Camp Pendleton Mud Run a Sloppy Tradition

In 1993, the World Famous Mud Run was born on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base in Southern California. The first race attracted 65 competitors, mostly military personnel. To determine placements, an organizer at the finish line had popsicle sticks numbered 1-65 that were handed out as each participant crossed the finish line.

Obviously, the event has come a long way. The 2012 Camp Pendleton Mud Run will have four different days of racing and 6,500 competitors each day.

"We don't use popsicle sticks anymore," event director T.C. Carson joked.

That may be true, but not much else has changed over the years. Taking place in the rugged terrain of Camp Pendleton--situated along 17 miles of coastline between Orange County and San Diego--race directors have decided not to mess with the 10K course too much. Heck, it's already challenging enough.


  • The first 3 miles are pretty dry running, though there is a sand pit to get through. After the second-mile marker, there is a significant elevation gain. Call this the warmup. "We want to get the competitors huffing and puffing," Carson said.
  • Coming into mile 4, participants encounter their first mud obstacle and mud wall.
  • From there, they have to cross a 200-yard reservoir, where the water is roughly 4 ? feet deep.
  • Immediately after getting out of the water, it's back into another mud pit.
  • Then they climb a wall.
  • Then it's another mud pit.
  • After that, there's a tunnel crossing, where competitors have to crawl through oversized PVC tubes.
  • Then they head up a slippery hillside. At the top of a hill is a water cannon that's shooting down toward the runners. Climbing is one thing, climbing like you're ice skating up a hill is quite another.
  • The last obstacle is a 30-yard mud crawl, where Carson insists (with a smile) that "with the Marines' help as well as my staff, that (participants) keep their noses in the mud as they crawl."

It goes without saying that you should wear clothes and shoes that don't mean a whole lot to you. But if you think this is a cruel form of fitness self-torture, consider the skyrocketing popularity of this event.

Typically, the Camp Pendleton Mud Run opens registration on January 1 at midnight. In 2011, the race sold out in seven hours.

Carson is seeing a shift in registrants, as more are now forgoing individual registration and instead entering as part of a five-person team. But the race is largely staying true to its roots; besides adding a post-race party (with beer) after the 2011 event, there haven't been any major changes in years.

"We're trying to remain the same. In-N-Out burgers haven't changed their menu and people keep coming back," Carson said. "I don't want to deviate too far from being the original mud run.

"There has been a steady rise in outdoor adventure racing as well as mud runs, and we believe it has a lot to do with what we've been doing."

Carson pauses.

"Really, the only that has changed is the numbers."

Sure has -- from 65 popsicle sticks to 6,500 muddy racers who keep coming back for more.

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