Everybody has dirty thoughts.

We tend to keep them to ourselves, since society has deemed such thinking as taboo and not the sort of thing that’s appropriate to discuss at the office or in a crowded restaurant. And dirty ideas are definitely not the kind of thing you want to tell your parents about.

But dirty is acceptable — even celebrated — on Cranberry Island during the sixth annual Mud Mile race this Saturday.

And by “dirty,” I mean “covered in mud,” of course. Where was your mind going?

The Mud Mile race course consists of one long mucky mile across the mudflats on Cranberry Island’s southern shore. It’s a messy endeavor, but it’s also a chance to shirk the lingering effects of your parents’ anti-mud propaganda.

“Our moms and dads always talked about, ‘Don’t get your clothes dirty.’ It’s sort of ingrained in us,” said Gary Allen, co-director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and one of the Mud Mile’s organizers. “I hate to make it sound deeper than it is, but there’s something kind of primal about being allowed to get dirty.”

Unlike those asphalt races some runners may be used to — the ones not in low-tide goo — the Mud Mile isn’t results-driven. Whether you speed through water-logged earth or plod at a grandma’s pace, maybe even losing your shoes in the process, it doesn’t matter.

“There’s no time limit. You can take a half-hour if you want,” said Allen. He then added, “But you don’t have a half-hour, because the tide will come in. I guess we have no time limit, but Mother Nature sure does.”

And those mudflats have a mind of their own, pulling at the runner’s feet with inordinate force, trapping them at will. The mud is a prankster like that. It’ll let you stomp one foot after another for a quarter-mile, then trip you up with its oozing grip, just for kicks.

Allen confirmed that someone would keep a lookout for any stranded Mud Mile runners. And he promised to help pull them out before the water got any deeper than the stuck runner’s armpits.

One of the keys to not getting stuck and successfully reaching the finish line, he said, is your choice of footwear. “We had a girl show up with clamming boots and try to run,” Allen recalled. “She made it about 50 yards.”

Some arrive in flip-flops and quickly lose them. Aqua socks can work, but may also disappear into the muddy abyss. A runner’s best bet, according to Allen, is an old pair of sneakers and an abundance of duct tape.

Participants should also bring a healthy appreciation for getting dirty. No dainty stepping is going to keep runners clean.

“People at first are sort of tiptoeing, but in the 10 to 15 minutes that it takes to complete, people get completely covered,” said Allen.

Take that, mom and dad.

After the race, mud-covered runners can stick around for the after-party. The entire event is free, though Allen said a $5 donation will help to keep the Mud Mile going. There’s no need to register either, but folks interested in a low-tide sprint need to plan ahead. The only way to get to Cranberry Island is by taking a ferry from Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

That makes the Mud Mile participants a determined breed of mud lovers.

And while mudflats are often known for their less-than-pleasant aroma, Allen noted that the mud clinging to Cranberry Island’s southern shore doesn’t stink. “For some reason, we’ve got really clean mudflats. They’re muddy, but they’re not smelly.”

Runners can get down and dirty without worrying that a persisting mudflat smell will give them away. Thus, those squeaky-clean parents of yours never have to know how you spent your weekend.


Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

[email protected]