Dirt, wet and slick, was plastered to my scalp. Chunks of mud nestled nicely in my teeth. I couldn't hear much because my ears were clogged with grime. My nails? Disgusting.

But today, I did not care.

Today, I got to get dirty, and for a good cause.

As one of over 6,000 participants in the Dirty Girl 5K Mud Run on Saturday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, every muscle in my body was subjected to mud, sweat and maybe even a few tears as I ran to help benefit breast cancer research via the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

But if I ever needed a reason to get up and get running, I figured this was a good a reason as any.

Slapping on my running shoes and pulling my hair back in a pony tail, I was ready for my 9 a.m. start time.

The key to any mud run is to pace yourself -- go too fast, and you run out of steam. Go too slow, and you feel your body complain every step of the course.

My first encounter with a small obstacle was the hay jump, where my legs began to shake after I had only cleared two barrels of hay.

The first of many mud pits followed shortly thereafter, and I seriously contemplated skipping through it, rather than wading or even swimming like others were doing.

I do not like getting dirty.

But then I stood next to a woman who was a recent cancer survivor. Her head, covered in a bandanna, had a slight gleam of sweat.

She did not hesitate to jump into the murky water, laughing as mud splashed up on her face.

Watching her, I realized that if this woman could do it, then so could I. And I was not going to complain about getting dirty anymore.

The course continued to run through two sections of the fairgrounds, with every type of obstacle imaginable -- climbing wooden walls, crossing through tangled ropes, etc.

And every chance event organizers got, they threw in a mud pit.

No one escaped unscathed.

About halfway through the course, I reached the mother of all mud pits.

Netting hung over a pool of filth, and the only way through was to get on your stomach and crawl.

Wading in, I gulped, knowing I was going to come out the other end looking like a completely different person.

When I ungracefully pulled myself up at the other end of the pool, my entire front was seeping with wet, slippery mud, sticks and grass.

And I stayed wet and muddy throughout the rest of the course. No amount of running or standing in the sun would dry me off.

But by the time I crossed the finish line with five other women, I could not wipe the stupid grin off my face.

I was disgustingly dirty, but I was all right with that.

I had just survived a fun, three-mile or so run. Did I know I was going to get that dirty? Perhaps. Did I mind? Nope.

As I looked around at the thousands of women who were in various parts of the course, some survivors, some friends and family of survivors, I realized the mud run was not just a way to spend a Saturday.

It was a true example of camaraderie and getting through something together, no matter how difficult the course may have been.

Contact Katie Nelson at 925-847-2164 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.

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where to donate
Dozens of organizations have been created to help fight breast cancer. Below are just some of the organizations you can visit online to donate, join or volunteer.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.: www.nationalbreastcancer.org
Susan G. Komen for the Cure: www.komen.org
Breast Cancer Research Foundation: www.bcrfcure.org
Gateway for Cancer Research Breast Cancer Charity: www.gatewayforcancerresearch.org
Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade: www.avoncompany.com
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund: www.findacure.org
Nancy R. Gelman Foundation: www.nrgf.org
Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research: www.jamesline.com