Stuck in the mud

After conquering Europe, Mud Day has arrived in Israel.

Mud Day (photo credit: PR)
Mud Day
(photo credit: PR)
There seems to be a run in Tel Aviv every other week: The Night Run, The 5K, The Marathon.
People storm through the streets like wildebeests while pedestrians debate the risks of crossing the road and having to navigate through hordes of runners. (And everyone kvetches that the roads are closed.) March 24 brought a new twist on the ol’ fun run: The Mud Run. New to Israel, Mud Day began in Paris in 2013 and has since swept up over 150,000 participants around the world. The format is simple: complete a run – in this case 13 km. – either alone or in a team, overcoming 22 obstacles, all in the mud.
The event took place in Hayarkon Park, which, after 1,200 tons of mud, one million ice cubes, 400 cubic meters of water and 60 tons of straw, was transformed into an “extreme arena” to host the various challenges.
“We are thrilled to bring Mud Day, a successful international concept to Israel,” said Dror Levy, CEO of the Israeli branch of the France-based Amaury Sport Organization. “We look forward to 5,000 participants this year, and we are confident that the public of athletes and their families will respond to the challenge and join the entire experience.”
Reebok, which partnered with the Mud Run, hit the nail on the head when Moshe Sinai, CEO of Reebok Israel, said: “We recognize that the nature of fitness is changing. More and more people are starting to see fitness as part of their way of life and not just as an activity. Mud Day is at the forefront of the innovative sports events of the new fitness world. It advocates union to create a communal fitness experience, emphasizing the fun of the challenge, fueling athletes who have so far refrained from accessing extreme sports. Mud Day is the ideal partner for spreading Reebok’s vision. The relationship between the two brands is based on shared values regarding the future of fitness in Israel.”
WITH OBSTACLES such as “Crawling Time” (wherein participants complete a 25-meter crawl under barbed wire) and “Slippery Slope” (a teamwork exercise where each member had to haul him or herself to the top of a very high and slippery slope using a piece of rope), this was far more than your run-of-the-mill run.
Mud Day is big on teamwork. The race itself is untimed and unranked, but “mutual assistance” features strongly.
Participants are encouraged to sign up as a team of four to help each other along the way (via, in part, a discounted entrance fee). The race tests not only physical and mental strength, but also team spirit and a sense of fun.
Participants gather in the “village” – the start and end point of the race, which offers food, fitness training and a cold beer to greet participants as they jog across the finish line. They are met by a DJ blasting house music and asking the crowd (at irritatingly regular intervals): “What is your profession?” to which they reply with a Spartan-esque “Ahoo, ahoo, ahoo,” with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
At Hayarkon Park, the spirit was overwhelmingly one of fun, although I was only watching and not participating.
The range of participants was broad, from muscular males fresh out of the best combat units, faces determined and fists clenched, to giggling groups in matching T-shirts, ready to enjoy a laugh with their friends. At this point still mud-free and full of anticipation, the participants were cheery.
As I did the rounds, trying not to feel like a lazy couch potato in my jeans, nursing an extra-large cup of coffee (we were told to arrive at 9 a.m. so we could see Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai set off at 9:30), I heard a lot of high-pitched “I’m so excited” and many a war cry. And then they were off! Participants had a choice of completing the full 13 km. and 22 obstacles or opting for 7 km. and 11 obstacles. There was also an option for kids – a 500-meter run with five obstacles.
By the third obstacle, everyone was pretty darn muddy and embracing it.
Mud fights, delighted squeals as participants fell from monkey-bars into the muddy waters below, and shouts of encouragement filled the air. One participant would later tell me: “The monkey- bars over water were hell. But it was so much fun.”
Some of the obstacles frankly shocked me. One was the “Ice Crime,” where participants slid into an iced-water bath.
The final obstacle, “Sweet Shocks,” involved running through strips of tape giving off mild electric shocks. Both were courtesy of Reebok, and both replaced smiles and merriment with flinches and gritted teeth. Rumor has it that someone fainted after “Sweet Shocks” – though it should be said that there was the option of skipping every obstacle by simply walking around it.
For the most part, participants emerged from the finish line victorious, often with their arms wrapped around each other as they strode through the final obstacle together.
After cooling off with a beer, participants were keen to chat in that gushing, I-am-full-of- endorphins sort of way.
“It was insane. It was so much fun. For me it was very, very challenging.
The worst for all my team was the “Ice Crime,” said one grinning participant.
“It was very hard and I have pain,” was all her teammate would chip in.
Most emphasized the group spirit.
“It was so much fun to do it in a group. I fell flat on my face. But everyone was helping me; no one was left alone,” enthused one participant, with a thin layer of dried mud turning her whole body a terracotta color.
“It was the best experience ever,” her friend agreed. “It was challenging but amazing, and I would do it all over again. The mud mountain [wherein participants slid down and scrambled up a hill of very wet mud, each higher than the last] was probably the funnest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
A GOOD time was had by all, and after such success, it seems likely that the Mud Run will return to Israel next year. I was almost tempted to join in – until I checked in with a friend to see how she was recovering the day after the race.
“I am so incredibly sore and I feel like I have been in an accident,” she said.
Maybe not.