Friday, July 8, 2011

Mud hoppers

This post is not directly about food, but it is about eating stuff.

Over the last weekend, an annual event was run (well actually, quite a bit of it was crawled) over a 6km course in Auckland.  Nothing unusual about cross country running in New Zealand, but this one involved obstacles to crawl under or climb over and a very large amount of mud.  Two TV news presenters took part, so there was plenty of footage to analyse.

I am all for active sports, but I wonder how many of the competitors will regret the weekend's activities, and not just for sore muscles.  At one point, the competitors crawled, sploshed or "swam" though a trench full of thick mud.  At least one competitor dived headfirst into the mud as if he were diving into the surf.  None of the participants could have avoided getting some of the mud in their mouths.

Soil is interesting stuff - it's the goto place for microbiologists if they need to isolate a microorganism that has a particular characteristic; it's one of the best sources of bacteria.  If animals have been grazed on the paddock, or water in the mud has drained from a farm, it is likely that the mud will contain many faecal organisms.  In 2008, there was a significant outbreak of campylobacteriosis after a mountain bike race, in which competitors got very muddy.  None of the support crews became ill.

I'm sure that mud running allows us to relive our childhood without being scolded for getting dirty and it's certainly a good spectator sport, but competitors should be aware of the risks associated with eating the stuff.


Anonymous said...

But people have the immune-system ....

John said...

You are correct. However, the immune system often fails to protect us from food or, in this case, mud borne infection when the bacteria are ingested. See the link above to an earlier post on infections arising from mountain biking.

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