My 26.2 Mile Mud Run: Miserable Marathon Experience but Back for More...

A few weeks ago I was given a free entry to Swan Lake Marathon (or half marathon) in South Dakota which was only 4 weeks after my last marathon. I debated but after working with a great sports chiro I decided my hamstring was back to the point of handling another race that was flat. And this would help me reach my goal of eventually running a marathon in all 50 states (10 down only 40 more to go!). I knew it would be a crazy weekend with having to work at the gym for a short time Saturday, then driving 5 hours, getting up early Sunday to run a 6am marathon before driving 5 hours home! I’m tired just reading this again.

I stalked the forecast the week before and it was quite erratic, going from nice, cool and sunny to storms and back. Well after 24 hours of rain on Saturday I was hoping things were over for race day. Boy was I wrong! Here is my short race recap: Cold, Wet, Windy, Muddy, Miserable!

We got up at 3:30am to drive the 45 minutes from my friend’s house where we were staying, a fun drive on dark roads in an unfamiliar area with detours, yikes! The rain continued as we drove but was one when we got to the race, meaning we got to walk through mud to get to the building, ugh! We grabbed out numbers and decided the final races clothes, left my bag inside the building (no bag check at this small race, just leave bags wherever) and headed out to the start.

Pre-ace and the last time we were dry and warm!
The race was small (90 in marathon 150 in half), we began out of the camp up a muddy hill, yikes this will be tough! I ran next to a man pushing his baby in a BOB, that will be a muddy mess! Mile 1: 8:04 (Nice, I didn’t go out too fast for once!). Now we turn out of the wind and onto flats this will be easier and I continue to run splits between 7:44-7:52 (this isn’t bad). I decided to go back to my old fueling method and began to take a little of my Huma Gel at Mile 4 and every water stop thereafter until it was finished around Mile 12.

By Mile 6 we are out of the mud and running through “town” I use that loosely as we continued to pass farms and minimal buildings but we were running on Main Street. Mile 8 and I was still on my goal (1:03:02) and then it all changed….

I began to question if I felt rain, then as I made the turn onto the next stretch of dirt mud roads, my suspicions were confirmed. Not only was it raining but the 30+ mph headwind meant the rain was sideways into my face! I felt like I wasn’t even moving as my feet stuck in the mud and I worked against the wind. This stretch continued until Mile 13 and I seriously considered turning and only running the half (which I would have won!). I battled in my mind going between how miserable I was and how I wanted my goal of 50 states and not finishing the full meant I’d have to be back and I came to run a marathon. So I continued…

The shoes...
We turned and soon were back on paved roads, the rain was letting up and we turned out of the wind for a short time, this is better I can do this (I even considered dropping my jacket). We were back on the section along the lake, and on and out and back stretch encouraging each other through the tough day. I began to feel cold again and we were soon back on mud, I was slowing as I didn’t want to risk an injury as I slipped and nearly fell a couple times. By Mile 16 I was started to shiver and could barely open a gel my hands were blue and numb (and it was 50s). I started taking a gel (I had to go back to my old gels since Huma gels were gone L) this was a bad idea by Mile 18 I was attempting to not lose my breakfast on the road….8 Miles to go and I was no happy! The rain was back, I was freezing, drenched and a mudy mess as we turned again into the wind which was even stronger this time. By Mile 20 I found a port-a-potty and attempted to open my race belt to get my phone out, Siri had a tough time dialing Matt with my shaking voice, finally after 3 attempts at calling random people she called Matt and he was on his way to find me with a dry jacket!

Just keep moving and you will stay warmer, right? Around Mile 21 I saw my car coming down the muddy road, what a beautiful sight J I jumped it, warmed my legs on the heated seat and soaked in the heat as I dropped piles of mud on the floor. It felt great; I was nearly in tears (I do not do well when I am cold as I don’t warm up easily). I threw my Garmin in the backseat (2:55 @ Mile 21) sat there trying to convince Matt to just drive! I finally decided to put on my warm jacket and was thrilled to find gloves in the pockets. After sitting there 15 minutes I got out, slammed the door and ran; I still wasn’t happy but I was NOT letting this course (or the weather) beat me!

