By Corrie Seabrook
DADE CITY, Fla. – As I brushed mud and muck from my hair, arms, and parts of me where I definitely did not want mud and muck, I knew the Dirty Girl Adventure Run was no ordinary 5K race.
On an unseasonably warm Florida morning Saturday in which much of the Northeast was digging out from under a blizzard, I was among the 2,000 or so women who dealt with a dozen or so muddy, moderately-difficult challenges spread over the neatly-manicured grounds of the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City, Florida, just north of Tampa.
I brought along a friend for moral support, parked in a freshly mowed field, and made my way through the Dirty Girl tent city. Everything was pink, from the tents to the signage to the cases covering the iPads used by staffers to check us in at registration. I picked up my race packet, safety-pinned my race bib (#3207), to my black tank top, and took in the scene.
Dirty Girl is an all-women’s event, marketing to ladies who might be intimidated running with men and those who prefer the all-female camaraderie. Still, as we sat on towel watching the earlier waves finish the race, we noticed families camped out all over the grounds.
Children and husbands, fathers and brothers sat and stood around the finish line. They ate and took pictures. A little girl complained to her mother about dirt taking up residence in her lemonade. Women of all ages conversed with one another about how they would conquer each obstacle on the course. A father held his baby girl and pointed to her mother who had begun to climb a netted obstacle.
As my start time came closer, I took off toward the starting line. Having been sick for two weeks, I began to feel the nerves kick in as I stretched. Groups of women congregated for the 10:30 a.m. wave. While I waited for the race to start I peered at the clothing on the women. The women wore outfits decorated in pink. Some had the group names sprinkled with glitter on the shirts. Others danced around with their tutus bouncing around their waists.
I was to race with my editor’s wife and two of her friends and they weren’t hard to spot – three blondes in black tank tops and short green kilts. Racing as “Team Running Commando,” they’re apparently part of a larger co-ed group that does races throughout Central Florida. They didn’t actually run “commando,” opting for black shorts under their kilts – a wise decision as I’d soon realize.
I felt out of place with my all-black outfit, though by the end of the race the four of us would look pretty much the same covered in mud.
Before the race commenced, Zumba fitness instructors pumped us up for the three miles of obstacles we would have to face. Suddenly we took off. The kilted women and I stayed together. We ran through the horse stables and under bending trees. Women joked about the tiny mounds of cow feces being additional obstacles.
The first couple of obstacles were high, inflatable walls that you crawled up one side and bounced down on the opposite side. Women screamed as one actually plunged you into a pool of mud. There was no escape from the mud; you had to slide down. Another obstacle made you duck and dodge through a maze of cables. Occasionally a foot or hand got caught in the cords.
We jogged from obstacle to obstacle. The mud and water made our sneakers heavy with each stride. We laughed when some obstacles made us feel ridiculous. We cheered each other on when the obstacles scared us and we thought we couldn’t finish.
Though I have a background as a swimmer and play on a water polo team, Dirty Girl was my first running event. In roughly 45 minutes, I trudged through murky water and climbed slippery walls. I crawled through pools of mud and ran through wooded terrain. Before I ran Dirty Girl, I didn’t understand why people were so into this new racing trend. When I crossed the finish line I realized that I didn’t come in first and I didn’t sprint the entire race. I did this race for myself. I wanted to see if I could actually accomplish something that was foreign to me.
My new friends and I probably could have gone faster, but that’s not the point of the event. In fact, Dirty Girl is not presented as a competitive event. There are no timing chips, clocks, or age-group awards. Women run Dirty Girl for the fun of it. The bond with the strangers I met seemed almost instant. There were no judgments on the course. No one put you down or made you feel inferior.
Dirty Girl’s mission is to get women out of their comfort zones and to just have fun. I am a product of that goal, a ‘Dirty Girl’ excited to take on another challenge.