Dahlgren Lions Club Mud Run fundraiser is a family affair
by Amanda S. Creasey, Outdoors Writer
Saturday mornings are made for sleeping in, slow wakeups and relaxing, unless it’s Dirty Lion Mud Run Saturday and you’re either a Dahlgren Lions Club Lion or a runner.
Then, Saturday morning is made for rising with the sun, traipsing through the woods and splashing through the mud. This year, race day fell on June 25, the perfect kind of sunny, blue sky morning made for outdoor fun.
For Race Committee Chairperson Mark Cawthon, who joined the Dahlgren, Va.-based Lions in 1996, preparations for the mud run begin months in advance. The race course involves three mud holes, a 10-foot obstacle dubbed Stairway to Heaven and a water station, in addition to a lifeguard-manned portion that involves swimming in the Potomac River.
The course, which winds through the woods as well as an open field, must be marked out beforehand, using flags and marking tape to prevent runners from getting lost. At the finish line, Cawthon makes sure runners can refuel with snacks and drinks, and rinse off using a water hose. King George EMS is present in case of medical emergencies, and all participants sign waivers before the race begins.
It’s no easy feat, but it’s an important fundraiser for the Dahlgren Lions Club, and it attracts participants from all across the region.
“All the money raised goes back into the community,” Cawthon says. “None of it leaves the county, except the dues for Lions Club International. We use it to provide eye exams, hearing exams and hearing aids.We also provide three $1,000 scholarship awards for high school seniors.”
REASONS TO RUN
This charitable aspect of the race is not lost on its runners. Jacqui Jordan and Ron Pieper, both from Woodbridge, picked this race over others because “we lean toward races organized by groups we want to support,” according to Pieper, who was the first male finisher in his age group. “For this particular event, I like where the money goes. It’s a good cause.”
Ashley Marcellino of Chesapeake and Mikaela Mitchell of Norfolk also value the event as a fundraiser. For Mitchell, who decided to run just two days before race day, this 4-mile route marks the longest distance she has ever run. “It was very fun, and I like that it’s raising money,” she says.
The route itself is also a draw. “There are a lot of races,” Pieper says. “You can run races that go straight down a road, out and back, or races like this one, where we run through a tick-infested field with muddy trails. It’s outdoorsy. It’s out of the big city. It adds to the enjoyment.”
Nia Jones of Fredericksburg, who placed second in her age group, agrees that the mud run is “a lot of fun.”The course, she says, “is unexpected. I like the part where you go in the woods and you don’t know really where the turns are going to be. It keeps it really fun and interesting.”
For first-place overall female finisher Ellie Veazey of King George, the mud makes the run. “I love the mud. It cools you down. You’re nice and hot, and it’s your refresher.”
Mike Irwin of King George, the first-place overall male finisher, agrees. “My favorite obstacle was running through the mud pits,” he says, standing beside a narrow trench, probably 50 feet long and full of waist-deep mud.
In addition to the technicality of the route, a supportive team atmosphere appeals to many of the runners, including Tori Riggs of King George, who, before this race, had never walked or run more than a mile. She was inspired to participate by her colleagues at a fitness facility.
“I wanted to be part of the team, so I did it. I would totally do it again,” she says, explaining that four of her teammates walked, while several others ran.
After the runners finished, they returned to the race course to help their walking teammates through the obstacles and over the creeks. Riggs, who placed second in her age group, says after the race, “I feel wonderful about myself.”
Matt Crawford, who lifts weights at the same fitness facility in King George, also participated to enjoy the event with friends. “I saw it was at 7 a.m., but I still did it,” he says. “I would do it again tomorrow.”
Crawford’s friend, Christian Jenifer of King George, the first-place male finisher in his age group, also enjoyed the experience. “I loved it,” he says.
Here’s a rare case where parents encouraged their children to get dirty.
Following the 4-mile Dirty Lion Mud Run for adults, youth 13 and under could participate in the 1-mile LeoMud Run, an abbreviated version of the adults’ event. MeaganHall of King George, who completed the 4-mile run, also ran the Leo Mud Run with her two sons, Grayson and Vance. “Participating was Vance’s idea,” Hall says. “We live in the neighborhood. Vance saw the sign for the race and wanted to do it with ol’Mom.”
Grayson’s favorite feature of the race was climbing the wall, while Vance liked the mud. “My mom screamed because it was cold,” he says with a chuckle. All three agree they would “absolutely do it again.”
Dad Pat Skelton of Bealeton also completed the 4-miler, only to add another mile with his 5-year-old daughter, Alisa, who placed second in her age group in the Leo. Her favorite part was getting to go in the river, while her father enjoyed the mud.
While many of the runners say they did little to no training in preparation for the event, Milo Zimmerman, who placed second among males ages 11 to 13, says he and his friends “practiced by running our road,” a 1.2-mile route.
“Today was harder than normal because of all the obstacles, but I like when you run through the mud,” says Zimmerman, a King George resident.
Parents and their children weren’t the only ones completing the mud run with family members. Jones’ sister, Cniyah Turner of Fredericksburg, who placed second in her age group, ran because “My big sister was like, ‘Uh, I’m doing a mud run Saturday. You wanna come?’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it.’”This was Turner’s first mud run, and her favorite part was the mud. “The mud pools were so nice and cool,” she says.
Although participants are already eager to sign up for next year’s Dirty Lion, Cawthon expresses concerns about its continuation. “This year might be the last year unless we get some young blood in to help organize. We’re looking for someone to come in and carry the torch so we can have the race again.”