Now in its third year, the Trooper Challenge Mud Run seems to have stumbled upon the perfect recipe for success.
Begin with a beautiful autumn day and add fire, ice, generous amounts of dirt and a pinch of precipitous hills followed by a few hay bales, barriers and barricades.
Staged this past Saturday on the rolling hills of the Jordan Properties Farm in Saxapahaw, the TCMR was created by the N.C. State Highway Patrol Troop D Troopers to promote wellness and positive interaction with citizens.
“It’s nice for us to interact with the public in a different capacity than what people think of highway patrolmen,” said Trooper Brian Leventhal, who coordinated the event alongside planning team member and fellow N.C. State Trooper David Darnell.
The day began with a Junior Trooper Challenge, a smaller-scale mud-run for ages 5-12. The full 5K (3.1-mile) began immediately after, with groups starting in waves to reduce waits at obstacles. Saturday’s event included a 50-foot slip-and-slide into a mud pit, large concrete pipes that could only be navigated on all fours, hay bales, climbing walls and even a dumpster filled with ice water.
“We make changes every year; it’s evolved a little bit,” Leventhal said. “The dumpsters are new. And it’s funny, but around (the area), people have started a rumor that one would be filled with nothing but ice water, so we went and actually brought in some ice at the last minute.”
Leventhal said his experiences organizing the event has made the planning easier, but he was also thankful that the elements continue to fall into place.
“We’ve really been fortunate to have the weather cooperate,” he said. “What also helps is this great community here in Saxapahaw: the farm next door, the General Store. Community support makes such a difference.”
Overall event winners included a women’s overall best of 27:35.72 turned in by Carrboro’s Hannah Mosby. Mosby was followed by Becca Wells (30:07.02) of Burlington and Suzanne Nelson of Mebane (30:14.62).
“It was great. I had a great time,” said Mosby, who ran with co-worker Rachel Mead, both of whom work in the Intensive Care Unit at UNC Health Care. “I ran in college … but this is whole different subculture.”
Capturing the men’s crown was Durham’s Dane Dugan (26:37.18), followed by 15-year-old Samuel Moore (26:57.64) and Chapel Hill’s William Graden (29:13.73).
“It was my second year, and I really enjoyed it; it was great,” said Moore, a student at Rockingham County High School. “They changed up a few things and added tunnels and mud, and that part was the most fun.”
In the team competition, where squads were required to be coed, it was the Iron to Iron team of Jacob Knox, Christina North, Kade Ritsema and Wesley Bishop finishing in front of second-place finishers Sassy Sloths and the third-place team, Angie’s B-day Mudders.
But the fun of plodding through the mud wasn’t lost on those outside the winner’s circle, like 6-year-old Ashleigh Post, who talked her grandmother into completing the junior course with her.
“She wanted to do it, but she didn’t want to do it by herself,” Ashleigh’s grandmother, Margie Post, said.
“My favorite part was coming down the slide,” the younger Post said.
Leventhal was pleased with the turnout of around 300 adult and junior competitors, which helped to raise funds for UNC’s Eve Carson Scholarship Fund, the N.C. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund, and the N.C. Civil Air Patrol. Helping to sponsor the event was Montrail Shoes and Fleet Feet Sports in Carrboro.
Fleet Feet co-owner Tricia White joked that the event proved her store had equipment for every occasion.
“Sure, we have shoes for trails, for mud, fire-walking, for an ice bath,” she said, laughing.
Before returning to keep the state’s highways safe, Trooper Leventhal’s next order of business will be to have a debriefing about the event.
“We’ll let it settle for a week and then look at what went right and what went wrong,” he said. “Then David Darnell and I will meet again after the first of the year and look at next one.”
For almost everyone else on or near the race course on Saturday, the next order of business was simply a long shower.