Wet and covered in mud, Amanda McPartlin of Chicago raised both arms in victory as the crowd hooted and cheered the first finisher of the day for the Dirty Girl Mud Run in Grayslake on Saturday.
"It was muddier and dirtier that I thought it was going to be," said McPartlin, 37. "Look at this," she added, lifting her wrist band and letting a brownish goop trickle down her hand.
That's what happens when you do a race where the grand finale is crawling through a 40-foot mud pit called "PMS (Pretty Muddy Stuff)."
More than 8,000 women registered for the race, an outdoor 5K run with 12 obstacles that took place at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The first racers set off at about 8:15 a.m., with staggered groups leaving every 15 minutes through 4 p.m.
Many women showed up in teams sporting names like "Dirty Dames" and "Muddy Lady Lumps," and outfits like knee-high multicolored socks, neon yellow tights, pink tulle tutus and even gladiator skirts.
The whole thing is just about having fun for a good cause, as a portion of proceeds is donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, said race director Kara Bilot. No one gets timed, and there are no winners, Bilot said.
"You see women of all fitness levels, some of them just walk," she said. "We tell them they don't have to do all the obstacles, we even have signs that say 'Shhh ... we won't tell,'" she said.
The obstacles were definitely the hardest part of the run, said friends Lynn Hatzikostantis, 29, of Glenview, and Fawn Woody, 31, of Chicago. "The cargo net was especially hard for me because I don't like heights," Hatzikostantis said.
The muddy hills were even worse, Woody said. "They felt like they never ended," she said.
Cassie Muellner of Crystal Lake is already planning at least two more mud runs, one in Gilberts at the end of July and another one in October. Mueller, 34, was part of a team of 15 or 20 women called "Underground Fit Chick."
"It was a lot of fun," she said. "Crawling through the mud pit -- you can't go wrong with that."
Thirteen-year-old Monica Gonzalez of Elgin stood on the sidelines with a sign supporting her mother's team. Watching all the fun to the tunes of energizing music like Outkast, LMFAO and Flo Rida made her want to do the race next year, Monica said. Dirty Girl Mud Run's minimum age is 14. "I just want to get in the mud, it's looks fun," Monica said.
So should there be a mud race for men, too? Five-year-old Austin Koske certainly thinks so. He was there to support his mom, Kristen Koske of Lake in the Hills.
"We were pulling into the parking lot, and he said, 'I want to invent a Dirty Boy Mud Run,'" said his father, Kevin Koske.
In the meantime, the pair was happy with sitting on folding lawn chairs right by the finish line, ready to cheer for the smiling and oh-so-muddy racers.