One thing I have learned over the years as a trail runner is to NEVER underestimate the difficulty of a run. Once you start your decent down that slippery slope, trouble is sure to find you. With Mud Factor about a month away, you would be wise to heed my advice.


I don't say these things to scare you. I say these things to PREPARE you. Mud Factor is a 5k (3.1 mile) run through dirt and mud and several obstacles which also include dirt and mud and water. It is scheduled to happen at Baja Acres in Millington, which is a motocross course the rest of the year.

Motocross involves souped up dirt bikes (motorcycles) that fly through the air and zig-zag around hairpin turns at high rates of speed. This course is challenging to people on motorcycles. They plan to make it tougher for you!

Knowing this, if you have done any kind of preparation at all, you should be better equipped to handle the obstacles than the knucklehead next to you. Or maybe not.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I travelled to Lowell, Michigan with some friends to do the "Grin & Bear It" 50k trail race. They also offered a 100k run at this event. This particular race hadn't been held since 2008. I ran the 100k that year, and was plenty happy to finish before the sun went down.

This time around, the race course had changed a little. Gone were some of the long stretches of road running where you would be exposed to the hot sun. Taking their place were hills with names like "Ed", "Fred" and "Little Chuck." Anytime a hill has a name, expect some difficulty. Expect plenty of difficulty.

I don't really know why the first big hill was named "Ed" other than the fact that it rhymes with "Fred." Fred came after Ed, and we found out that Fred is a bear. There were pictures of a bear tacked to some of the trees on this long climb. About a half mile after Fred came "Little Chuck." As in Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris used to be on a show called "Walker, Texas Ranger." This mountainous climb had pictures of Chuck saying "I bet I can make you walk!" He was right. In the 50k, we had to go up this hill three times. On the last loop, I punched Chuck Norris in the face every time I saw one of his pictures. I would have kicked him if only I could raise my leg that high.

These hills with names took up the first 4 miles of the course (10.3 mile loops) at Grin & Bear It. When you got to the bottom of the hills, you were dealing with river and swamp. Most people seemed to look forward to the wet parts as you at least got a chance to cool off a bit in the river or in the black ooze.

8 hours later, my wife and I emerged from our last river crossing to finish the Grin & Bear It 50k. Two of our friends that we train with finished just ahead of us, and the other turned her ankle on the first loop and had to drop out.

This course was a lot tougher than most of us expected, but we had been training hard in places like Hadley and the Hogbacks so we were able to "man up" and conquer the elements. There were pictures of John Wayne on one of the smaller hills saying "man up" in sort of a mocking way.

It helps to have a sense of humor when attempting stupid stuff. It also gives you some good stories to tell after you cross the finish line. If you'd like a taste of "stupid stuff", you only have to run 5k at Mud Factor.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this story about never underestimating the difficulty of a run? You'll have plenty of good stories to tell after Mud Factor. You and I will know that most of them will be true.