The more mud, the merrier in Landis

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2012

By Mark Wineka
LANDIS — A week earlier, Kari Joyce smiled as she posed in a pretty prom dress for pictures being snapped by her mother and grandmother.
Saturday, Kari was smiling again as they took pictures, but this time she was covered in mud, head to toe, and as tired as she has ever been. Her father, Stephen Joyce, and 13-year-old brother, Walker, stood nearby, looking just as dirty as Kari.
Given the choice between going to a prom and competing in the Down and Dirty Adventure Run, Kari Joyce said she would cast her vote for the mud run.
“This was way more fun,” Kari said, “doing it with my dad and with my brother.”
More than 350 people participated in this second annual event, held in the lake/wilderness area across from J. Fred Corriher Jr. YMCA off Kimball Road.
It seems only to be growing in popularity and toughness. The second-year competitors interviewed Saturday said this year’s 4-plus-mile course was even more challenging than last year’s.
The participants competed as individuals or in two- and four-person teams. They confronted a 4-mile-plus course through woods, marshes, mud and creeks. Man-made obstacles were thrown in for good measure, meaning competitors spent much of their time climbing, crawling, leaping, sticking and even jumping over fire.
Anthony Nero, 33, won the individual title in a time of 42 minutes, 25 seconds, edging out last year’s winner, Philip Davis, 24, of Matthews, who had a time of 42:42.
Becca Wells, 24, of Burlington, was the top woman finisher at 51:31, and Aileen Visser, 36, of Advance came in second among the women in 53:17.
In the team competitions, Lori Blackledge and Donna Stallings — “The Muddy Moms” — came in first among women in a time of 1:05:15. They were followed by Rachel Seighman and Stephanie Hackney, who called themselves “The Bad Kitty’s.”
Jonathan and Angel Ruiz, running as “South Rowan I,” won the two-man title in a time of 42:56, followed by the “2 Sherrills,” Caleb and Josiah Sherrill, at 45:28.
“The Dirt Dobbers” — Aaron Deason and Nicole Mauldin — won the two-person, mixed team race in 51:48.
“LP Ladies” finished first in the four-woman competition. They included Catherine Reynolds, Debbie Dreyer, Denette Thams and Diane Dunkle.
“Half Way There,” a team comprised of Kevin Zimmer, Dennis Baker, Paul Yurksaitis and John Anderson, won the four-person male team category, and “D-Cow” captured the mixed-team, four-person title. That team was comprised of Daniel Overcash, Eric Deal, Ben Watts and Rebecca Corriher.
All results can be found online at
“It was a lot harder than we thought it would be,” said Bev McMahan of Cornelius, who ran the course with her friend Kim Palmer of Denver. “But it was so fun. It felt like being a kid again.”
That kid feeling came from being out in the woods, scraping off skin here and there, climbing over things, playing in the mud, getting wet — and plugging on without a care.
“The adrenalin keeps you going, knowing your family’s at the end,” McMahan said, describing how they pushed each other to keep going and finish.
Their advice: Always do this kind of adventure with a friend.
It’s more fun that way, plus you might need the buddy’s help to get you out of the mud.
“I literally got stuck and had to have someone push me up,” Palmer said.
The women are both adoptive mothers with large families. Kim, also a foster parent, has five children.
If they had a do-over, Palmer and McMahan said they would train differently.
McMahan said she basically ran on the treadmill and watched CNN. Palmer said she took Zumba classes.
But they definitely would compete in the mud run again.
“This is our thing now,” McMahan said.
Casey Pruitt and Leslie Franks, freshmen friends from South Rowan High School, covered the course in about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Coming to the finish, they dove head first down the ending water chute in triumph.
“It was fun,” a tired Pruitt said, “but we should have trained.”
These “Running on Empty” girls reiterated that it’s better to participate with friends. “I wouldn’t do it by myself,” Franks said.
A veteran in the past of 5K road races, Ron Miller of Landis competed for the second year in a row in the mud run. He likes how the run puts you out in nature, presents fun obstacles and allows you to go at your own pace without pressure.
“I had a blast,” said Miller, 50, who finished in about an hour-and-a-half.
Miller found it interesting that the man-made obstacles still couldn’t beat what Mother Nature put up. After the run, his right shin was bleeding. He said he skinned it when he hit a log or rock going through a creek.
Joey Ashley, 16, ran the mud run as part of a two-man team with church friend Jason Ritchie, 38. They called themselves “Old and New.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever done it, and it kicked my butt,” said Ashley, a junior at South Rowan High School.
Ritchie said he competed in his second mud run for Ashley.
“He did a good job,” Ritchie said. “It shows what you’re made of.”
Madelynn Castor, 9, said her first mud run was “pretty intense, but fun.”
By the way she looked at the end of the course, there was no doubting how hard Madelynn had competed.
“I told her she looks like a warrior, ready for battle,” said her father and mud run partner, Eric Castor.
Castor, 39, said his daughter, a third-grader at Salisbury Academy, kept him going at times.
Marie Auten of Salisbury was showered and clean by the time she accepted her award for finishing first among women in her age group of 30-39.
“I was DIR-TEE,” Auten said.
Auten, 33, is a body-builder and runner, having competed in a marathon in February. She said the mud is like cement at times, and it’s easy to lose a shoe, trying to pull your legs from the muck.
Auten finished in about 1 hour, 5 minutes, 29 seconds. She acknowledged it was tough, yet a whole lot of fun.
“I would do it again,” she said.
Kari Joyce, a prom princess only a week before, said she was in mud up to her chin at one point on the course. Her father confirmed that the mud runs are very different from the street races he and his buddy, Jamie Smith, run during the rest of the year.
“It was like the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Kari confirmed.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.