MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
It took Keith Wilson 36:54 to negotiate Saturday’s Lejeune 8-kilometer Mud Run and become “King of the Mud.” Wilson, a Camp Lejeune-based Marine from Parkersburg, W.Va., was joined by Raleigh, N.C. native Andrea Smythe, who claimed the women’s crown with a 43:41.
The race marked the fifth leg of the 2007 Marine Corps Grand Prix Series, which also includes upcoming events like the Marine Corps Half Marathon, Sept. 29, aboard Camp Lejeune and the Jingle Bell Run, Dec. 2, at Marine Corps Air Station New River.
Runners accumulate points for placing and participation in the series’ 12 events towards an overall championship, to be decided in December.
Race times for the field of 222 runners were quick, thanks to an unseasonably cool 79 degrees Fahrenheit and a low cloud deck when the starter’s gun went off — practically unheard of conditions for the third week of July in Eastern North Carolina.
The uniquely rugged nature of the course, which twisted through a thickly-wooded area on tank trails and narrow footpaths resulted in a few sprained ankles and plenty of blisters, but participants relished the opportunity to compete against Mother Nature as well as their fellow racers.
Mother Nature had a little help, thanks to the devious course layout put together by Mike Marion, Grand Prix Series coordinator, and his staff the day before.
In addition to the natural obstacles like tree roots, low-hanging limbs and reports of a snake of unidentified bloodlines basking next to one of the water hazards, the Marine Corps Community Services staff and volunteers added a back-breaking low-crawl near the finish line for good measure.
Not to be outdone, Mother Nature kicked in a healthy two inches of rain which fell less than 24 hours before the race started, giving everything a decidedly muddy sheen.
“It’s the second year in a row that we’ve gotten lucky with the rain,” said Marion. “Otherwise, we would have had to have been out here last night with hoses.”
“It’s great to have races like this where you can have fun and see what you’re made of,” said the 26-year-old Smythe, who likened the Mud Run to the European Cross Country 10K, held in late April aboard Camp Lejeune. “This was an easier race with more emphasis on endurance. [The European Cross Country] was much muddier and required more strength. I liked them both.”
In the women’s overall, Smythe was followed by Karen Oudekerk, of Havelock, N.C., who finished in 44:05 and Audra McNeal, of New Bern, N.C., who ran a 45:19.
Wilson, the 22-year-old men’s champion, has competed in several of this year’s Grand Prix races, including the Cherry Point Half Marathon back in March and the May 19, Run for the Warriors aboard Camp Lejeune.
An accomplished cross country runner from his high school days, Wilson said the hilly course reminded him of the terrain he is used to back home in West Virginia.
“It was a test of endurance,” he said. “The hills were slick and I wasn’t expecting the crawl under the ropes and into the water. It was pretty unique.”
Jim Clabuesch, of Durham, N.C., finished second overall with a time of 37:18 and Chapel Hill N.C.’s Ronnie Weed was third with his 37:41 effort.
The next Grand Prix Series event is Aug. 18 with the United Services Organization River Run in Jacksonville, N.C.
For more information on the race and the series, call Marion at 451-0092 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.