The Great Muddy Escape: A Great Time For All

(Photos by Will Phillips and Jessica Rodriguez)–Some volunteer opportunities are both rewarding and fun, and those adjectives well describe the Great Muddy Escape.  The Escape, or the GME as it is sometimes called, is a fun-run fundraiser, the only one in Walker County that involves mud, barbed wire, and belly crawls, and it’s all for worthy charitable causes–the YMCA and the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, and  that’s something worth cheering for…

The GME was the idea of the Huntsville Memorial Hospital, and it was first held last year.  Approximately 165 people participated last year, and this year the Hospital set out to increase participation in the event—and the fun of the event.  It worked.

Trent Coots

The GME showcased three courses this year:

  • A one-mile “Family Run”
  • A two-mile intermediate run
  • A 5K run

The 5K is the granddaddy of the races, featuring thirteen discrete obstacles, ranging from the aforementioned mud, barbed wire, and belly crawls, as well as a “log walk,” “spider web,” “climbing wall,” and “Shawshank Culvert” among others.  It is for the hard-core obstacle runners, veterans of “warrior dashes.”

Great Muddy Escape Warrior!

The obstacles are designed to reflect the event theme, a prison escape.  Named for the film “The Great Escape,” the event features many obstacles that inmates might encounter if they undertook an ill-advised dash for freedom.

While such a theme is appropriate for a community formerly known as “Prison City,” the event is also well suited for a community known for its volunteer resources.  The GME Committee is led by Karen Bilsing, Director of Community Relations for Huntsville Memorial Hospital, and features many other community-spirited individuals—Margaret Gulledge, Michelle Hebert, Sandra Clifton, and Dr. David Ficklen.

The Junior Fellows are privileged to be a small part of the volunteer force, and this year organization members manned the Registration Booth, won (by default) the little coveted “trash pick up” responsibilities, and supervised the “Family Run” course.  The Family Run course is the shortest, but it had five obstacles, and was an ideal spot for beginners and children.  The children in particular had fun, enjoying the opportunity to jump in muddy water without parental repercussions…

…and even enjoying the tire course…

Apart from our volunteer duties, we also created a team of five who participated in the GME.  Santiago Casas, Cameron Goodman, Brian King, and Henry Pedroza ran the 5K course, while Ryan Brim ran the two-mile course.

The general consensus was that the “cliffs,” the “water obstacles,” and the “creek” were the most challenging.  Running the cliffs involves running up and down steep hills (aided by ropes, if the runner prefers), and trying not to slip.

The water obstacles bookend the course, and are approximately seventy-five to one-hundred feet long.  It’s not clear whether it’s faster to swim or run these obstacles…

Ryan Brim

Some participants just tried to run around the edges, although these unscrupulous participants often (literally) fell victim to their own strategy, when they slipped on the slick sides of the obstacles and fell in anyway.

The log walk is inappropriately named because it’s impossible to walk on.  Instead, runners are forced to trudge through a truly horrible “mud” mixture which, for reasons having nothing to do with smell and everything to do with texture and thickness, is referred to as peanut butter.

The Great Muddy Escape draws its share of uber-competitive people…

…but it also draws a large portion of families and other once-or-twice a year warriors who are just looking to support a good cause while having fun.  It’s common to see families together…

…or friends bonding and building teamwork skills….

…or professional people enjoying an hour away from work…

Trevor Thorn

…or people enjoying the challenges of physical exercises…

The Overall Male Winner Zane Jackson

…or people looking for a way to spice up their normal workout routine…

The Overall Female Winner Sara Raney

…or previously unconnected people simply exulting in the fun of the event.

For our part, it was fun to part with our normal attire (a suit) and don our weekend warrior outfits and just have fun…

Hellieth Pedroza & Annel Gonzalez

…as Brian King did…

…as Ryan Brim did…

Ryan Brim Near the Finish Line

…and as Henry Pedroza and Santiago Casas did…

Henry Pedroza

Santiago Running

..and some other folks who wanted to record their fun, while running…like this person with a camera (and grass) on his helmet…

Man With Camera Helmet

…or this woman who is honing her multi-tasking skills…

Woman Running With Camera

It was also good to see the community rally around the event.  There were more than 100 volunteers on hand, including Judge Pierce, who kicked off the event with a prayer…

Judge Pierce

…and dozens of students and other community members who had a wonderful time…

…and Mac Woodward who announced the winners

Mayor Woodward Announcing Winners

…such as Zane Jackson…

Zane Jackson, Overall Male Winner

…and Sara Raney…

Sara Raney, Back-To-Back GME (Female) Winner

…and Margaret Gulledge…

Annel Gonzalez Giving Margaret Gulledge Her Medal

Many thanks to the Huntsville Memorial Hospital for putting this event on, and to the many sponsors and runners whose participation helped raise funds for two worthy causes: the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and the Huntsville YMCA.

The Great Muddy Escape

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