Posted: February 24, 2007 05:07 PM

Down and Dirty in 'Swamp Romp'
Julia Norton-Dennis -

Ah, the smell of fresh mud in the morning air. There's nothing quite like it. And there's nothing quite like the annual "Swamp Romp." Okay, for one woman striding across the water, it's more of a "swamp strut."

It's a four-mile obstacle course taking competitors over land, water, sand and mud. The event is a benefit for the Marines.

"It raises around $16,000," said race coordinator 1st. Lt. Katie Hollier.

It's 7 a.m. Saturday and 271 teams are registered - not just military types, but civilians too, like a team from KGMB9.

The participants are pumped and ready to go. They've had their breakfast. They're up for the challenge.

"I heard there was gonna be water on the course," said LCpl. Nate Baum of 3rd Radio Battalion. "I'm not sure how current my swim crawl is, so I figured I better bring this," he adds, as he points to the green plastic kiddie innertube around his waist.

Will that save him? "I hope so. If not, I'm just gonna grab people and bring them down with me," Baum said.

The competition is tough. Very, very tough. "Team P" consists of five hulking military men, dressed in skirts and dresses. These burly contestants have been conditioning their bodies for weeks before the race.

"You don't get this overnight. It doesn't happen. It doesn't happen," exclaimed team spokesman James Prather, as he points to his backside.

Team P's goal? "Have fun, have a good time, come out here, show a little motivation, have a good time and don't lose our skirts," Prather said with a laugh.

There's motivation and encouragement from the sidelines and sneaky maneuvers on the course.

Race Coordinator Hollier runs down the minor injuries. "There were a few, a few rolled ankles," Hollier said. "I haven't heard of anything too serious, nothing more than ankles."

But in the end, you have to finish as you started - as a team.

"It was worthwhile. It was 100-percent worthwhile," said Joe Jackson of Team P.

The teams take a photo, a little memento of the day's efforts, under the "Swamp Romp" sign. Then it's off to the showers to erase all that mud-slinging and plan for next year's romp.