Eight hundred and eighty is a pretty big number. Not only is it (in pounds) the record size of an American Black Bear, and the size (in sq miles) of Bee County, Texas, there are also 880 people named Michael Smith currently living in the State of Virginia. It also happens to be the number of hill-loving, ankle-twisting, beer-drinking runners that descended upon the Reading Liederkranz for the 9th annual Ugly Mudder 7ish-mile Trail Run.
The Ugly Mudder is a no-limit race, and the unseasonably warm February weather brought people out in droves. The course was pretty typical for a Pretzel City affair, with plenty of mud, single-track, and grueling hills which make trail running such a fantastic sport. As folks began wandering down from the Liederkranz (some intrepid runners carb-loading with Franziskaner) and lining up at the start, speculation began flying in regards to the size of the race. After brief remarks from the race director (with the help of his beautiful assistant), we were off. The course starts with a short straight-away on a wide macadam road. I should have been sprinting during this portion to get ahead of the pack, but alas found myself in a herd of runners when the course veered right and up a hill into the woods. With a pack about 20-30 runners wide pushing themselves up through the woods, most managed to keep in good spirits by moooing and making the best of the situation. It was tough to get moving past runners on the single track for the first few miles, but as the crowd thinned out, I was able to let loose and make up some time. After downing two refreshing alternative beverages at mile 6, I really picked up the pace for the last mile. Rounding the last turn towards Mt Whadafug, I realized with dismay that the guy in the grass skirt and plastic leis was still ahead of me. Talk about demoralizing! Luckily I was able to maneuver past him on Whadafug and finished strong, to be greeted by an ice cold Franziskaner Dark.
This is a great race for a beginner, or someone who is a bit nervous about breaking into the world of trail running. Unless you want to push it very hard in the beginning to jockey for position, it’s important to enter into the race with a positive attitude focused on enjoying the experience and camaraderie, not pushing for speed at all times. During a single-track race with that many participants, the average runner will definitely encounter bottlenecks that require slowing down or walking. Keep that in mind from the beginning, and will you will still have a blast!
After a few hours celebrating at the Liederkranz, we headed home and stopped by Stoudts Brewery for dinner. The brewpub is decorated with Victorian-era furniture and campaign propaganda from the 1800-1900s. There is an interesting planned community next door called Stoudtburg, which is loosely designed after Rottenburg, Germany. If you get a chance to visit, it is well worth it! Your best bet? Run the 12K Stoudt’s Distance Classic in Oct!
Total Miles: 207