What's the best way to make a sporting event better?
Back in May I photographed San Angelo's first mud run which I knew was going to be ripe with photo opportunities. How could it not? People + mud + sports = a good time. Pretty simple equation if you ask me. The race was held at the San Angelo State Park and when it was first advertised one of the directors said they sold out of spots in about three days. Five hundred runners decided to spend their Saturday morning navigating nearly three miles of mud-laden obstacles and everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives. Some even dressed up for the event wearing tutus, business suits and even superhero outfits. I, myself, had only two goals: make good photos and try not to get my gear caked in mud. I accomplished only one of those. One camera body and a lens got completely covered by a rouge wave of mud and had to be sent off to the cleaners.
These types of races have been popping up all over the country for the last several years. Some of the bigger names in the up-and-coming sport of obstacle racing are the Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Muddy Buddy and Tough Mudder. Heck, there's even a championship series for wife carrying. Now, I know there are some traditionalists out there who are grimacing over the fact that the their beloved pavement and trail running sport is taking a turn for the modern. In a 2011 article in Outside Magazine it's stated that almost a million people signed up for these types of races in 2010. But why? Because it's looks like a hell of a lot of fun, that's why. Because people are always looking for the next interesting and challenging obstacle in life. Who cares if you have to navigate electric wire-laced mud pits or scamper over greased walls or jump flaming hay bales. It gets people motivated to get out there with a group of like-minded peers and off the couch. And in an age where more than one-third of American adults are obese, I say any trick or gimmick that gets people to be more active is a plus.
Now, I'm not saying that traditional road and trail racing is dead or obsolete. I am currently training for my very first half-marathon. But what I am saying is that everyone's motivations are different and as long as you finish the challenge, whether it be traditional or obstacle, with a smile on your face, more power to you.
Fast forward to this weekend and I found myself covering another mud sporting event. This time it was volleyball. This particular event isn't as well known as the obstacle races but it's still fun. Every year the small town of Brady, about 80 miles southeast of San Angelo, holds their annual July Jubilee. The event spans over two days and includes a street dance with live music, a parade through downtown and a fireworks display over the local lake. Eight years ago someone decided to add another option for the townspeople to gather, obviously aware of the people + mud + sports = a good time equation.
From what I was told the mud volleyball tournament has grown every year. What started out as just a five-team tournament eight years ago has now turned into a 17-team tournament with a cash payout of $1,000 to the winning team. And it's not just Brady residents getting involved. Citizens from neighboring communities are also getting in on the action. There must have been at least four or five different towns represented in the tournament. One team from Merkel, about 120 miles north of Brady on I-20, said they saw a video on YouTube of the event and wanted to get in on the action. This appears to be an event that is going to be around for a long time and will become one of the highlights of the Jubilee.