I’ll be honest. Until my wife booked me a ticket for the Mud Hero as a surprise, I had never heard of it. I thought it was just a goofy little low budget race that would have minimal attendance. It was just a small blip on my racing calendar.
I have never been so wrong! Mud Hero delivered one of the best race days ever!
A great marketing campaign, low prices, and an unintimidating ‘fun at all costs’ atmosphere meant that the Mud Hero was one of the few recent OCR events to actually get close to capacity, with the Saturday 6km event about 95% full. The numbers are impressive: this was a three day event which saw over 15,000 people sign up and run the course. Kids races were also available and the Sunday event boasted a 10km ultra Mud Hero.
Parking and access.
I attended with my wife and three children, so easy access to the race venue was really important for us. From the moment we arrived, mud hero was busy. However, the parking lots were plentiful, close to the event arena, and well marshalled.
We were running a little late, and by 11am morning, large lineups had formed in front of the registration tents. However, we were through the entire processing system in about 5 minutes because of a slick check-in system and prepared volunteers. That’s a win.
Amazing volunteers and staff.
Out on the course the volunteers were just as encouraging and well informed. Adding to the fun, some of the race crew were dressed as characters from super Mario brothers. Watching a few people getting pulled off the course by Luigi in a Razor ATV was worth the price of entry alone. Everyone was smiling. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Every station had volunteers. It was great!
Almost all of the obstacle races in Alberta tend to be on disappointingly flat courses. However, the Mud Hero is held at Canyon ski area, just a few kilometers outside of the City of Red Deer (located about halfway between Calgary and Edmonton). The result is a 6km and 10km obstacle course race that actually involves some long descents and hard climbs, with quality trails winding down to the river valley bottom before forcing runners into a grueling climb to the top of the canyon and the final muddy conclusion of the race. Course planners had thought this one out, exploiting the natural mud slides, large mud pools, rutted single-track to great effect. I can’t wait to tackle it again.
Mud gets its own category here. Mud hero featured many different types of mud, each with a unique character and effect. First there was the kind that seeps up from wet grassy soil and covers your shoes. Then there was the classy grey soupy clay mud that you might find in a high end spa (this was actually found mainly in the ‘frog spa’ area). ‘Thief’ mud that attempts to steal your shoes and finally, rich, dark, ‘black forest ganache mud’ that was used almost exclusively for the finale. I thought it would be too much mud. It wasn’t. Mud is what this race is about. I’m still chuckling to myself when I think of all the many funny situations and chaos the mud created.
Obstacles were spread evenly throughout the course, and as you will have gathered, almost all of them involved mud, were preceded by mud, followed mud, or were just well… mud. It’s a simple formula, but it works. Mud makes for an interesting dynamic in almost every situation.
My favourite obstacles were the mud slide, the backwards bullfrog crawl, the mission swing probable multi rig and the final ‘worlds most epic mud pit’. This thing was a series of mud holes, probably about a quarter of mile long, with a singular purpose, to cover people head to toe in mud. Nobody escaped it. Everyone loved it.
The festival arena was large and open. One of the greatest features of this event was the unspoiled view of the ‘money shot’ final obstacle – the worlds most epic mud pit. Spectators could walk alongside the entire length, cheering and laughing as people worked their way through the mud and to the finish line. It’s a good way to end the race – watching your loved ones become completely covered in mud. It was clear that the organizers of Mud Hero want this to be as much fun for spectators and visitors, as it is for participants. This is a huge deal: It’s hard for my wife to wrangle three kids while I run but a well set up arena made that task so much more manageable. The arena also featured a stage with live music, DJ’s, a huge beer garden, kid’s races, sponsor tents, and the shower/changing area. Everything just worked well. The weather was even on our side.
Oh, and they had enough porta potties for those pre-race requirements.
Mud Hero offered great kids races! Obstacles included balance beams, spider web, tunnel crawls, tipping beams, two sizes of A-frames, and finally a small but very real mud pit filled with plenty of deep mud. It was the stuff a kid dreams of. To allow the kids to run a few extra laps if they wanted was another great gesture, and showed true understanding of how kids love to experience these new things. My son Euan (5) ran three laps of the thing! Cheers guys!
Not much to say here really. Um. The showers were a little cold and far away? The event arena was kind of big? Really scraping the barrel here.
Mud Hero is an unmissable part of the OCR calendar in Alberta, and wherever it is available elsewhere in Canada. The Alberta event punches well above it’s weight, delivering an event that was well organized, family friendly, well planned and expertly staged. Seek it out and enjoy!