Reactions among runners were mixed when they met the 45-foot mud slope that led to a 3-foot pool of recycled water from the Kentucky River more than halfway through Saturday’s Capitol City River Dash.
Some couldn’t wait to slide feet first into the frothy, brown water and continue the race. Others swore in disbelief when they saw the obstacle.
“That’s what you hear,” said Jason Gilbert, one of the race organizers, as a man exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” when he approached the steep slide.
Still, Gilbert said everyone he spoke to Saturday enjoyed the challenges offered by the extreme 5K race, the first of its kind in Frankfort.
“We’ve had a number of folks pay and run it twice,” said Gilbert, of Gilbert’s Gun Shop, around 11:30 a.m. Saturday. “They ran it once in the morning and are running it again. I’ve seen several already come through.”
About 1,000 competed for the race, which featured several obstacles throughout 3.2 miles of mountain bike trails in Capitol View Park. They climbed rope ladders, tumbled into mud pits, slid down a plastic drainpipe into the Kentucky River, crawled through mud military-style below camouflage netting and more.
After the race, a rinsing station near the finish line was a welcome relief for runners covered head-to-toe in mud.
Each entrant paid $55 to register leading up to the event or $75 on race week, and proceeds were donated to Sparrow Missions, an inter-denominational non-profit that serves those living in poverty in the U.S., Honduras, Haiti and Panama.
Gilbert, who serves on the Sparrow Missions board, said the event has been in the works for about five months. A group some 150 of volunteers built the obstacles using Capitol View Park’s landscape, but none interfered with the existing mountain bike trails, Gilbert said.
The mud slide, for example, used a hillside along a riverbank and a dry pond. Small hills of mud that runners had to climb and slide down were built alongside a main trail.
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Department allowed the group to use excess dirt from the softball fields to build some of the mud pits. Gilbert said volunteers will restore the park.
“We’ll put it back,” he said. “It’ll be in better shape when we’re done than when we started. It was already in great condition.”
The 5K was sponsored by the Kentucky National Guard, Graviss McDonald’s Restaurants, Urban Active and Kentucky Insurance Group. Staxx BBQ provided lunch. City emergency workers were on hand to handle injuries.
Overall winners received a trophy while top finishers in different age groups won medals. Teams competed against a time set by National Guard troops for other prizes.
But the race was more about fun than prizes and awards, mud-covered runners said after crossing the finish line.
The Capitol City River Dash was the first 5K of any kind for Jason Burch, 41, who ran the race with his 14-year-old son, Zane Burch.
“It was a little harder than I expected,” Jason Burch said. “I think it was alright until we got to the mud pits.”
Liz Ware, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Kentucky originally from Boothsville, W.Va., has run similar obstacle races in Lexington and Lebanon. She said she got muddier than expected Saturday.
“I liked this one because the obstacles were a little bit more incorporated with the landscape, which is pretty cool,” she said.
Ware’s favorite obstacle, she said, involved climbing out of the Kentucky River after sliding through a plastic drainpipe. Instead of using a rope, she pulled herself using trees and roots.
William Barr, a 27-year-old from Lexington, has completed about four similar races, and he said the Capitol City River Dash was not only difficult, but one of the muddiest.
Capitol View Park provided a scenic view between bouts with obstacles, he said.
“When you ran right by the Kentucky River, you could see all the little houseboats,” said Barr, wearing a Batman T-shirt and yellow cape while sitting down to a pulled-pork sandwich. “I thought that was pretty nice.”
Those interviewed said they’d come back for another race at the park, and Gilbert didn’t rule out future extreme 5Ks.
“We heard all of them (runners) say that it was just fantastic. It was definitely challenging, but they had a great time doing it, and that’s what it comes down to,” Gilbert said.
“… We could run a race here annually for 20 years and never redo the same course.”