Dances with Dirt - Hell, taking running to the extreme
Dances with Dirt made its 15th appearance in Hell last weekend. Yes, there is a Hell, MI. Dances with Dirt (DWD) is one of Michigan’s most extreme events for the thrill-seeking runner. Offering a 100k 5-person relay, and a 50k and 50 mile ultra marathon that took everyone through the woods for one long, and memorable, adventure. If you ever have to sign a wavier that says, “I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death”, you know it’s going to be fun.
The signature event is the 100k 5-person relay trail race. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 teams showed up in Hell to battle some of the moat brutal terrain for any runner. The course was split into 15 legs, giving each teammate 3 separate legs to run. Every leg has its own challenges. For example, the leg Where’s the F’N bridge had you travel through bogs and swamps for a good half mile. You are literally covered up to your neck with one foot stuck in the muck with only a rope and some small tree limbs to bring you back out safely. Styx the River of Death had runners travel upstream through a thigh high river to finish out the leg, and the Stripper Pole had you climb up hills that had you on all fours looking for something to grab onto in case you lost you’re footing. The whole course is full of poison ivy, thorn bushes, deep mud, water, and plenty of poor footing.
To add to the pure insanity of the event, teams are encouraged to dress up and have a little fun. Prizes are offered to the top 5 teams who dress up and keep their themes going the whole day, including free entry into next years DWD for the outright winner. This year saw cavemen, flight attendants, pirates, Scottish soldiers, G.I Joes, ninjas, and many others. When it comes to exchange points, themes and team signs do come in handy, when there are over 1,000 people crammed into one area, it can be a little hard to find your team.
The ultra runners went through all the same challenges the relay runners went through. Running 32 or 50 miles by itself is tough enough; now add tons of hills, lakes, swamps, and rivers to go though, its no walk in the park. The ultras started at 6:15am, in the dark. The 50k runners finished mid afternoon, a little before the bulk of the relay teams get in. The 50-mile runners didn’t finish much before darkness set in. As the relay teams hung out after the race, each 50-mile ultra runner got a well-deserved standing applause from the spectators as they crossed the finish line. Some of these people finished the race covered in mud and limping on one leg, how’s that for toughness?
Dances with Dirt is one of the best races around. This is one of those things that will push your body to its limit, make you curse yourself for running it, leave you sore for days, but you’d do it again in a heartbeat if there was another one is 2 weeks. Each person who ran it will have stories to tell for a long time to come. How often do loose a shoe in 5 feet of mud and for some odd reason feel good about it. It is one of those races that will beat you up, wear you out, and leave you licking your wounds for the next 10 days, but by the time you cross the finish you forget about all that and just think about how much fun you just had. It is a must for any runner looking for a challange, or just a little adventure. Look for it again next year, and be sure to sign up early, it will sell out.