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Cast in Bronze?

by Beverly Amsler

Well, not exactly . . . Grayson Cobb, a member of the Virginia Tech triathlon team from Richmond, is actually cast in thick, oozing, somewhat soothing carefully prepared mud. “That mud’s a lot thicker than it was last year,” said Cobb. “It was awesome. I was floating in the mud. Last year I was kind of disappointed. It was like watery mud. But this year it was thick and gross and just exactly what I was looking for.” Cobb repeated his first place finish for the second year in a row. Cobb said there were a couple of challenges in the race; the huge hill was one. “Me and my teammate (Justin Morrison who finished second) were hitting that hill at the same time and he pushed me on it. But once we got over that hill, it was pretty much downhill to the finish . . . walking upstream in the Roanoke River is pretty difficult, but a lot of fun.” He expects to come back and defend his title for a third time next year. “I really enjoyed it last year and it was the same experience this year. It was so much fun.” Mike Shepherd is a Marine veteran and commandant of the Marine Corps League in the Roanoke Valley, which hosts the run, in its 16th year. Shepherd says there were about 400 runners the first year, and this year organizers expected between 1600 and 1800 participants. He says the notoriety of the race is part of their success. “It’s a different type of 5K race. It’s not just a run. You encounter obstacles; you have to run through part of the Roanoke River. You have to go up that big hill over there in the back and we take you back down through the back side of the horse park and then bring you back around. And then you low crawl through this mud pit.” It’s not 37-year-old Nicole Morrell from Radford’s first 5K but it is her first mud run. “Kelsey (her 10-year-old daughter) and I were looking for something fun to do together, just the two of us. I love running and she wanted to come with me on a race, so this seemed like the perfect race for her to come with me on.” Nicole didn’t train any differently going into this race with the huge mud pit at the end. Her strategy: “Get as dirty as possible.” Twenty-six-year-old Misty Keene of Blacksburg put a lot of thought into her first 5K. She’s been doing distance interval running and researched ways to train. “A year ago I weighed 250 pounds and in this past year I’ve lost approximately 50 pounds. I got bored with running so I wanted something that really would challenge me. I’ve always wanted to do it. Last year, I really contemplated it but then I was like, ‘I don’t have it in me.’ And so, with running and knowing I can do things that I used to not be able to do, I just wanted a good challenge for myself.” “As long as I’m not last and I can finish, those are my two goals today.” David and Cherie Gregg of Massachusetts are used to clowning around. They are clowns with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and were in Roanoke promoting next month’s performances. Cherie Gregg confided, “It’s going to be a challenge for us. We’ve never even done a real 5K, let alone a mud run.” Their strategy? Her husband David said, “to make it to the end.” The Marine Corps League divides the proceeds between Camp Roanoke and Toys for Tots. Mike Shepherd says, “Before this race, we have already donated $83,200 just to Camp Roanoke in cash. Last year, we gave them $10,000.” That’s in addition to Marines improving the grounds. He estimates they’ve given a couple hundred thousand dollars to Toys for Tots over the years; that money also stays in the Roanoke Valley.

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