The Alabama Almighty Mud Run “Puts the Mighty in the Run”
Alabama races have completely won my heart over and here is why you should check them out!
Thanks to a generous race director, I got the wonderful opportunity to scope out another Alabama race that wasn’t on my radar. The race was held in Billingsley, Alabama, marking the fourth Alabama race of my 2014 racing calendar. I had raced three Alabama races this year, the St. Clair Scramble, Mud Duck Mudder, and Panther Run and left each one completely amazed with how well done and unique each of the races were. I’ve been raving about Alabama races ever since and jumped at the chance to check out another one.
Given my well known love for Alabama races, the Almighty Mud Run race director, Tony Dyer, knew he had big shoes to fill. He boldly stated that he felt confident his race “could deliver a solid race experience and compete with some of the bigger name venues.” Well, Mr. Race Director, that is a bold statement to make and I’ve never been so happy to triple knot my Inov8’s and see for myself!
Given Tony’s keen interest in getting honest feedback on how his race compared to others, he offered up additional comped entries which I took full advantage of and showed up in force with a full posse of racing buddies. My fellow Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runner friends laced up alongside me and we tackled the course together. Here’s how it went down:
The race venue was held on the grounds of the Bridges of Faith, a not for profit organization with a wonderful mission centered around international work with orphans, reminiscent of the other Alabama grassroots and community-supported races (mental note: based on my prior experiences with not for profit missions and charity based races – a good sign!)
Parking was easy, ample and FREE in a grassy field just off to the side of the main entrance into the camp retreat. A registration tent for bib pickup was set up in the parking area with a short walk into the camp and festival area. There was a large festival tent and plentiful chairs to sit on while waiting for the race to start that we took advantage of while we chatting the typical pre-race conversations. Sadly, there had been a terrible accident on the main highway leading to the race event which caused delays for many of the food vendors, support staff and race participants. However, thanks to great communication from Tony, the race director, we all knew there would be a 45 minute race start delay which only seemed fair and the right thing to do given the circumstance.
The delay allowed for a quick course tour of some of the obstacles. What impressed me most as Tony zipped us around was all of the smiling, cheerful volunteers who were already in position at the obstacles waving at us as we went by. A few brief exchanges between Tony and the volunteers and it was quite clear that the volunteers were well-versed on their role and prepared to assist racers. The positivity surrounding this race could be felt (mental note: volunteers that know what’s going on and are being treated well – another good sign!)
The 45 minute delay went quick and after Tony gave a quick pre-race briefing we were off running! One of the race rules he covered was the obstacle completion requirements for the All-Star lane, a separate set of 10 more challenging versions of obstacles built next to the regular course obstacles. The All-Star obstacles were painted blue and clearly marked and racers that wanted to tackle the All-Star lane were given blue wristbands that would be punched by the volunteer at each obstacle we completed. All 10 punches were required at the finish line to be eligible for the cash prize award of the fastest All-Star lane finisher.
The course started off with a fast jaunt through the grounds of the camp with the first obstacle encountered being “The Tickler,” a nice way of saying you’re about to get zapped! For those who weren’t as keen on starting their morning of with a jolt, they could bypass the obstacle, but everyone in the first wave with me bravely tackled the dangles tentacles of shock. Next up was a cargo net climb up their “GBR Oil Rig” with a multiple gallon dump of water on my head awaiting me at the top of the platform – much to my shocked surprise (score 1 for Almighty!) Then, a quick slide ride down with a huge splash into pool of water below followed by wet scrambling out of the water, some more running followed by a seriously icy-cold “Polar Dip” plunge that took my breath away, a little more running and then WOW – 3 fire jumps in a row with flickering flames going making for a nice photo opp!
All of these obstacles were densely packed within the first 1/3 mile of the course and made for an exciting start to the race. This exhilarating combination of “we want to surprise you, get you tired, get you muddy, and then rinse you off” is how Tony described his well-planned course layout and I found it extremely effective. We experienced a nice, fatiguing mix of hill runs through wooded areas which then opened up into a “gauntlet” section jam-packed with a series of obstacles one right after the other and it really felt like a true obstacle race versus a trail run with some obstacles (and yes, there is a difference!)
The course was peppered with tons of interesting All-Star lane obstacles and regular course obstacles, some worthy of particular mention. One of the stand-out “new” obstacles was a row of tires on a beam that were just inches off a mud pit that we had to shimmy under and squeeze through. I’d never seen this at a race before and it was much harder than it looked to heave the weight of the tires up on my back trying to give myself some clearance (visualize squeezing the last tiny bit of toothpaste out of the tube…that was me smushed under tires trying to force squeeze myself out.) Loved it! Also, they had a neat straight pipe obstacle to shimmy across over a mud pit that was a test of grip strength. Right after that, we were routed to the upper floor of a barn where a maze in the dark had been set up that got me turned around for a minute. I really enjoyed this surprise element after having been running hard and going straight into doing a strength based obstacle. It was unique and refreshing to be momentarily blinded in the dimness of the barn fumbling around trying to find the right route through the maze.
A another great example of the more challenging All-Star lane obstacle came next with two side-by-side tire climbs. The blue All-Star lane version was three big tires hanging from a beam as compared to a wall of smaller tires next to it. The All-Star version was harder than it looked! It tested my total body flexibility as I used some contortionist moves to wrap myself around the tires while lowering myself down. Cool obstacle! AlmightyMudRun also had a “Title Sponsor Obstacle” which was challenging and fun. It was two inverse wall climbs cloaked in the sponsor’s logo which I thought was a really neat idea and an interesting way to recognize the valued support of community-based sponsors.
The way the course was laid out was very effective and it was obvious a lot of thought had gone into obstacle placement and design. Another race detail of particular note is that Tony was so invested in the racer’s having the ultimate mud pit experiences, he even had 2 giant 20 cubic yard dump trucks of dirt shipped in from a sod farm and mixed it into the mud pits creating what one of my racing friends described as a “silty, talc-like” consistently. It was like tar! I’ve never had a shoelace untie at any race, but my triple knot was no match for these mud pits and for the first time ever I had to stop and retie (score 2 for Almighty!) Thankfully, they had a shower off area to rinse away the mud pounds. Given the spectacular job they did coating us in this “special ingredient” mud pit recipe, they could install even more shower heads at the next race and I promise they’d all be getting used.
There were over 25 obstacles packed into a spot-on gps verified distance of 3.09 miles by my watch (score 3 for Almighty- you said it was 3 miles and it was!) The course was exciting and tough. It was also incredibly well-marked with a lot of ribbon marking the direction instead of just arrows in the far distance that may or may not be pointing the right way – no getting lost on this race course! Almighty might consider adding mile markers on their next race course to help racers gauge how far along they were on the course. Some bottle-necking happened at a couple obstacles designed to accommodate one racer at a time. Best solution here is to have multiple obstacle repeats to usher racers through more quickly. However, to Almighty Mud Run’s credit, the obstacles were so cool the racers took it in stride and didn’t bypass it – they really wanted the challenging experience of trying it out! Who doesn’t want to test and embrace their inner Gumby?
Obstacle race enthusiasts like myself and fellow GORMR members all enjoyed the All-Star lane which was a neat way to throw even more challenge into the course. Almighty also offered a children’s run for those 12 years old and older, with possible plans to have a kid’s race at their next spring event with “smaller kiddo appropriate” obstacle difficulty. Despite being a not for profit organization with 100% of registration fees collected going directly back into furthering their mission, they still anteed up some prize award money for top finishers which will certainly tempt competitive racers back to their next event. They also boast a cash prize for anyone who can beat the standing course record finish time of 30:35. The course record finish time remains unbeaten, but I was thrilled to place first Female for both the All-Star lane and overall. That course tested me and I crossed the finish line exhausted and happy!
It was obvious there were a lot of smiling faces on the race course volunteering and that the support staff were all being well taken care of, as it should be. Almighty Mud Run even took treating their volunteer staff one step further and hosted the entire race again on Sunday for all the volunteers to run as a “friends & family appreciation day” – how special is that!
All in all, the race director was confident he put on a course that could rival other established, larger race venues and by our accounts, he backed his claims with a well-executed and exciting true obstacle course. So, for the fourth time in a row this year, I respectfully tip my racing hat to this well done Alabama race. We had a splendid time AlmightyMudRun and I can’t wait to see what you have planned for your spring event!
*Photos By: Rev. Tom Benz, President of Bridges of Faith
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. Shenoa is a frequent contributor to ORM.