The 18th Annual Swamp Romp is the dirtiest five-mile race around—one that I’ve proudly participated in year after year.
The route and obstacles are vary slightly in each race, which takes 450 teams through the Nuupia Ponds on Marine Corps Base (MCB) Hawaii and into Fort Hase Beach, over and under obstacles that challenge even the strongest competitors.
Every race I’ve done starts off on a dirt trail, deceptively serene, yet leading to the first mud pit and an intimidating wall. About here, second thoughts of why anyone would opt to do this more than once inevitably come rushing forward. Still mud-free, I take a deep breath and run into the hip-deep pool of mud, alongside my entire team. One guy wearing our team number eats it, literally. While the rest of us had mud only up to our waists, he fell in and took an unpleasant mouthful of chunky, brown water!
Sufficiently dirtied, we continue on the road, through various other obstacles that block the path, including smoke (generated by dry ice, to give the effect of running through a war zone). Occasionally one of the friendly neighbors who share the fence-line with MCBH push their hoses through the fence to offer a drink or a light wash-down, but otherwise, there is only one aid station at the halfway mark.
Eventually we end up on the road near MCB’s back gate, but not for long. The route leads to an area I’ve nicknamed the clay pit. The mud there resembles gray clay, and if you’re not wearing a good-fitting boot, you’ll surely lose your shoes. I always see multiple people get their shoes sucked off here.
Next we’re back on the road for a short time, and into the cold water. We’re trekking through a long stretch of this water and it feels at least a half-mile long. This part is good because you can wash off all that clay and mud from the earlier part of the race, plus the water helps cool you down after all the sweating you’ve been doing.
Once we’re back on dry land, we find more obstacles, including crawling through mud cages. We’re then on the beach and have to swim to a buoy and back, yet again shaking off any muddy remnants.
But it doesn’t last long. Just when you think the worst is over, we’re back in a mud pit. This time, traveling under/through varying obstacles—and race officials are right there, ensuring that there’s no cheating. The mud is now chest-deep.
Just when you think you’re almost done, you’re back on another part of that dirt road and into what looks like a giant taro patch (minus the lovely taro plants). Once we zig-zag through that, we’re home free! Back on relatively dry land, and a dash to the finish line. Our team links arms and runs across the finish line together (it’s a requirement that you finish the race with all of your teammates).
A welcoming red fire truck hoses any muddy remnants off our team, and we’re back to the cars to change into civilized clothing. Another Swamp Romp is under my belt.
The rules state you need to have a team of six, which can either be all guys, all gals, or three guys/three gals. Keiki are welcome to participate, too (ages 10 and up), but there needs to be at least one adult on the team (18 or over). Each team member must sign a waiver, and the registration fee is $135 per team (done through MCB’s Semper Fit Center). If the pride of having endured Hawaii’s messiest race isn’t enough, you’ll take home a coveted Swamp Romp T-shirt for enduring the adventure.