Chilling winds, daunting obstacles and oozing sludge. Not the recipe you might expect for a popular foot race. Yet the Mad Anthony Mud Run, celebrating its fifth year, has drawn a steady increase of participants and been named “Best of the Blue Ridge” by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine for the second year in a row.
No, this is not your typical road race. Runners brace themselves for winter temperatures that average 45 degrees but may drop as low as nine. Snow just might blanket the race course, and new “mystery” obstacles are added annually, forcing runners to show the same fortitude General “Mad” Anthony Wayne exhibited in his Revolutionary War battles.
So why do people love it so much? The element of adventure certainly plays a part—and according to Andy Cummings, 49, the people. “Being around people who love to run, who cheer for each other—it’s just a good time.” The beer at the end doesn’t hurt any, either. Nor the whimsical sportiveness. It’s not unusual to spot a bride or a Power Ranger on the field.
At its inception in 2011, the race started with only eight obstacles and 202 participants. Now the race boasts fourteen obstacles, and registration is expected to be over 400. “It’s gotten so big now,” Cummings remarks, “they have to bus people over from the Town Center.”
Cummings, who in 2016 will run the race for the fifth time, says he was initially nervous, since he was relatively new to running any kind of race. He determined to try the mud run, coaxing himself with the mantra “it can’t hurt me that much.” When he arrived on race day, the elaborate course excited him. Obstacles like “The Battle of Stony Point “ and “The Battle of Fallen Timbers“ physically challenged the runners, but a spirit of comradery was also operating in the way people helped each other along. The uneven ground provided its own trial, as well, but Cummings wasn’t in a hurry to keep a strident pace. “I took my time,” he said.
Under barriers, across balance beams, over bales of hay, the runners tackled each obstacle. Then came the tunnel under Interstate 64. “That was the most unexpected part,” Cummings recalls. “Water was running through the tunnel. We didn’t know whether to hug the wall or run through the stream.” They plunged through the water. “You do get wet and muddy in this race,” Cummings laughs.
The finish line welcomed the runners with faithful fans, local beer, and shiny medals minted in the likeness of the medal Congress awarded to General Wayne after his victory at Stony Point on July 15th, 1799. Like many runners, Cummings’ goal was just to finish the race, not set any records. Having achieved that goal, he then set out that year to run all four races in the Run the Valley series—and he continues to do so annually. He’s now set his sights on the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington.
Still, he comes back to the Mud Run. To him it is “just as thrilling as it was the first time. It marks the first race of the year, and I’m ready to get back out there!”
The 7th annual Mad Anthony Mud Run will be held at Coyner Springs Park on Saturday, February 24, 2018. Registrations can be made in advance or on the day of the event. For more information, visit www.runthevalley.com.