran, walked, dog-paddled and slithered Saturday along a 10K course under a deceptively cloudy sky.
Southern California is chockablock with weekend running events, but the annual World Famous Mud Run here offers unique incentives: bragging rights for having completed a Marine obstacle course and the primordial joy of getting muddy from head to toe.
The course meanders over rolling hills, tire obstacles, river crossings, two 5-foot-high walls, a slushy tunnel, a steep climb and, near the finish, a 30-foot mud pit.
Mostly it was a battle of individuals, but there were also numerous groups in appropriate attire. Among them: the Muddy Buddies from Loma Linda University Medical Center, the Buggy Belles (young mothers from Encinitas and Carlsbad), the Mud Ninjas from Cerritos, and several Wonder Woman contingents from San Diego and Los Angeles.
"I must be crazy," said Greg Copeland, 60, a utility construction manager from Irvine, as his team moved to the starting line. "I just hope they can medevac me out."
No one needed emergency evacuation, but Navy corpsmen were busy treating sprains, barked shins, banged knees and dehydration, a problem even on a cool, overcast morning. "Lots of cramps this year," said corpsman Karl Farr.
From its modest beginnings in the 1990s, the Mud Run has grown exponentially. This year's was held over two weekends for different groups.
If there was a consensus among the runners, it was that this year's course was tougher than last year's. The rains made for a higher-than-usual reservoir level for the runners to ford.
The Marines, sprinkled strategically along the 6.2-mile course, were said to have been more spirited than in previous years as they shouted out Marine-style motivation: Keep moving, Keep Moving, KEEP MOVING, NO QUITTING HERE, NO QUITTING …!
For each finisher, there was a Mud Run T-shirt in Marine Corps colors. There were other inducements.
"When you're done and hot and muddy," Col. Nick Marano, the base commander, told the runners as they strained in advance of the opening whistle, "we've got ice-cold beer and hot barbecue."