I ran the Seattle Hell Run this weekend, exerting more physical effort in one day than I have done this entire year. I had a light breakfast of egg whites and spinach, finishing off with a banana and peanut butter. I had read about carboloading and really loved the idea of pasta! rice! bread!, but then I had to remind myself that this was just 3.25 miles and not a marathon through the savannah grasslands.
After driving an hour to the enormous Remlinger Farms where the race was held, we met up with Rebecca and her husband, George. Hell Run was packed with thousands of people, the crowd alive with pre-race electricity. People were dressed in full suits, nun habits, jailer outfits, devil costumes. There were wigs and horns and men in bikinis and muscle t-shirts. Everyone was in a great mood, openly praising awesome costumes and encouraging others for attempting to do something so crazy as run through mud, rain and fire. Our heat was at 11:30, but other people had already completed their race, their muddied bodies proof that people could finish.
We settled into our line a few minutes before our start time. The announcer was awesome, pumping up the crowd as we jumped up and down to House of Pain. Then we counted off until it was time to move forward, our welcome to Hell.
Here’s a video of another heat’s starting line I found on YouTube:
The course was filled with 12 obstacles stationed around the property. It really helped break up the continuous running and because there were so many people, about 500 in each heat, the larger obstacles usually had a line and offered me a much needed reprieve.
The running was hard for me, only because running outside is not at all like running on a treadmill, even if I can change the screen so it looks like I’m running around a small island. Luckily, Rebecca kept talking to me even though I had barely a breath to even reply. We soldiered on through more difficult obstacles like the river walk wherein WE WALKED THROUGH A FREEZING RIVER. Everyone waded slowly, trying not to slip on the uneven rocks below us. I thought I was having trouble with my legs going numb in the ice-cold water, but all the guys around us bellowed on about how their balls were freezing off. Welcome to River Walk/Balls Talk!
Toward the end, we crawled through “tunnels” which was the narrow space under a low covered stage which then emptied us out into a thick blackish mud pit. The mud sucked me in and I had to have two people extract me before I could even crawl through. The mud enveloped my legs and I felt what it must be like to be baked in something. It was like the scene in The Never-Ending Story where Atreyu’s horse Artax gets stuck in the swamp, only I had total strangers offer their hands so I wouldn’t see the same sad fate. That spirit continued throughout the course. Strangers cheered, shared encouraging words or funny quips about how crazy all of this was.
I was most worried about the final wall which required that I pull myself up by a knotted and extremely muddy rope up a wooden wall with thin slats. I worried about falling back onto the mud below, or falling over the wall and onto the mud on the other side. Because I have such wimpy arms and I can only manage girl push-ups if no one is watching and judging me, I didn’t know if I could make this or if I would have to just scale the shorter wall next to this behemoth.
But I did it. I told myself I could do it and once I was climbing up that rope, I could pull myself up. I had to do it. I had come this far.
We ran over the fire then through the last barbed wire mud pit.
Of course I fell again and this was the nicest mud.
But the finish line was loud and red and welcomed me through.
The most difficult obstacle was not even part of the race. It was the group shower offered to the participants after they finished. The sprays were weak and the water was freezing, it made the river seem almost volcanic. This is the face I make when I say, “Where did I go wrong in life? I had so much promise. Where did that go?”
People had to contort their bodies to get any amount of mud to wash away, our legs twisting and lifting toward the spray. “It’s not even coming off!” I remarked.
The guy next to me laughed and said, “It’s like washing off cement!”
Whatever happened to me in those few moments of group showering kept me freezing until I got home–by the way, WORST GROUP SHOWER and believe me, I know from group showers. I went to college. Not like that was a class or anything, just that this was not what I remembered, I mean, seen in the movies!
We celebrated with beer and hamburgers, congratulating each other and ourselves for finishing. I signed up for this months ago because I knew it would be fun and it was. It taught me that I could manage running, a feat that I have always though of myself as too weak to even attempt. I proved that I could work at something so physically exhausting and make it through–mud, rain and all. I can’t wait to do it next year. Hell Run, Hell Yes.