Dashing through mud

GHENT – They went for a run and came back looking like they had just crawled through a mud puddle. Of course, that was exactly what had happened. Tunnels made of plastic tubing and a watery Army-crawl pit were just some of the obstacles awaiting participants in Belgian-American Days’ newest event Saturday.

“We tried to do some things that would be fun and get people muddy,” said Dawn Vlaminck, one of the organizers of the “Challenge of the Lion” mud run and obstacle course. An all-ages crowd turned out for the event.

“We had 106 people pre-register, and a ton of people registered today,” said Vlaminck, one of the organizers of the mud run. Runners were gathering at the starting line in Vermeersch Park, near Highway 68 in Ghent.

Organizers said Saturday’s event was a sort of test, to see how people would respond to a mud run.

“We thought we’d do a shorter course,” Vlaminck said, with a half-mile and a mile race, as well as a mini-obstacle course for younger children.

The “Lion” of the race’s name refers to the Flemish lion, a symbol of Belgium, Vlaminck said.

The obstacles organizers came up with for the run included balance beams, tires to crawl through and even a pyramid of round hay bales that had to be climbed with a rope. Along the middle of the route, volunteers like Wyatt Pohlen and Cooper Pesek sat half-hidden, with an arsenal of water guns at the ready.

“We get to spray people,” Pohlen said. “But don’t tell anybody.”

The two boys had obviously put some thought into their job, which was to guard over a big pile of ice cubes poured on the ground between two sets of wooden hurdles. Pesek said he thought racers might try to go around the ice obstacle.

“If they do that, we’ll squirt ’em as much as we can,” he said.

Many race participants signed up to do the obstacle course in groups.

“We thought we could do it as a team,” said Alyssa Sorensen, as she and a group of friends took a breather after crossing the finish line. The group’s matching rainbow socks were now all gray with mud.

“I got to go swimming,” Theresa Klingbile said of her race experience. One of the obstacles was a thigh-deep mud pit that runners were supposed to try and run alongside. But, Klingbile said, “It’s really slippery.”

Runners had a variety of favorite obstacles, but there seemed to be some popular answers as more people finished the run.

“I liked going up the bales,” said Elise Goode.

“The Army crawl. That’s when you really get muddy,” said race participant Andrew Bennett.