Runners trudge through sludge at Epic Mud Run

Sunday, September 1, 2013 | 7:23 p.m. CDT; updated 7:42 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 1, 2013
Participants in Sunday's Epic Mud Run in Columbia ran five kilometers through the mud and won mugs to commemorate the experience.

COLUMBIA — When Jenny Coon suggested an unusual way to spend Labor Day to her two children, they jumped at the idea.

"Everybody loves to get muddy," her 11-year-old daughter Lena Coon told her.

So instead of having a Labor Day cookout, Lena Coon and her 7-year-old brother, Liam Coon, joined 2,700 others on Sunday at the Epic Mud Run at the Midway Travel Plaza.

The annual 5K pits participants in different age groups against each other and an extremely muddy environment, as they race through a heap of muddy obstacles.

Participants young and old waded through a muddy pond, wiggled on their stomachs through a thick mud pit and dashed through a barn full of disco lights. A giant bubble machine spewed bubbles onto runners as they neared the finish line.

Lena seemed quite pleased that she'd avoided getting completely splattered with mud until the end, despite the inadvertent splashing from the runner in front of her.

But then came the mud slide. And that was that.

By the time she finished the race, she was splattered with blue paint and covered from head to toe in dirt and grime from the course.

"I’m still full of energy,” she said while wiping mud off her face at the finish line.

"It’s a good, family affair,” said Lisa Kimmel of Green Ridge, whose son, Sam, 10, finished second in the same race as Lena. “It’s bonding time for families over Labor Day, and my son is now determined to run the 5K race.”

The 10-year-old might have the chance to take on the longer course next year.

But it wasn't just the families who enjoyed themselves. Mark Livesay, the event director and owner of Ultramax Sports, said, "Today is probably the most fun my staff has all year.”

His team spent a month developing and preparing the muddy obstacles, and Livesay said he enjoys finding more creative ways to thrill his participants each year.

This year, Livesay threw 25 pallets of ice into a dumpster that runners had to jump into after climbing up six monster truck tires.

The mud run offered entertainment for every age. Livesay’s own 3-year-old son completed the children’s race. The event didn’t have a minimum age requirement, and parents and siblings were encouraged to run along with their younger family members.

The weekend opened with the Epic After Dark 5K on Saturday night, which featured roaming zombies. Competitive heats for the mud run started up Sunday morning at 9, and noncompetitive and children's events followed.

Sydney Johndrow, 7, of Columbia, was nervous before starting but was able to finish the event with a little help.

“My favorite part was when we were going through mud stuff and going down the giant slide," she said. "I was stuck and my sister helped me.”

As she waited to wash off sweat, paint and endless mud in a nearby bathroom, she summed up the event.

“It was wonderful and gross,” she said.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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