PHOTOS — Mud Hero racers get downright dirty
For an hour or two on the weekend, nearly 13,000 adventurers took their turns being the great unwashed — and they loved it.
Excepting perhaps the punishing hills of the Canyon Ski Resort course, smiles were aplenty among racers as they made their way through the six-kilometre course of Red Deer’s Mud Hero event, even as they crawled through muddy tunnels, swam through mud pits, or slipped and slid on unfriendly ground.
Every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 500 or so eager, clean runners lined up at the starting line.
At the nearby finish line, one competitor was effectively indistinguishable from the next, the numbers on their bibs unreadable under the black sludge covering the entirety of their bodies.
And even though showers were right near the finish line for racers to return to their natural state, no one was in too big of a hurry to wash off the memories from the first race of its kind to be held in the area. There were photos to be taken, and even hugs to be given to the spectators who had been clean and enjoying the show.
Team Mudvoluted, made up of a number of Blackfalds residents, made sure superheroes were well represented on the course, with each team member dressing up as one. Alongside the Green Arrow, Buzz Lightyear and Elastigirl, Angela Leggett ran the race as Catwoman. For her, trekking through mud is the way to exercise.
“Normal running is boring; this is great. I like the mud!” she exclaimed.
Tony Morgan, on the other hand, is something of an exercise junkie, and saw the Mud Hero race as a new challenge.
“It was something new I hadn’t done. I do a lot of CrossFit exercises and I figured this would just be a good test,” said the Idahoan.
For Morgan, the obstacles — especially the mud pits — were fun, while the hills presented the biggest challenge.
The hills, and the central location the resort offered, helped to convince Mud Hero organizers that Canyon Ski Resort would be a good home for the race. Last year’s Alberta race was held in Kananaskis on flatter terrain, which made for a less exciting race.
Sean Ruppel, the course creative director, said races such as the Mud Hero event are at their zenith right now, with sellouts the norm. The local event is the largest of the six the company runs across the country, with upwards of 12,500 racers going through the course over two days.
He said he expects the race will be back at the Red Deer resort in future years as well.
“We couldn’t find anything around Calgary that was hospitable, and we had very stringent Parks Alberta rules against events that made last year’s very difficult. Of all our venues across Canada, Red Deer was the best to work with,” said Ruppel.
The resort is hoping the exposure — and the fun — from the race will translate into success for its ski operation.
“We are Alberta’s largest non-mountain resort, but a lot of people don’t know about us,” explained Robyn Martel, one of the resort’s owners, “I’m venturing to guess that half of (the people here this weekend) have never been out here, never heard of the resort. We’re really hoping it’s going to impact us in the winter season as well.”
Funds from the race, plus pledges brought in by competitors are going towards the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Over $32,000 came in through online donations alone, with more pledges being dropped off throughout the weekend. The funds will be used for clinical trials.
While it was not much of a competitive race, Aengus McCullough of Edmonton clocked the fastest time at the event, racing through the course in just over 33 minutes on Saturday.