Mud and Mayhem

Annual bush race builds character and friendships

Members of the Almaguin Highlands Lions Club don’t mind getting down and dirty for a good cause.

Family celebrates completing a mud runThe club based in Strong Township, Ontario hosts an annual bush race every August at Copeman Tree Farms in Sundridge, Ontario.“Past district Governor Bill Copeman owns the land and graciously lets me dig big holes for water and mud,” says Jocelyn Modl, charter president and current club president.

Those words “mud,” “water,” and “holes” should be signs that this 5K obstacle run is no ordinary race. It’s a bush races that draws 150 adults and children who use their muscle and willpower to conquer more than 15 obstacles and challenges on a course that features mud –lots of mud—along with an axe throw, archery, climbing walls, Tarzan ropes, cargo net, and tractor tires to scramble over, up, down, under, or through.

“Our race is a true bush race, which is fun for racers, because once you leave the start line, you head up into the trees and spectators don’t see you again until you come back out,” Modl says.

And it’s a sure bet you’ll come back muddy after tackling the course’s varied terrain of hills, groomed farm trails and rugged bush.

Proving that the organizers, which includes about 25 to 30 volunteers, have a sense of humor, the club posts signs throughout the course to keep participants smiling.

Child runs in bush raceSign says Don't worry humpty dumpty had wall issues too“Our rope wall has a sign that says “Don’t worry, Humpty Dumpty had wall problems, too,’” says Modl. “After the racers come up the first big hill, there is another sign that says, “If you’re feeling it now, you’re in trouble later.’”

Modl says it is inevitable that participants, who are both trained and amateur athletes, will build camaraderie as they complete the course.

“The camaraderie comes between each racer, as both friends and strangers conquer these obstacles together,” Modl says. “It’s natural if you’re crawling through the mud, falling in the mud, pulling your best friend through the mud, losing your shoe, getting into extremely cold water, or holding your husband’s legs as he scrambles across the monkey rings that he hasn’t practiced doing since elementary school.”

The race, which is the club’s one big fundraiser, brings in roughly CAD$4,000 (US$3,200) that goes to wherever there is a need in the community. In the past the club has supplied free athletic equipment to local schools, donated to Christmas Cheer baskets for families in need during the holidays, donated to food banks, and provided free hockey clinics for children.

Woman is helped up from the mudModl says racers often thank the club for organizing the event because they never thought they’d be able to complete something like it.

Finishing the course while having fun is an accomplishment and the effect of taking on such a challenge lasts long past race day.

“When racers finish, they are instantly empowered to take on the next challenge in their lives because they just did things that they never thought they could do, or would have even tried doing without signing up,” Modl says. “Now they have the courage to tackle whatever life throws at them.”