Saturday was a good day to play wallow in the mud — for a good cause.
The cause was multiple sclerosis, a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, fatigue, memory problems, blindness and paralysis, In rare cases, it can even be fatal.
The event was MuckRuckus MS Jacksonville, a fund-raising race for the North Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
MuckRuckus is a race with a difference. As runners and walkers traveled a 6.2-mile course at Taye Brown Regional Park, they had to go over — or occasionally under — 29 wet or muddy obstacles with colorful names like Muck Curtain, Dragon Crawl, Rat Run, Spinner, Oh Muck and Uh-OK. The last involved jumping off a platform into a pond, ensuring that all participants were thoroughly soaked as they crossed the finish line.
Check outmore photos from the MuckRuckus
Casey Oelrich, who said she does a lot of local runs such as the Gate River Run and the 26.2 with Donna marathon, called MuckRuckus “the most fun of all the runs.”
She was part of a team called the Mud Bunnies.
“Every woman should be muddy,” said Elaine Howlett, another Mud Bunny.
Team members, whether in the recreation division, as all of Saturday’s entrants were, or in the competitive division, which many of today’s participants will be, are expected to finish together.
That’s part of what makes the event special, said Jonathan Cauley. He cited “camaraderie” as the event’s greatest appeal after running it with his teenage son, Jade. Jonathan’s wife — Jade’s mom — has MS.
“It’s very intimate to us,” Jonathan said.
Jason’s Team included Jason, Danielle, David and Lindsay Henke and Damon Jolly.
“We like getting out and getting dirty for a good cause,” said Danielle Henke, whose face was smeared with dirt as she crossed the finish line.
One nearby finisher went to hug her son, only to have him dance away.
“You’re covered in dirt,” he protested.
Army Staff Sgt. William Curry, who came with a team of Army recruiters, said he likes MuckRuckus for “the mud and the camaraderie. I’d do it again right now. It’s a good cause.”
Al Emmerich, who was working as MC at the starting line as a new group went off every half-hour, made a point of telling a reporter that MuckRuckus “is absolutely mudtacular.”
“I’m ready to get dirty,” said Jill Edmonston of the PGA Tour team as she lined up for her team’s 10:30 am start.
Edmonston, chairwoman of the board of the North Florida chapter, was one of the leading fund-raisers for the event. Each participant is asked to raise at least $100.
A group of students from Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine ran together as Teens Gone Muddy.
“It was intense,” said Kelsey Bennett.
“Intense but like awesome,” said teammate Skylar Ozanne.
One of the oldest participants was Bob Doughty, 70. “I feel like the oldest right now,” said the drenched, mud-splattered Doughty after he crossed the finish line.
Doughty, who lost his wife to MS 18 years ago, said he’d volunteered at past MuckRuckuses — started in 2009, the event was known as the Mud Run until this year — but had never participated before.
“I wanted to see if I could do it,” he said. “It was a blast. It fun being with a bunch of crazy people.”
Organizers are expecting about 5,000 participants over two days. Having raised $500,000 last year, they are hoping to raise $850,000 this year.
MuckRuckus continues today with recreation runners starting at 9, 9:30 and 10 am Competitive runners are scheduled to start every 30 minutes from 11 am to 12:30 pm For participants who don’t want to do 10 kilometers, there is a 5 kilometer option. The start and finish lines are near the Jacksonville Equestrian Center off Normandy Boulevard just west of the Cecil Commerce Center.
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