By Pete Chiodo
Let’s look at this from the perspective of the frogs.
Say you’re living your peaceful froggy life at your little pond, hopping around, snagging a fly here and there. And then one summer day you hear echoing through the woods a bunch of hoots and hollers and giggles and squeals. And then all of the sudden a bunch of colorfully-dressed people come tearing through the trees, happily jump into your murky little pond, paddle messily to the other side, and then go jogging off in the other direction, their soggy shoes going “squidge, squidge, squidge” as they run.
Had they the words, one frog might turn to the other and remark, “These humans are nuts.”
No, actually. This is what it looks like when we are enjoying ourselves.
“It is fun, as crazy as that may seem,” said Conneautville’s Heather Patton, shortly after finishing her run at the inaugural Muddy and Messy 5K, which weaved its way through the woods and corn fields behind Shadyside Campground in Harmonsburg on Saturday morning.
She and the other runners not only dove through ponds, they also scaled hills, skipped across creeks, climbed walls of hay bales, dodged hanging tires, and zoomed down a makeshift 30-foot waterslide into a surprisingly deep basin of water.
“It was pretty cool,” said Mike Keep of Girard. The Muddy and Messy was his first mud run. He was using it as a warm-up for the more extreme Warrior Dash in Ohio in a couple weeks.
“It’s different than running a regular 5K,” said Keep. “The hills make it a lot more difficult. And running on that mud, it’s kind of like you’re running on grease. You take two steps forward and one step back.”
Despite the conditions, Keep managed to post the second-fastest time in the race, finishing in 25:10.40.
The fastest time belonged to Ripley, N.Y.’s Adam Rowe, who finished the 3.1-mile course and its 10 or so obstacles in 24:03.90.
Patton had the fastest time for female runners, clocking a 25:14.00, good enough for third overall.
Just under 600 of those crazy humans turned out for the race.
“It is a great turnout,” said Keith Coleman, the race’s organizer. “It’s about 200 over what I expected for the first year. I’d say it’s about a 1,000-person event, counting all the spectators and everything.”
Coleman started the Muddy and Messy for two reasons, he said. One was to give people something fun to do (people that consider this type of thing fun, at least). And the other was to establish an annual fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I have a 92-year-old grandmother and she’s in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said, “and I wanted to do something for my grandmother and my mom, who is her primary caregiver.”
Coleman will make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association for this year’s tournament.
He hopes that donation will grow into a large annual contribution for the charity as the race gets larger in the years to come.
“We will expand it,” he said. “Next year, we’re hoping for 1,200 to 1,300 runners. We should at least be able to double (this year’s attendance).”
While Rowe and Keep and Patton had finished their race, still waiting to start in the fourth and final heat of the day were the four girls of the Dirt Skirt Divas — Alicia Stevenson, Stacy Kolbe, Vanessa Nicols and Marsha Racop, all representing Cambridge Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing.
Each wearing tutus of black and hot pink, the four ladies danced with nervous energy, thinking about what lay in wait for them in the woods beyond the starting line.
“Why are we doing this? We’re doing this to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association and just to do something fun,” said Stevenson.
“Team-building,” added Nicols.
About 40 to 50 minutes later, the four girls had emerged from the woods, having lived up to their team’s name (the skirts were indeed dirty) and having achieved their goal of having fun.
Although, the day wasn’t without incident.
“This,” said Stevenson, motioning towards a giant muddy smear on the front of her black T-shirt, “is the end result of me versus the root.”
“Yeah, Alicia fell and we all laughed,” said Racop.
“And then — karma — Stacy fell, and we all laughed. And then I fell.”
This is what we call having a good time.
“Oh my gosh, it was a blast,” said Racop.
“It was great,” Stevenson said.