Mud and guts obstacle course promotes fitness

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Good crowd turns out for muddy obstacle course on Saturday

By Lisa King

“I just had a baby three months ago, so this is a piece of cake compared to that!”


Those were the words of Tristan Stansfield, a fitness instructor, as she wriggled out from under the last strand of barbed wire in a sand pit.

“Hey, I think I ripped my pants,” came a comment from behind her.

The “sands of time” was only one of 23 activities set up on a 10K obstacle course set up for adults during the Swamp Tromp at Clear Creek Park on Saturday. A course for kids had 16.

A parent accompanied most of the kids on the “family course,” set up next to Col. Sanders Pavilion, and in some cases, kids had trouble keeping up with parents; in some instances, the opposite was true.

The kids’ course took about 45 minutes to complete, but the adults’ 6 plus mile long course took just over two hours.

Heath said the idea behind the event is not so much to get into shape as it is to encourage people to stay in shape.

“The idea is to promote fitness and give people a goal, something they want to work toward, sort of like the Iron Man concept,” he said.

Heath said that there was no particular way to train for the event, but many participants were already in some sort of fitness program.

“Many of the adults do train on a regular basis; a lot of them run or lift weights,” he said.

Although strength was involved as well, the course was designed to focus more on cardio, with swimming and running or jogging from one obstacle to another, and many of the courses also focused on physical dexterity and balance, which was evident in the rope walk across the water.

Stansfield said she was already working out, in her role as a fitness instructor, but she said she added in some extra running to train for the event.

“I’ve been running between two and four miles three times a week for the past month,” she said.

Physical screenings were not required for the event, but medical personnel were standing by just in case the need arose, Shelby County Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Ivers said.

“We had one ambulance and four ATVs there,” he said.

He said he was glad the crew of five was not needed. “Everything went smoothly,” he said.

Comments from kids as they clambered up ropes and sloshed through ice-cold mud varied from, “No, I just can’t do it!” to “Wow, this is soooo fun!”

Parents didn’t talk as much. Mostly they just huffed and puffed.

Jeremiah Health, director of the FAC, which hosted the county’s first such event, said he expected the course to be challenging. This 6.27-mile course contained everything from slogging through mud to running through tires, climbing cargo nets, swimming across the lake to crossing from bank to bank, walking, or in some cases, sliding on a rope.

Elizabeth Pulliam, director of Shelby Prevention, orchestrated the event, and said she was thrilled with the 85 people who showed up to give it their best shot.

Heath said that at the time, he wasn’t sure if everyone would get through it, but they all did.

“This is so exciting,” Pulliam said Saturday as people milled around, picking out a T-shirt and getting ready to get dirty.

Heath said he hopes the event, a fundraiser for Shelby County Parks and Recreation and Shelby Prevention, at $45 per participant, would become a regular event each year.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes this year,” he said.

Heath said that though some people skipped an obstacle or two, that did not disqualify them.

“This is not a race. People can skip some of them [obstacles] if they’re not up to it,” he said.

Most people hung in there, spurred on by the 14 members of the Shelby County High School Jr. Marine Corps ROTC unit who went through the course with them.

One Collins High School senior, Chloe Crumpton, elected not to walk the thin rope strung from bank to bank at Lake Shelby like most people did, but instead, swung up to grasp the rope with her legs, like the marines had done. She made it to the opposite bank amid cheers and applause and swung up onto the opposite bank with a wide grin.

A group of people still waiting their turns at the rope groaned at the prospect of trying to follow up her performance.

“Man, I could really use a donut about now,” one of them muttered.

Heath said that though he doesn’t have an exact count, some people skipped the ropewalk.

“From what I’m hearing, most of those who skipped it did so because the wait was too long for that,” he said. “We’ll have to work on that next year.”

Marine Corps Maj. Keith Spurlock said the course was challenging.

“When we heard about it, we wanted to go through it as a community service, to make sure everyone got through it OK and to challenge our cadets,” he said.

Spurlock said everyone finished with no problems or injuries.

Stansfield said that, although she finished the course with no problems, she admits it was challenging for her.

“When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that, no problem,’” she said. “And I did OK, but it was extreme, no doubt about it!”