Beanery Online Literary Magazine

May 21, 2011

Let’s Get Dirty



Sally Martin

     In our long years of competitions, Chas and I have amassed bushels of tee shirts. The most prized of these trophies is the pair that extols the virtues of playing in the mud. 

     We had run in cross country meets at Schenley Park in Pittsburgh, a lovely run. Cross country has ambiance. You run through fields and forests, it can be a jog in the woods.  We found one in Ebensburg and at that very simple run through fields and forests we found an ad for Lets Get Dirty at Slippery Rock State College (now University). When we arrived at the college, there was a trek through parking lots to a small ski hut building on the edge of a creek. Not Slippery Rock Creek, thank goodness.

        The participants were mostly a few of us sane adults and many wildly enthusiastic students. There were about six hundred who showed up to either laugh or compete. There were clowns, a group in kilts, and other groups in unusual but matching outfits that defied description.  

     Runners have things called “Fun Runs” but running is rarely fun.  Well, the one in Regent Square through Frick Park is pretty and tries hard with jazz bands and champagne.  But  Let’s Get Dirty was truly a producer of whoops, cheers, giggles, guffaws, and more cheers.

     But first, there was a run for the serious: it showed really good runners competing over the quite questionable course so we could see where they went and therefore opt in or out of the madness. The winners got precious few cheers. The crowd was waiting for us “Fun Run” types.

      The experienced participants had special preparation: duct tape.  

     Their shoes, not necessarily running shoes, were duct taped to their ankles. We were able to beg some tape for our shoes. 

     Some, males, were stripped down to their skinny bare chests. Were the ones togged out as Scotch from Edinborough College? And there was one dressed as a tree.

     I felt I needed my tights and windproof jacket: it was 32 degrees. Chas was dressed in his very best paint spattered corduroys.  

      The start line was about twenty yards of lime at the bottom of a steep hill. The race went up and around a United States flag and then followed a line of sticks more up and around and then back down. We were to do three circuits of the ….trail?

     I started off slowly. I didn’t want to poke anyone with the walking sticks that I was using. Nevertheless there were lots of people behind me and I cheered up thinking that at least I wouldn’t be last. I picked up the pace a bit. Now, after you come down off the hill, you run along a gutter beside the road and then down a path to a bridge. Runners don’t get to cross the bridge: the bridge is for the hooting, jeering, bloodthirsty…or should I say mudthirsty…. crowd of observers who scream with laughter when some poor soul slides down the muddy bank and falls into the creek. I was picking my careful way around this on the far bank on the second time around when a teen arrived who was known to the hooting crowd. 

    “Dive,  dive!” they screamed and he did a flying pancake into the creek. I got splashed with a bit of the now grey mud that was the creek. I got to the end of the pool and jumped across with the help of my walking sticks.  This side of the creek was knee deep mud. My foot went down in and I fell flat as I tried but could not pull it back out of the muck. By now I am laughing too hard to be able to do much at all to help myself. On the third try I am free with my shoe still attached thanks to the duct tape. I slog around into the woods where a bunch of teenage girls, stripped down to their underwear, are throwing mud (the only thing forbidden by the scanty rules) at each other with screams of laughter. Those girls could be disqualified.  Should I report them?  A little further on a group of boys were running and throwing themselves into a long skid in the black slime. 

     Now Chas was coming by on his third round. There was a big log that one might use to cross a mucky area. I had given up and just slogged through but Chas was coming across the log, sliding his feet sideways across the muddy, slippery log. He slipped and went splat into the soupy black mud. (I probably laughed.) After that puddle there was one more mud mess, smaller but had a bad smell. Then we were out onto the field where I could see the Start/Finish.  You were supposed to do three laps but after two I could see that there was no one at the start/finish: no judge, no timers, and no runners. Perhaps they all dropped out or in. Perhaps they were all in the ski hut. So I had run back to the woods to meet Chas, who was coming along on his third lap, all serious and mud-covered, but determined to finish. I knew he would be a bit miffed when I finally convinced him that the race had dissolved and no longer existed. 

     And he was a bit miffed but recovered nicely after we hosed each other off at the hut. We laughed all the way home. Still do when ever we think about it. Yep.  Let’s get dirty.



The Twin Towers

A Beanery Writers Group Story in Photographs




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