The mud pit is a keystone signature of the Warrior Dash. It’s the last obstacle on the course, ending near the finish line. It consists of a long, wide trough dug into the ground and filled with water to about fifteen inches deep. Barbed wire is strung across the pit about a foot or so above the surface of the water so you can’t go through it without getting right down in the mud. By the time several hundred people have crawled through that and then stood up and walked the last several yards to the finish banner, water draining from their bodies and clothing, even the finish line itself has turned to mud.
At the Rocky Hills Ranch in Smithville, Texas, Sam, Ben, Sara and I were all covered from chin to sole. Sam, perhaps a bit more than the rest of us since he decided to flip over and do a backstroke part of the way through the pit. While we stood at a tall table, drinking and talking in the warmest part of the afternoon, the mud began drying. It didn’t dry quickly but it did dry.
As it dried, it shrank, pulling the skin of my forearms into wrinkles. I began to look like an ancient mummy. Well, at least my arms did as thin ridges continued forming, running across my wrists and on up onto my biceps. Uhm, okay, make that the parts of my upper arms where I used to have biceps. Although it didn’t make wrinkles, the mud also was drying on my shorts and shirt.
After more than an hour, any time I would rub my shirt or shorts, bits of dried mud would flake off and fall to the ground. I felt like Pigpen in a Peanuts segment. You could see the dried bits of mud lying on top of the dust all around my feet, like an old tree shedding tiny leaves. Just for the masochistic pleasure, we also began rubbing the dried mud off our arms. It didn’t take long to have enough of that fun so we decided to join a bunch of other people in the little pond on the way to the parking area.
The water was every bit as warm as I expected it to be, having had early season experience in farm ponds before. But, I really wanted to get the mud off, even though the water looked nearly as muddy as I did. It didn’t seem possible that anything that murky could bring about any improvement but it did. After a few minutes of standing and soaking, I began rubbing. Pretty soon, all of the caked mud was gone. In fact, when we came up out of that muddy water, we looked clean.
Even though the pond had certainly improved our condition and appearance, we knew our clothes and shoes were still saturated with mud, silt and sand. We walked the half-mile to the vehicles and took another step toward cleaning off. That hot water Sam and I had poured into his Thermos cooler several hours earlier sure felt good! Even with that, though, we knew we wouldn’t truly be clean until we’d scrubbed off with soap and shampoo in a shower.
In this world of mud and sin, less isn’t good enough; clean really is the goal.