The mud run is the perfect sport for those who don’t mind getting some dirt on their uniform in order to get the job done. The same might be said about a career in firefighting. And this is a week when the best of both worlds come together.
The World Police and Fire Games are currently taking place in Los Angeles for the first time, with the mud run just one of 67 different events. A team of five Anaheim Fire & Rescue firefighters will be muddy comrades in arms this week at the international race at Pitchess Detention Center in Valencia.
The AF&R team of Justin Balint, Jeno Gilia, Sean Mazza, Francisco Mora and Mark A. Hernandez will face teams from China and New Zealand in the event, with a shot at winning gold.
Captain Justin Balint — also the team captain — is relishing this long-awaited opportunity.
“I’ve competed in the California Police Olympics, the Western States Police and Fire Games and the United States Police & Fire Championships in the triathlon, cycling and mud run since 2001,” says Balint, a 21-year veteran. “And I have been waiting for the world games to come to California so I could experience the games in an even larger world-class capacity.”
According to mud run rules, each team will begin and end the race with five runners and finish the race locked arm in arm. Between the start and finish, team members will run across varying terrain, crawling on all fours or on their stomach through low obstacles, or traverse waist-high mud pits.
“The thing I like about the mud run is it’s a team experience, while performing an endurance event, which is hard to find,” Balint says. “Everyone on the team helps each other be faster and push themselves during the event.”
Previous success and experience for Balint and other members of the team have them feeling good about their odds.
“I won the gold medal in the individual mud run event in the Western States Police and Fire Games a few years ago when they were in Ontario,” he says. “And we have had several AF&R teams do the mud run event in Camp Pendleton in the past few years and we are looking forward to pushing ourselves in this event as well.”
Ultimately, it is the spirit of the competition that is its own reward for Balint and his teammates. And win or lose, that will be enough.
“The games to me means competing with some of my best friends at work, and competing against other like-minded people who like friendly competition,” Balint says.