By Casey Ryan
I opened an email from Groupon and the Survivor Mud Run was listed at the top. Instantly, I was compelled to click the link: a several-mile course of mud and muck rigged with all sorts of obstacles–puits, walls, crawls–I wanted to do it. It felt so different: The excitement, the challenge, and the adventure. And all right here in western Flagler County, at Mud Muckers. I was in. Ironically, a few hours later, I received an email from my close friend trying to recruit some girls to do this mud run with her. This mud was meant to be.
But you don’t throw yourself in it without training, which was its own grueling fun, some of it grueling, all of it fun. I got some great advice to begin running in socks and shoes on the beach in the shallow part of the ocean. Whoa: definitely harder than you think. I started off at the Flagler Beach Pier and exerted every bit of energy to the Topaz Hotel and back… several times.
The day of the race was a gorgeous October morning. Darci Claggett, a close friend from Orlando, came to town and Priscilla Chanfrau, my Ormond Beach bestie too. Us gals decked out in pink and black hopped in the convertible Beamer and ventured down the dirt roads of CR75 to CR90 to Mud Muckers in Bunnell. Somewhere along the way our “Pink Ladies” nickname surfaced. Jane Eddy of Ormond Beach joined us as her husband Michael was standing by, capturing the priceless photos.
We started off pink and pretty and ended black and dirty. Climbing over obstacles, crossing monkey bars, climbing over walls and through spider nets, crawling through muddy waters under barbed wire and up muddy, slippery mud hills then running a few hundred yards to the next obstacle, crawling through an aluminum metal pipe and slipping into a mud pit. Here’s a good tip I can share to avoid the yuck factor, learned the hard way: don’t open your mouth to talk or laugh while you’re crawling through that muddy water.
It was a wild adventure. I loved every minute of it. We laughed hard the whole time during this 5K. Before finishing we ran and dove onto a gigantic, inflated slippery slide, got up, swam through the muddy water that had us immersed head to toe in mud, and crossed through the finish line together arm-in-arm. We got medals and posed for photos.
The next steps were the requisite shower, a stop at Bimini Bar, and finally a munch down at Turtle Shack in Flagler Beach.
Some of you may not know that we have these kinds of adventure sports here. The economic impact to this area is hard to measure now but according to the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), there were 23.9 million so-called “sports visitors” nationwide (the sort of visitors who travel to see a mud run, for example, or a local soccer or lacrosse tournament) spending more than $7.68 billion. We would love to have a portion of that here in Flagler County. We already do to some extent, and that share is growing thanks to events like these.
Many of the visitors I spoke to were super excited to check out Flagler County. Most were visiting for their first time and came specifically for the Survivor Mud Run, which means they stayed here, ate in our restaurants, probably slept in our hotels and visited a number of local merchants along the way: what happens in mud runs doesn’t stay in the mud.
In less than 24 hours, the FL.ROC Mud Run, a four-mile course of 30 obstacles, will be taking place on Cemetery Road in Bunnell, not far from Strickland Farms. Glutton for punishment that I am, I am mud-running again and cannot wait. The Pink Ladies will be there, don’t you worry. We have even recruited a few more this time around.
After all that mud running, I’m planning to attend Bunnell’s Potato Festival then catch a glimpse of the Championship Bull Riding at the Flagler County Fairgrounds, and on top of that the opening reception of “Marathon,” JJ Graham’s one-man show at Hollingsworth Gallery at City Market Place. All on Saturday. (And you doubted we had endless opportunities for fun locally?)
I joked with JJ and asked him if I should leave some mud on my feet and help him create some art with my footprint. It would fit right in: a footprint is the symbol of his show–and our local events’ growing imprint on the local economy.
Casey Ryan, a Flagler Beach resident, is the Product Development Manager for Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates.