Mud and perseverence at Dudley Shoals Endure race

Sep. 29, 2013 @ 07:35 AM

The temperature was in the mid-60s and the sky was overcast just before 11 a.m. Saturday, as a group of people gathered beside the pond at Sims Country Bar-B-Que in Dudley Shoals.

They were dressed in neon colors, running tights and headbands, tagged with numbers, and they stretched, talked and joked as they milled about in anticipation.

A gunshot set the group running up the hill away from the pond, starting the 2.5-mile route through the fields and woods that looped back to hay bail obstacles and then down toward the pond, where the trail disappeared into the woods. Before they finished they had to navigate a Slip'N Slide, a “swamp tromp,” then lift tires and haul cinder blocks before reaching the finish line, marked by a shower.

This was the inaugural Soldier Run, an obstacle course that tests more than a person’s running speed and stamina, but pushes athletes to work through tough obstacles. The race was part of the Endure event Saturday, hosted by the Dudley Shoals Baptist Church, featuring a 5K trail run and a family fun run. Organizer Patti Lail said more than 300 runners registered.

Contestants had to trudge through a trench of shin-deep mud before plunging in another trench and taking off through the woods, like soldiers forcing themselves through the mud, emerging drenched and brown, pushing on to the next task.

At the beginning of the race, the determination and effort translated into speed and a long trail of runners right behind each other, facing the obstacles one after the other, but as the race wore on, the group spread out as some couldn't keep the pace of the leaders.

By the finish line, most trudged heavy-footed through the grass, eyes on the finish line, and once through the look on their faces was easy to read: relief.

That was what winner Bradley Morgan of Granite Falls said he felt once he finished, in just over 21 minutes.

Morgan, an avid runner, has run seven marathons, a 50-kilometer race and an obstacle race called Tough Mudder, where he placed third.

“It’s a blast of relief as you get close,” Morgan said, and the anticipation of the finish line is what carries him through to the end.