The Saturday morning started off very early as we hit the interstate out of Atlanta at 5am on our way down to Columbus, GA for The Highland Mud Run. Having recently participated in an awesome grassroots mud obstacle race in Alabama, The St. Clair Scramble, I was excited to see what the people in Columbus had in store for us, as it was also a community-based race to benefit charity.
The sun had just started peeking out as we pulled into the parking garage. There were plenty of volunteers in their bright, fluorescent shirts zooming around on 4-wheelers and standing on the street corners ushering people in the right direction, which made for an easy parking experience. The race was being held on the grounds of the North Highland Church, just a short walk up from the parking area, making parking a hassle-free experience. As an OCR addict, I’ve attended countless races, ranging from hundreds to thousands of race participants and it’s quite refreshing to be able to park so close to the actual race grounds versus the lengthy shuttle rides some races have that make the parking experience feel like its own obstacle.
Registration & packet-pickup
I wasn’t able to take advantage of the pre-race packet pick-up the day before, but it was a smooth, efficient process the morning of the race. After our short march up the little hill to the registration area at the church, I was greeted by a friendly volunteer who had obviously had their morning coffee and was most pleasant and welcoming, manning the race waiver station with clear purpose. I signed my waiver, we exchanged pleasantries, and then on to the race bib table, where I was kindly greeted by several sweet ladies who announced me as “the morning’s first runner to pick up their race packet” and all wished me well in my race. I was handed a nice schwag bag with some offerings from the race sponsors and a cool poly/cotton blend t-shirt that fit great and was long enough (bonus points here – we love a great shirt!)
Race course, obstacles & expectations
The race course was advertised as the only mud and obstacle race in Columbus, with 3 miles of 18+ obstacles, promises of lots of mud, and targeted toward a broad range of range of participants looking to have fun. From my perspective, I believe they delivered on their promise.
The starting line area had some upbeat music going which always helps create a fun and festive mood. After a couple of announcements from the hosts of the race up on stage, nods to the sponsors and a 30 second moment of silence observed for the charities, the race sponsors and well-wishes for a safe race for all, we were off! I raced in the first wave of the day that promptly started on time at 8am (more bonus points – love when a race starts on time!)
Within 50 yards of slippery, muddy running, the first obstacles to tackle were several high, mounded dirt hills and mud pits (which I learned as the race progressed were just a few of many to come!) We all tackled the mounds with fervor and excitement, jumping into the muddy water and fully submerging from the depth of the pit (ahhhh, nice job on that, deeper than we all thought!) Emerging completely muddy and soaked, we were greeted with a short hill climb with took us on a nice trek through a wooded run which then opened up into running along the perimeter of the church grounds with a mix of obstacles sprinkled along the way. Looping around to the far side we sprinted down a hill and then came up on an obstacle called the raft jump with three rafts tethered together over water that you had to get across. I enjoyed this and thought it was a clever idea as it slowed you down and challenged you to get from one to the other rafts without slipping or tipping over and falling into the water.
The next obstacles mid way through the race included an over and under series and a “little tiki torch” fire and ice obstacle that was a step-up into a cold water bath with several planks that you had to fully submerge underneath. Once through, I pulled myself out completely soaked with water pouring into my eyes and kept running, or rather sloshing, toward the net crawl and log carry. The logs for the log carry weren’t overly heavy, but awkward to carry that the down and back run with them was tiring which made the 80 foot slide a welcome obstacle. I hopped in the center with the glee of a kid and swished my way down, with a couple of scoots toward the bottom where I lost momentum. I plopped into the water and took off trudging up the steep hill toward the wall jumps and final leg of the race. Along the way, the course zigzags back and forth but with all of the volunteers and spectators in their bright shirts cheering for you and pointing you in the right direction, we all stayed on course. Coming into the final leg of the course is where I fully experienced how creative the mud pit obstacles were, and I believe, worthy of particular mention. It was a variety pack of flat ones, hilly ones, a tunnel through one, a crawl-under one, and the final rope swing over a muddy water pit, culminating into the joyous splash of landing on the other side and then a few muddy, stumbling steps right into the finish line!
In my opinion, there are several key components to a great race experience and The Highland Mud Race hit the mark and has reason to be proud of their race. Everyone, from the volunteers to the race director were extremely welcoming, friendly, and helpful. As the morning went on, it was obvious they were whole-heartedly interested in making a great race experience for their runners. I cannot count how many times I was asked “how I enjoyed the race?,” “was it tough?” and “what can they do to improve on it?” – these are questions that show how vested they are in making a great race experience for their runners. It’s a wonderful, VIP feeling that I’ve found some of the smaller venues really excel at. So kudos to you Highland Mud Run – I felt special and I’m pretty sure everyone else did too!
The race started on time, with plentiful and positive volunteers cheering and directing throughout the course and the course layout made great use of the church property. They also used some creative obstacles, such as the rafts, which I always enjoy seeing. To answer if I thought the race was “hard.” My answer to that is that it simply depends on whom you ask and what their expectations are. This race was marketed toward a broad audience and I believe was designed appropriately for a variety of participants of varying fitness levels. I would deem this a great beginner course for those new to obstacle racing and mud runs, while still holding just enough challenge for more seasoned racers to enjoy it as a fun mud run. Many of the obstacles were easy to get through, but the location they put them throughout the course added some challenge and they had spectacular mud pits that would slow even the most seasoned runner.
Suggestions for the next race
As I ran the course, I don’t recall seeing a water station – but I am often “in the zone” when racing and can miss the obvious things right in front of me. So, if you did have one on the course, my apologies, but if not, then I would suggest adding that for the next race. The race didn’t offer a finisher medal, but the awesome race shirt was great so I think most people would be pleased enough with that. As the race continues to grow, they might consider adding a specific competitive wave in addition to their current award of top finisher per wave and top 3 male and female finishers overall. This format might be an easier way to recognize the fastest finishers given that conditions and completion of the course obstacles can vary from wave to wave.
Super Bonus Points
I absolutely must comment on how amazing the rinse-off area was. It was the best yet of all the races I’ve done. And given that this was a very muddy race, it felt like pure luxury. There was a 10 shower head rinse-off station located right behind finish line with warm water! Many large race venues don’t even have a rinse-off station, so this was just spectacular and I’ll admit that I stood under that shower head and rinsed for a long time. They also had changing rooms in a nearby building which was great. So, thanks Highland Mud Run – I’d come back just to enjoy your mud pits and use your wash-off station again!
Shenoa Creer, a.k.a. ‘The Wolf’, is an avid OCR enthusiast who embraces all things deemed challenging. When not representing ORM out on the race course, she might be seen running with one of her beloved weimaraners. Shenoa moves to her own cadence which coined her nickname. She loves the spirit and community uniquely found within obstacle course racing. This is her first review for ORM.