Megan Schlittler and her fiance, Ben Mahaffey, aren’t highly trained athletes.
They knew they had no chance of winning Sunday’s Madison Mud Run, but with a couple weeks of work and a lot of creativity, they put together a colorful, six-person dragon costume and won the event’s costume competition.
“We’re not going to win the running race, so we might as well look good doing it,” Mahaffey said.
Schlittler and Mahaffey were among 1,150 people — many in costume — who took part in the sixth Madison Mud Run, a 5-mile obstacle-course run held in the spring and fall since 2010.
The event, which started and ended at Festival Park in Verona, was billed as “Madison’s Dirtiest Race.”
Runners started out hopping in potato sacks, had to carry pumpkins, go through a haunted tunnel, scale a 12-foot climbing wall, traverse a 52-foot inflatable obstacle, and crawl on their hands and knees through a mud pit while getting blasted by a fire hose.
Participants paid $55 in advance or $66 on race day for the privilege.
The Mud Run is one of a wave of challenging athletic events that are an adventurous alternative to the basic charity-run-free-T-shirt 5K or 10K. They have been springing up across the state in the past few years.
The event was put on by Ryan and Lauren Griessmeyer of Race Day Events, which produces 20 to 30 races a year in the area.
Ryan said last fall’s event was the biggest with 1,450 registrants. Participation is down slightly as similar events enter the Madison market. “It’s getting saturated,” Ryan said.
The Spartan Race in the Chicago area Saturday drew some people who would have otherwise done the Mud Run, Ryan said.
Last year, the mother of mud runs, Tough Mudder, came to Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac. The 10-mile obstacle course of mud, walls, burning bales of hay, and electricity, drew more than 10,000 participants over two days.
The race didn’t return to the area this year, going instead to Sheboygan County.
“Ryan and I have done it. It’s an awesome event, but we’re interested in giving people a challenge that they can tailor to their fitness level,” Lauren said. “We don’t penalize people for not doing obstacles.”
The Griessmeyers said they are more focused on people having fun. Their obstacles aren’t as dangerous, Lauren said. “No one’s going to get electrocuted. Let’s put it that way. There are no shocks.”
Meanwhile, the costume contest winners, Mahaffey and Schlittler, who live in Galesville, 25 miles north of La Crosse, were contemplating how to race in their dragon costume.
“We can barely walk in it. I don’t know how we’re going to run,” Mahaffey said.