The Daily Gamecock

Mud run raises scholarship funds

More than 300 traipse through dirty local farm

Boot camp-inspired obstacle courses spanned 5.2 miles of a local family farm in Gaston County for the 18th annual USMC Mud Run Saturday.

Hosted by the Greater Columbia Marine Foundation and recognized by CNN as the largest mud run in North America, the event attracted more than 300 civilians and non-civilians in more than 1,300 teams from diverse locations to participate in the run’s 34 strenuous obstacles.

Team Mudder Trucker from Charlotte, who finished the course in an hour and 20 minutes, said they did little to no training prior to the race and had about four hours of sleep the night before. Competing in the mud run for a second time, the team said their “strategy” proved well because their time was nearly cut in half.

“We were happy to support the Marine Corps and their families,” said 39-year-old Steve Duffy. “Definitely the hardest part was the rope swing, though. But we kicked ass.”

The rope swing, also known as “The Tarzan,” was only completed by eight participants and was one of four new obstacles implemented this year designed by the Marine Foundation. The obstacle was just as it sounds — each participant was required to move from rope-to-rope using their arms and legs, or fall to a mud pool three feet deep. Upon exiting the mud pool, active-duty Marines instructed participants to complete a series of jumping jacks, squats, flutter kicks, push-ups and a general roll in the mud. A three-minute penalty was also added to the times of those who did not finish.

Shane Miles, 40, attempted to make his way across “The Tarzan” as a member of Team Muddy Buddies. Unfortunately, Miles dropped to his defeat after the third of eight ropes.

“I didn’t make it. It’s a lot harder than it looks,” Miles said.

Typically held once a year, the event expanded in order to make room for its increasing amount of competitors and was moved from its original location at McGrady Training Center, said Katherine Swartz, executive director for Columbia Opportunity Resource, one of Mud Run’s partner groups.

“Last fall, we had over 800 participants, which was double the size, and it just became unmanageable,” Swartz said.

Swartz’s non-profit organization works to foster leadership among young people in the community, and in doing so, it brought 310 volunteers to Saturday’s race — a decent percentage being USC students. Though she has never competed in the Mud Run, the 33-year-old Columbia native said she is “glad to see so many people involved in such a huge event.” Another defeating obstacle was the “Chosen Reservoir,” or the water hole. Racers were required to jump in the 10-foot-deep water basin and swim its 48-foot length, or hold on to the rope until the end, and exit. The obstacle was facetiously described by one Marine rescue swimmer as “soothing,” and many participants found their own way of completing it, either by floating on their back or struggling to stay on one of the slippery ropes.

Sgt. James Ellis, 24, was volunteering a second year as a rescue swimmer for the “Reservoir.” Although the Charleston native had not made any saves at the time, Ellis said the most difficult part was being able to see through the mucky waters.“You can’t see at all,” he said. “You just can’t.” Major William Hefty, 39, was volunteering as a general inspector for the course. Having served more than 20 years in the Marine Corps, Hefty said he does not consider himself from any specific place but said he is thrilled to be part of the philanthropic organization. “Our ultimate goal of the Mud Run is to make donations to different scholarships and eventually a full-ride,” he said. “In the past 17 years, we’ve generated a lot of revenue, and we gave out seven scholarships just from last year’s race.”

Hefty said although scholarship recipients are not required to join the military, they should be part of ROTC and “demonstrate the same core values and leadership skills that the military emphasizes.” To register for the upcoming race in October or for more information on volunteering, visit