After Muddy Endurance Race, a 'Disgusting' Development

More than 100 participants say they got bacterial infections after Tough Mudder event in California
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2023 12:20 PM CDT
After Muddy Endurance Race, a 'Disgusting' Development
A competitor is covered in mud during a Tough Mudder event in Malpas, England, on Sept. 4, 2021.   (Jacob King/PA via AP)

At the end of the Tough Mudder obstacle races held worldwide, participants are usually treated to a turkey leg, a cold beer, and the satisfaction of having completed a difficult task. In one such event in California's Sonoma County earlier this month, however, more than 100 participants say they got something else: bacterial infections that led to fever, pus-filled rashes, and other issues, likely tied to the part of the race where competitors have to crawl or wade through mud. NBC News reports that the challenge in question was held at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 19-20, and that the county's Department of Health Services is trying to figure out if the reported illnesses are from a relatively mild condition called swimmer's itch, or if they're from more serious staph infections or infections caused by Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria, found in water.

One competitor says she woke up the day after her 10K race to find her legs and stomach covered in sore red bumps. "It was just disgusting," 26-year-old Noa Umbaugh tells the Washington Post, noting that she soon discovered other participants with similar maladies online. A Sonoma County spokesperson tells Live Science that so far at least seven participants have tested positive for Aeromonas, and that the health department believes most of the reported infections are probably from the same bacteria. "We are requesting that clinicians obtain cultures from infected patients and report the results to us," Matt Brown says. Both Aeromonas and staph infections, which can lead to sepsis if not treated, are typically treated with antibiotics.

Some of the 112 participants who penned an email to Tough Mudder say the mud included in the race should've been tested for bacteria, especially since there were complaints last year of similar illnesses emerging after the race held at Sonoma Raceway. "I think there is an element of what you would call negligence," David Long, 57, who came down with the chills, a fever, and "lesions from his ankles to his chest" after running in the race earlier this month, tells NBC. The Sonoma County health department has issued a health advisory over the illness reports, advising those who are experiencing symptoms such as rash, fever, vomiting, and muscle aches to see a doctor. A Tough Mudder rep tells NBC that it's conducting its own internal probe. Anyone who wants more information can call Sonoma County's Public Health Division at 707-565-4567. (More bacteria stories.)

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