Tricks of the Trade: Mud Running

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Spring is a time of the year when the snow is melting, birds are tweeting (old-school style) and the sun is shining a bit brighter. A combination of warm sun and melting snow creates one of our furry running buddies favorite things, and one of the worst substances to get off running shoes – mud.

First and foremost, if you can avoid the mud, please do. This is the best option for causing the least (read: no) damage. However, sometimes you’re caught out on a trail and there really isn’t another option than to accept your fate and get muddy. You might even want to register for a race that specifically caters to mud runners out there (Hagg Mud and Chuckanut). If mud’s your jam, then here are a few tips to efficiently make your way through the glorious goop. Note that there are many different varieties of mud, and not all of these suggestions will work for each one.

Wear a pair of trail shoes with decent traction. Cleat-like claws tend to work well in most types of mud. Road flats without traction do not.

Get a pair of gaiters. These can save your shoes from filling up with sludge and potentially prevent you from getting blisters and trench foot.

Wear shoes that fit well and tie them up snug-to-tight. Wet laces tend to stretch causing your shoes to loosen. In mud, this makes you unstable and vulnerable to getting them sucked off your feet in deep mud (many runners have finished the Hagg Mud 50K with only one shoe).

Stay on the trail and run through, not around, the mud. This will keep the trail from getting wider.

Lower your stance a bit and shorten your stride. Having a quicker cadence will give you more control, and you’ll be able to make split-second movements easier.

Build core strength. Your stabilizing muscles will get worked-over while running in the mud, so the stronger your core is, the better.

If you’re about to go down, don’t fight it too much. It’s easy to pull a groin muscle while slip-sliding away.

If you’re running through thick, clay-like mud, it will likely stick and get really heavy. Continue to shake the mud off your shoes while regaining control of the situation.

Run through water if an opportunity arises, as this will help wash mud off your shoes.

One last thing – when you’re at the end of your mud run, make sure to enjoy a mudball fight with your friends or a nice mud bath. And give your dog a much-needed real bath, too – I promise he will need one more than you will.

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About Author

Sean Meissner has been coaching runners of all ages and abilities, and distances and terrain, since 2002. He is the founder of the Peterson Ridge Rumble and has over 250 (ultra)marathon finishes. Sean coaches through Sharman Ultra, and works and plays, mostly with his dogs, in the mountains surrounding Durango, CO.

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