COLUMBIA — They splashed through puddles, sank into sinkholes, slid down hills and scaled manmade mountains.
And that was just in the first two miles.
Participants in this year's Epic Mud Run 5K also crawled on their hands and knees through a maze built out of giant bales of hay and wove through a web-like entrapment of bungee cords.
"The more extreme you make it, the more people seem to love it," said Mark Livesay, owner of Ultramax Sports, which co-sponsored the event held at Midway Travel Plaza.
Livesay said that themed runs such as the Epic Mud Run have become more popular with the people who shop at his stores. The number of participants quadrupled from 600 last year to more than 3,000 this year.
"It's really difficult but really rewarding," Livesay said. He said that because these themed runs tend to be less competitive than traditional road races, with fewer racers who are concerned about their time, participants tend to be less intimidated.
Livesay said he hopes the event will draw more than 7,000 participants next year.
Maggie Abernathy, 25, said she and her cousins, Kayleigh Abernathy, 26, and Morgan Branch, 21, are in for next year. The three women finished the race in matching mud-covered black tank tops, each with a pink heart in the right hand corner embossed with the initials "C.E.B."
"It stands for Claire Elizabeth Blankenship, our baby cousin," said Maggie. She and her cousins ran the race in honor of Claire, who died in 2011 soon after her birth. Claire's mother, Laura Blankenship, also ran the race.
Maggie said the women chose the race because its proceeds benefit the MU Children's Hospital, where Claire was born and died.
The Missourian's community outreach team took pictures of muddy participants. See the whole album on Facebook. Feel free to tag yourself and your friends in the photos, and contribute your own photos at firstname.lastname@example.org.