- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Some came to ride mountain bikes in their underwear, and others were motivated by the promise of free beer. But it was the prospect of getting really dirty that brought Chris Phillips to town for an offbeat, obstacle-filled running and biking race.

“One thing was on my mind the whole time — the mud pit,” Mr. Phillips said after finishing the final obstacle of the Muddy Buddy race. “Plus, it was hot, and I was ready for a little cool-down.”

The Muddy Buddy, a six-mile duathlon that ends with an Army-style crawl through a 50-foot-long mud pit, attracted more than 1,600 racers recently to the Boulder Reservoir. Two-member teams traded off between trail running and mountain biking, with each leg divided by a giant, air-filled wall; monkey bars; or some other kind of obstacle.

Some racers dressed up as pigs or superheroes with red capes and tiaras taped to their bike helmets. One scantily clad couple wore white tank tops and briefs.

“It’s definitely different,” said Mr. Phillips’ race partner, Andrea Pietka, a first-time Muddy Buddy racer who thought the event would be a good break from her marathon training. “All the mud and the water and the obstacles, it makes you not feel the pain of running. Well, you still feel the pain, but it’s more fun.”

Thousands of active people are getting creative when it comes to competition, finding odd or at least more entertaining ways to race besides the typical 5K and 10K runs. The Muddy Buddy is among dozens of offbeat events around the country gaining in popularity, from mud-filled relays to so-called Red Dress Runs, in which everyone — and that means everyone — wears a dress.

A 10K run scheduled for Oct. 22 with river crossings, five-foot-tall walls in mud pits and other obstacles at Camp Pendleton, Calif., sold out in August. The base also sold out its Mountain Warfare Training Challenge, a 10K off-road run with a tire course, tunnel crawl and water obstacles held at the remote, high-altitude Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center.

In Kansas City, Mo., entirely underground 5K and 10K runs are held to celebrate Groundhog Day at a subterranean business complex. There are “Urban Assault” races in Seattle, Richmond and other cities that allow mountain bikers to maneuver bridges, railroad tracks and other city obstacles.

“I think it’s tied to the whole extreme-sport mentality. Traditional sports, for some people, just don’t cut it,” said Ryan Lamppa, spokesman for the Running USA trade group.

The Muddy Buddy race series began seven years ago and now brings its mud pit and laid-back atmosphere to seven cities across the country — including Chicago; Boston; Richmond; San Jose, Calif.; and Austin, Texas. The series will wrap up in Los Angeles on Oct. 23.


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