Bridging together hearts and minds

Haywood County's first mud run will be Sept. 13
By Rachel Robles, Lifestyles editor | Sep 04, 2014
Photo by: Donated MUDDERS — In the front row, from left, Laura Inman, with Maggie Valley Lions Club, Monica Leslie and Michelle Mahoney, and in the back row, Chico Vasquez, pose after crawling through a ditch during the 2012 Mad Mountain Mud Run in Hendersonville.

Haywood County’s first ever Building Bridges Mud Run will make its inaugural splash on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Waynesville Recreation Center, located at 550 Vance St., Waynesville. The run serves several purposes — to “build a bridge” between the Canton Lions Club and the Waynesville Police Department; to give back to the community; and to honor the memory of a man who gave tirelessly to Haywood County.

Adam Bridges, a physical therapist and owner of Peak Physical Therapy in Canton and a member of the Canton Lions Club, worked with his father, the late Jim Bridges, to make the mud run a reality. Jim passed away July 23, 2014, at the age of 60, after a battle with esophageal cancer.

The idea to do a mud run in Haywood County came to Jim after he watched his other two sons run one in Columbia, South Carolina.

“After they ran, my father — who has always been big into doing things in the community and always loved doing different kinds of things — got very excited about it,” said Bridges, 32. “He said, ‘We should do a mud run here in Canton or in Waynesville with the Lions Club.’ It had been a dream of his.”

His father is remembered as someone who gave tirelessly to his community. Six year ago, Jim put on a haunted house at Pisgah High School, and when Bridges was a student at Pisgah, hosted a haunted house with the student council at his home.

Jim Bromley, an Edward Jones financial advisor and Canton Lion, knew Jim Bridges as someone who was passionate about his community.

“Jim was ‘Mr. Enthusiasm,’ said Bromley. “He was always full of enthusiasm and life and was so courageous as he faced his cancer. It was amazing to see the way he dealt with continuing to live life right up to the end.”

Canton Alderman Zeb Smathers remembers Jim as a source of constant encouragement and an essential member of the Lions Club.

“Even in his most painful hours, he was a ray of encouragement with a word, a smile or a positive word,” said Smathers. “He was always there to be positive and concentrate on the goodness that exists. The world could use more Jim Bridges.”

Smathers doesn’t remember a Lions Club event that Jim wasn’t a part of, especially when it came to things that provided money and resources for schools.

“Jim Bridges is what makes this community special because there are people who still believe in things larger than themselves,” said Smathers. “That’s why the Jim Bridges stands out. In a world of superficiality, people like him stand out.”

For the last two years, Jim organized and put on the Pisgah High School alumni football games. This year, Bridges and his father opted to do the mud run instead of the football game to give more of the community a chance to participate.

“We felt like it was an opportunity for more community involvement,” said Bridges. “With the football game, really only men play, and typically it’s your 20- to 30-year olds; whereas, with the mud run, you can get anybody from 10 to 65, men and women. So it’s better community involvement and that’s what my father always enjoyed doing.”

The Building Bridges Mud Run was so named because it an effort to build a bridge between the Canton Lions and Waynesville Police Department. It symbolizes the concept of community, something that is very important to Bridges.

“That’s what the Canton Lions Club is about,” he said. “Even though we are a Canton organization and much of our funds are distributed here in Canton, we give money to Haywood Christian Ministries, we do things in Waynesville, we donate to the Haywood County Blind Fund. Though much of our money goes back to Canton, what goes on in Canton affects all of Haywood County.”

While the mud run was originally intended to be in honor of Jim and his love for the community, the run will be held in his memory.

Let’s get muddy

Ryan Jacobson, a Canton Lion and employee at Wells Funeral Home, spearheaded the planning and organization of the run. With his knowledge of triathlons and 5Ks via his wife, Jennifer’s participation in them, Jacobson has a decent understanding of what goes into a run.

“It’s been a new venture,” said Jacobson. “There are so many variables that I’m trying to factor in. It would not be possible without the number of volunteers who have stepped up to help.”

The volunteer workforce includes the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department, the Waynesville Police Association, the Waynesville Fire Department, EMTs, the Maggie Valley Lions Club — especially Laura Inman whose firsthand knowledge of mud runs has been essential to the process — the Canton and Waynesville Lions Clubs, the Leo Club from Pisgah High School who will be manning the individual obstacles on the course, and Scotty Schulhofer, who is lending the use of the baseball field behind the junkyard.

The run will start at 9 a.m. in the parking lot behind the softball field at the recreation center. With currently 36 teams and 22 individuals, participants will take off, tentatively, at 1-minute intervals.

There will be a total of 18 obstacles, beginning with a culvert crawl through the mud and ending with a slip n’ slide. The majority of the run will take place on the police training grounds. Mud runners, or “mudders,” will have to crawl, jump, climb, run and wade through obstacles of varying difficulty and muddiness. Those who cannot complete an obstacle will have to perform push-ups, sit-ups or some sort of physical task before advancing.

“The whole thought was this was something we can build off of year to year,” said Jacobson. “I just want to have great fellowship and fun, but I don’t want people to think it’s cheesy. I want them to say, ‘That was a challenge. We’ll be back next year.’ I think with the help of everyone we’re putting our best foot forward. It just wouldn’t be possible without the help from across the county.”

Registration for the mud run is currently ongoing. Visit to register. Pre-registration is encouraged, but same-day registration will be available from 7 to 8:15 a.m. Online registration will close Wednesday, Sept. 10. Call Jacobson at 400-5935 with any questions.