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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

Fun, thy name is mud

Running in the slop isn't your normal athletic competition, which the Fan of the House believes is a good thing.

April 25, 2012|Chris Erskine
  • A thick coat of mud has helped transform the traditional 5K run into something that's actually fun.
A thick coat of mud has helped transform the traditional 5K run into something… (Crispin Courtenay )

Whose stupid idea was this? Stupid mine.

In another outbreak of arrested development, I ran a five-kilometer "mud run" the other day, down in toasty Temecula, the kind of place where the wiper blades melt right into your windshield. This was one of those days. By my 9 a.m. race time, it had to be pushing 90.

This is my first mud run, and what I immediately like is that as soon as you get a little warm, the course takes a turn and you're splashing across a pond, or bellying through some glop. Mud pits. Water hazards. Timber hurdles. These mud runs are refreshing and demoralizing all at once. I'd equate it to spring break in Tijuana. But with more crawfish in your colon.

I'm no Pheidippides to begin with, so when you add 10 pounds of mud to my torso, I basically am in danger of going backward. In the vernacular of your 10-year-old, I've been slimed.

Here's a question: Why so much nudity? Is such behavior really necessary? This isn't a suburban high school. Put some clothes on, why don't you. This is no place for Daisy Dukes and bikini tops. And, yes, I'm talking to you, sir.

Another guy in front of me is built like a beekeeper and wearing a tutu and not enough else. He zigzags across the course like a German hunting hound.

Saturday's mud race also featured runners in capes, banana suits, and a bride and groom (mazel tov, you two; it's all downhill from here).

And let me pose this important question: Since when is a sporting event supposed to be fun, anyway?

A sporting event, as we realize more and more every day, on the pro level, or especially out on the Little League field, should be the most intense, unpleasant, almost maniacally immoral public spectacle possible.

First and foremost, winning should be paramount. Fans and players should come easily unglued and embarrass themselves with egregious behavior whenever possible. They should bend the rules and fake the catch and take a flop, then blame the ref if it doesn't work. Curse at news conferences. Inject your buttocks. Lie to Congress.

Sportsmanship is so last century, right? It's for old-schoolers like Lombardi. Wimps like Wooden.

The organizers of this inaugural event at Galway Downs in Temecula seem to have forgotten all that. Race director Steve Rawlings has made the fatal decision to keep this event as fun as possible.

"I can't convince my kids that there is anything joyful about a regular 3.2-mile race," he says of a traditional 5K run. "But when I say 'mud run,' they're immediately in.

"It has an element of fun that encourages it to be a group activity," he says.

Let me say I see no future for such competitions. Honestly, if I had tried a little harder, I might've won my age group (Paleolithic and up).

What kind of precedent would that set, a nearsighted sportswriter with egg yolk on his chin actually winning an athletic competition? It might set athletics back a century or two, to the days when Grant Hill was still a rookie.

Worse yet, there isn't a TV camera in sight. Most of the entry money goes to charity. This event is so misguided on almost every level I want to scream.

"I would've liked to see more mud," says Peter G. Albini of Huntington Beach, who along with his 18-year-old son was running in his first mud race.

"I'm running it twice," brays Bryan Cox of Woodland Hills.

So, that's the level of insanity you're dealing with here.

If you insist on entering one of these ever-popular mud races, here are a few tips:

—Don't inhale.

—Wear tight shoes (they're easy to lose in the glop).

—Avoid cotton (it gets heavy and weighs you down).

—Wear sunscreen and not much else, unless it's a funny costume. Or a tattoo. Or a bruise.

— Embrace your inner-bovine.

The participants who seemed to have the most fun in Saturday's mud run were the ones who made the most of the slop. They slid face first into the ponds and jumped aboard the inflated shark near the finish line.

They didn't go up the dry part of the muddy berms, they went right for the stuff as sloppy as coffee grounds.

"He got to the top of the muddy hill and Tootsie-Rolled down," Lucy Bender says proudly of her husband, Brett.

"I guess you never really grow up," Brett explained.

Here's hoping.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

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