Some approached the pool of brown water gingerly, jumping in with caution.
The more adventurous ran toward it with purpose, leaping in with no hesitation. After all, it was the inaugural Carroll 5K Mud Run. The dirty, muddy water was supposed to be the highlight of the day.
More than 500 people took part in the outdoor obstacle course at Freedom Park in Sykesville on Sunday, scaling an 8-foot wall, dashing over a bridge and crawling under stacks of hay.
The Carroll 5K Mud Run wasn't as extreme as some other obstacle course races, which are 10 to 12 miles long and include parts where runners endure electric shocks.
Bara Hollander ran Sunday's race with two girlfriends. The women said they like the challenge and variety the obstacle courses offer over monotonous running races.
Hollander, 42, said people run into trouble when they don't prepare well enough for the course. She worked with trainers at TZ Sports in Eldersburg who taught her how to approach each obstacle. For instance, don't sit on top of the climbing wall because you could fall, she said. Instead, lay your body on top of the wall and pull your legs over.
"We don't want to go and break our legs," Hollander said. "We want to go out there and have fun and get a good challenge."
Event organizers Chris Carroll and Dante Liberatore said they were equipped to handle any safety issues. Every station was armed with trained staff and fire officials were on hand for emergencies. Staff were trained in CPR and carried walkie talkies so they could quickly communicate any problems. The event even included a kids's one-mile mud run.
Luckily, they didn't have to respond to any emergencies. Instead, it turned out to be just what they hoped: a new kind of race for Carroll County. They are planning a bigger event next year.
Those who ran the course described it as challenging but fun.
As runners approached the halfway mark of the race, they hit the 8-foot wall. Some were clearly intimidated by the hulking piece of wood.
"I don't want to do this," declared one teenager. "I might end up killing myself."
A girl in a blue running shirt and green headband reached the top with a little bit of help. Then she looked down.
"Oh dear god," she declared with wide eyes. "Now what do I do?"
A sign that read "teamwork" hung at the center of the wall and participants took it too heart, helping hoist each other over the wall. A few encouraged the girl in the blue running shirt, who eventually made it over.
Adam Haubert had one word to describe the course.
"Grueling," he said.
But he'd do it again. The hardest part for him was what they called the snake — a winding, uphill run toward the end of the race.
"It was tough, but it was something different," said the 36-year-old Manchester resident. You're not just running on a flat course over and over again."
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