I soon remembered how bad my stomach felt as I continued to move and soon knew the 1 ½ gels was not enough for a marathon (duh!) but my stomach could not handle anything else. I was doing all I could to keep moving as I pretty much gave up and started walking to stay upright. At least I was finally feeling warmer again (one positive, right?). I soon passed a water stop where an older couple had a table with water, bananas and oranges set up in the driveway. I ate a couple bites of banana hoping it would settle things a bit to get the final 1 ½ miles. Soon I could see the finish and realized I needed to now go down the even muddier hill that we ran up at the start of the race (this is fun!). But I was done, I have never been happier to see a finish line I never even looked at the clock, just crossed and headed inside. I wanted potato chips…3 Miles ago! No such luck, while they had a great meal (bagels, fruit chocolate milk, pork sandwiches) I couldn’t eat much of it, I grabbed banana and water and debated changing but honestly didn’t care, just wanted to get to my food in the car!

Matt headed over from the results table to inform me I had taken 3rd! Seriously I had to be at least 30+ minutes off my goal and typical marathon time. He also told me that a lot of runners quit at the half (~ 20). We started our drive home in the rain and finally stopped to change and remove the mud from every inch of my body! This honestly had to be the toughest, most miserable marathon race I have ever run. It was hours before I finally warmed up! While I am disappointed with my race finish and all the time I wasted I am happy I stuck it out and finished. My 22nd marathon will always be remembered for the day I fought through everything against me. The only good news from the day: My hamstring felt fine J

The winners of the How Far and How Fast giveaway are Laurie at Laurie Walks Fast and Courtney at Third Time’s A Charm Runner! Congratulations! Please contact Jill at to claim your prize!


  1. Wow- I'm sorry it was so miserable, but you should be super proud of yourself. The fact that you got back out of your warm car is awe-inspiring!

    When you're ready to run in PA, you should come to the Erie Marathon in my hometown! :)

    1. Thanks Rhonda :) PA is still one I need, I'll keep that in mind.

  2. Holy cow! It sounds horrible! I'm so glad you finished though, you're a rockstar! I hope you have warmed up by now :D

  3. Congratulations! Very inspiring, loved reading your recap, boy you are fast :)

  4. Holy smokes - You're a trooper for finishing buddy! Nice work!!

  5. Oh Jen! I hate it was so miserable girl! But congrats on third place! That's awesome! And never have to run a marathon in that state again! You can cross it off your list! ;-)

  6. What a story! Congrats on finishing and congrats on the 3rd place finish!
    emma @ a mom runs this town

  7. Yikes! I'm freezing and want a hot shower just reading that! I'm sorry it was so awful! But, on the bright side, you came in 3rd and you have another state checked off your list! So well done on that!

  8. Oh my goodness! You have had the worst luck with race weather this spring!! Congrats on toughing it out and checking off another state!

  9. Ohh, I am sorry it was miserable but you are a rockstar for getting it done! Seriously, If I sat in the warm car, I would of not gotten out. Way to go!

  10. Oh my...I thought my last race was bad. You definitely win crappiest conditions of the year around. Way to tough it out! And congrats on another state and 3rd place!

  11. I'm so sorry that it was so miserable! I honestly don't know if I could continue with the wind and rain hitting me in the face like that. And then freezing cold. I commend you for getting back out of the car! Way to go! Congrats on your finish!

  12. Oh my good Heavens! Your recap made me cold and wet just reading about it! I'm so sorry!! But, once you get past the ughness of it, it will make a great story! Congrats on marathon 22 and getting another state under your belt!

  13. I am glad you made it through that! Running conditions like that are not fun and totally miserable during the time! But you did it, and you can knock that state off your list! I had a miserable cold/wet run like that once in Oklahoma during the race it was miserable, but now I look back on it and appreciate the experience, you will likely one day too:) It just takes a week or so:) Great job though on your finish!

  14. WTG Jen for sticking with it and crossing the finish line! And not just finish...3rd place!! Nice job!


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