It started out as an accident. The first World Famous Mud Run had close to 100 participants, and the idea was to simulate a boot camp experience by constructing a short course on the beach that featured the same obstacles used by the Marines stationed on Camp Pendleton in Southern California.
In the early 1990s, the event was set up on Lake O'Neill in order to take advantage of an existing obstacle course that Marines on Pendleton trained on frequently. Inadvertently, that's when things began to get muddy.
"Someone thought it would be fun to squirt the runners as they crossed the finish line," says World Famous Mud Run race director Jill Prichard. Because the runners were already wet from a water crossing, getting wet again at the finish wasn't such a big deal. After a few runners were doused, the first mud pit began to take shape.
"The participants had so much fun frolicking in the mud (at the finish) that eventually, an actual mud pit was constructed for use in the race every year," Prichard says.
Eventually, the race added the combat town loop, expanded to a 10K distance and incorporated multiple river crossings, additional mud pits, climbing walls, cargo climbs and other military-themed barriers to make the race what it is today—30,000 runners attempting to conquer one of the toughest Marine obstacle courses in the country.
The race is such a success that similar races across the U.S. have sprung up in recent years. Prichard warns that the World Famous Mud Run isn't to be confused with others like it.
"The World Famous Mud Run has been around for 21 years. It focuses on the United States Marine Corps and stays true to Marine Corps obstacles. It incorporates military displays and demonstrations, and all of our volunteers are Marines and sailors who are stationed at Camp Pendleton. Our race is held on an actual military base, and most of the course traverses through actual training areas that are used by our military," Prichard says.
New for the 2014 edition of the race are more obstacles and a 5K course for those looking for something not quite as grueling as the original 10K distance. The 5K course will offer a lot of the same obstacles in half the distance and give participants a chance to experience the Filthy Fun Fest, one of the best after-race parties in the nation. Food, beverages, rides, live bands and a complimentary 10-ounce beer are on tap to kick off a one-of-a-kind celebration.
For runners on the fence about signing up for an event as tough as the World Famous Mud Run, Prichard says to remember that although some of the participants are competitive, the race is ultimately about having fun.
"You can tackle either distance as a individual or as a 5-person team," she says. "Just get out there and do it. Rally the troops and come for a good time."
Friends and family are encouraged to attend the after-party. It's recommended that you bring and extra pair of clothes to change into once you've hosed off—unless of course, you don't mind attending the party covered in mud.