Friends Jesse Cox and Kayla Stering talked and laughed as they slogged through a stretch of muddy water at the Dirty Dash Saturday morning at MetraPark.
The two Wyoming women had on matching purple-and-black costumes — “We are the evil minions” from “Despicable Me” — Cox joked. Both wore headbands decorated with tulle and a single eye, and long tutus saturated with muck.
“We’re regretting the tutus because they are weighing us down a little bit,” she said, muddy water dripping off hers.
Both also wore dried mud on their faces, as well as big smiles.
“I’m not partial to mud, but it’s a lot of fun,” Cox said.
Cox, from Laramie, and Sterling, of Ten Sleep, joined three other friends for the fourth-annual race, which drew about 3,000 people.
The Billings edition of the Dirty Dash is one of 11 in the western U.S., said Bill Miller, one of the course directors. Missoula also will host the dash on Sept. 6.
Miller and the rest of the Salt Lake City crew arrived in Billings Monday to set up the course. It began and ended inside the grandstand and wove its way through barns and a host of obstacles.
The work included setting up the obstacles, getting water to them, inflating all of the slides and preparing the mud pits. Asked what he thought draws a crowd to the Dirty Dash, Miller ticked off three reasons.
“Maybe it’s the fact it’s not a timed event, it’s just kind of go out and have fun, so that appeals to a larger group of people,” he said. “But even the competitive types like to come out here as well and do the obstacles; they run it at a higher speed.”
And third, he said, “It’s a great family event.”
Taped music boomed inside the grandstand as participants milled around, either waiting to get started or grabbing a photo or something to eat or drink afterward. Two emcees joked with the crowd between the start of each heat.
Waves of entrants took off every 20 minutes. On the track, they ran to and climbed over their first obstacle, a hill of hay bales.
After that, they waded through copious quantities of mud and muddy water along the course. Most walked, but some participants ran.
They slid and ran down a sloped Slip ’N Slide, got sprayed with foam in the pig pen and got blasted in one of the mud pits lined with mud land mines.
Heather Nelstead and Elissa Dilorenzo, both seniors at Senior High, were among the more than 100 volunteers recruited by the YMCA to help out. For every volunteer the Y recruited, organizers donated money to the nonprofit's annual campaign.
Wearing bright yellow T-shirts with the image of a pig and the word “Grunt” printed on them, the teens kept an eye on participants who wended their way through a series of pipes, climbing over or slipping under them into muddy water.
Both were ready to help out, if needed. In the meantime, they did a lot of people watching, taking note of the wild choices in clothing.
“I like some of the superhero costumes,” Dilorenzo said. “I saw some Captain Americas.
“We saw some girls in prom dresses,” Nelstead added.
“At the very beginning some people were painted blue, that was funny,” Dilorenzo said.
“It was kind of washing off, too,” Nelstead said.
Toward the end of the race the participants, depending on their ages, had the option of grabbing a beer or a root beer after they climbed a series of yellow partitions.
By the time competitors made it to the end, their bright-colored clothing had transformed to a dull brown. Groups that ran the race together took advantage of the final mud pit stop to splash in the mud or grab a handful of goop and hurl it at each other.
One quartet, Jordan Nance and her mother, Lisa Nance, both of Billings, Jordan’s boyfriend, Patrick Branger, of Billings, and his sister, Amy Schad, of Livingston, started off in the first heat of the morning. They finished about an hour later coated in mud.
“This all happened in the last five feet,” Jordan Nance said, pointing to the muddy clothing. The group had made it through the rest of the course relatively unscathed.
Nancy saw the race as a chance to let out her inner 5-year-old.
“It gives you a reason to go out and get dirty without people laughing at you,” she said.