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Why Running in Mud Is a Really Bad Idea

The New York Marathon might be canceled due to the water that Sandy has dumped all over New York City. Which is probably a good thing, because running in mud and water is actually a really bad idea

The New York Marathon might be canceled due to the water that Sandy has dumped all over New York City.  The New York Times writes:

With nearly all of the city’s bridges and tunnels closed early Tuesday, and many roads still impassable, race officials had yet to determine whether any part of the 26.2-mile course was flooded. Typically, race officials drive the course several times in the days before the race to ensure that nothing is blocking the roadways, and to determine if necessary equipment, like mile markers and water stops, is in place.

Which is probably a good thing, because running in mud and water is actually a really bad idea. The recent boom of “mud runs” and other obstacle course events has brought the dangers front and center. The most famous of these crazy events is the “Tough Mudder.” Outside writes:

For the uninitiated, a Tough Mudder is a 10-to-12-mile run that features a set of sadistic obstacles: ice baths, fire, live electrical wires, tunnel crawls, barbed wire. Sadistic yet enormously popular. This year, Tough Mudder has registered more than 500,000 participants for 35 events, bringing in $70 million in revenue. Not bad for a two-year-old startup launched in the teeth of the recession.

If that sounds kind of like a bad idea to you, you’re not wrong. In fact, with the boom in popularity of these mud runs has come a boom in dangers too. Men’s Health tells the story of Tony Weathers, whose friends called him Weatherman. Weathers had decided to run the Original Mud Run in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 14th. Men’s Health writes:

Weathers made a lazy hand sign at the camera. He noticed the crowd gathering around the starting line. “Time for me to leave Tony behind,” he told his friends, “and get into Weatherman mode.” He positioned himself toward the front of the pack; when the announcer finished the countdown, Weathers bolted out like a cannon shot.

A mile from the starting line, Tony Weathers was dead.

Weathers died from drowning, the magazine reports. Others have been badly injured in races like this before. Men’s Health again:

Yet as more people are drawn to the runs, reports of injuries are making news. Risk is inherent in any sport, but racing veterans like Troy Farrar, president of the United States Adventure Racing Association, worry that mud runs may be growing too popular too quickly for the well-being of their grunge-soaked fans. Weathers might have been the first to die at a mud run, but reports have surfaced of mud race participants in California, Michigan, and Virginia sustaining paralyzing injuries. Three people reportedly became ill from E. coli after competing in a mud race earlier this year in Scotland, presumably from contaminated mud. In Wisconsin, 26 mud runners were hospitalized after an event, including one with a fractured neck vertebra.

Outside cites some more statistics:

Word spread about the brutal contest, and the event gradually grew to what it is today: Tough Guy, a 15-kilometer midwinter mud run that employs two dozen grueling obstacles and is billed as the Safest Most Dangerous Event in the World. That’s somewhat misleading. Over the years, hundreds of Tough Guy participants have suffered broken bones, over a thousand have been treated for hypothermia, and one has died.

While the NYC Marathon isn’t quite a mud run, it’s still probably not safe to expose people to high water, mud and miles and miles of grueling endurance tests.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The 1904 Olympic Marathon May Have Been the Strangest Ever
How Olympic Bodies Have Changed Over Time

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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