Trudging through mud, dashing through a river, crawling in stinky mud, might all seem a horror when wearing shoes, but when do you a mud race barefoot, it all becomes a breeze. It was thus that I participated to my first mud race barefoot. I was accompanied by my friend Bailey, who ran it shod instead.

Bailey and me before the race
Bailey and me before the race

A “light” Spartan

The reference in mud races is now known as the “spartan” series of races which takes place even in Hong Kong. The mud race organized by the SCMP was, let’s say a very light version of this. Both, with obstacle penalties (it only took time penalties, instead of 30 burpees as for Spartan) and with the nature of obstacles themselves. It was still a lot of fun over a six-kilometer course in the Tai Tong Ecopark.

The race was also especially targeted to younger populations, with a lot of teenagers participating in this “canada dry” version of Spartan.

To get to the Tai Tong ecopark, you must first get to Yuen Long, one of those areas in the new territories which has a large part of natural spaces. The mud race organizers had organized a shuttle for this event, but obviously, with that many runners, there was also a queue, but I still managed to get to the site about one hour before the race. Of course, I left my home and took the bus totally barefoot from the start.

A rough start

We didn’t quite expect it at start, but after considering the topography of the Tai Tong Ecopark, I quickly understood that there would be some climbing part in this race. Despite my trail running, I must admit doing it at speed was a bit tough for me.

And boy, did we climb! Right at the start, it began with a climb up, leading us to our first obstacle after roughly 1.5 kms race. The obstacle, uninventively called “tyred”, involves jumping from tyre to tyre, which I managed to do accordingly, with style.

Jumping through the tyres...
Jumping through the tyres…
The start of the mud race!

When you start down the slimy path…

Very close to this first unimpressive obstacle, was found the first foul-looking obstacle, destined to cake you in mud and slime: the mud crawl! In this section, you had to crawl (I chose to do it on my knees, rather than get too much mud on the upper part of my body) in a foul-stinking muddy liquid (alledgedly “sterilized” said the organizers, but the stench did not indicate that much).

Crawling in the mud

And you can have a better idea of what it looked like with this pic:

Struggling with the mud
Struggling through the mud
Trail running

Immediately after were the “balancing beams”. Although I feared falling from those, it happened so that these beams were basically set on the ground, and there was very little change of falling off them (although some people did fall). And so, in one short section, we were basically already done with half of the race obstacles and we had not even completed 2 kms!

In full effort
Me, running in full effort

The race track continued serpenting through the ecopark, upwards and downwards through stairs and through trails.

Up and over into the river

The last obstacles started showing up soon. First the “up and over” which just involved escalading a rope barrier and getting down on the other side. Nothing difficult, as long as you did not have fear of heights.

Climbing over the obstacle
Climbing the “up and over” obstacle
Into the river

It got really fun for a barefooter at the “river dash” part. That was where my barefooting became a real advantage for me, as I did not have shoes to be weighed down by while walking through the river. Although I did try to run through it, I was eventually blocked by the crowd forming at the (slippery) exit, where the trampled mud transformed the banks of the stream into a muddy slope.

One of the final obstacles was about pulling a tyre across the field. here again, nothing to write home about, the tyre was not that heavy.

Pulling a tyre
Pulling a tyre across

Walking on the rocks of hell

A part of the race took us for a long loop through some very stony part, where the edgy stones really hurt my feet and slowed me down to a walk. I then resumed running back to the closing end, and reached my most dreaded obstacle, namely the monkey bars.

Monkey bar obstacle
The monkey bars obstacle with a candidate falling

After having tried several times to do the exercise of monkey bars in my local park, I knew I could not get through, so decided to switch directly to the penalty area, where I served 3 minutes.

After the race

For a mud race, the after-race facilities and the organization were rather… Spartan! In fact, men and women had to shower themselves in a common shower (where obviously, cleanliness was just an afterthought), fed by water pumped from some reservoirs. Nice to get rid of part of the grime, but this was still insufficient, nor was it very practical or respectful of ladies. A pretty unsatisfactory effort by the organizers.

After the mud race
My friend Bailey and me after the mud race!

You can have an idea of our state in this after race pic… Useless to say, the mud did not go away with our “shower”. We did see some people barefoot after the race… But not because they ran barefoot!

Girls relaxing barefoot
Two girls relax barefoot after the race

All in all, a very fun experience and one that helped us to test our small limits in a fun way. And again, as each time I do run barefoot, I only heard positive comments by other runners. Even had a positive comment left on my IG feed by one person who had seen me running barefoot.

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