Let’s face it, you’ve got to be able to see to get through a Mud and Obstacle Run, but glasses and prescription sunglasses are begging to get lost, broken, or just covered in mud. So contact lenses are the only reasonable choice left, but how do you safely wear them to a mud run without damaging your eyes?
You might say, “Who cares? The Honey Badger wears his contacts however he wants!” As an Optometrist, I care, and I’ve seen enough people with infections who abused their contact lenses to know that a Mud Run is just a corneal transplant waiting to happen. A Corneal Transplant?!?!? Yes, the kinds of bacteria that reside in mud and untreated water can eat through your cornea within 48 hrs, especially when trapped underneath your contact lens. So here’s my 7 tips for wearing contact lenses to a Mud Run:
1. Wear Disposable Contact Lenses
Soft, disposable contacts are great because, well, you can throw them away as soon as you’re done with the mud. Use a pair that is at the end of their life and you won’t feel guilty. If you don’t have disposable lenses, talk to your doctor and ask for a free pair. We get free samples all the time and he/she will gladly reward you for being responsible with your eyes. Just be aware that they’ll hassle you if your prescription isn’t up to date. Also, the daily disposable lenses are single use lenses that were made for things like mud runs.
2. Bring the Right Supplies
Having a fresh pair of lenses or just bringing your glasses to your race is a great idea. Bring your contact lens case (an old one that you don’t mind losing), and some disinfecting solution. You may also want to have some cheap saline wash to rinse your eyes after getting muddy. There might be mud in your eyebrows and eyelashes that is harder to rinse off. Bring a bottle of fresh water, a clean dry towel, and some liquid soap for washing your hands. The last mud run I ran had none of these things. I also brought a sample of powerful antibiotic drops as an insurance policy, but never ended up using them. If you explain your muddy obstacle challenge to your doctor, they might be willing to give you a small sample bottle to use in case you get a lot of mud in your eyes.
3. Bring Backup Glasses
When your mud run is over and your contact lenses are out, you may not be clean enough to put in a fresh pair safely, so having your glasses with you is a must. You also run the risk of losing lenses in the mud when you rub your eyes, or possibly ripping them during the race. This is a worst case scenario, but bringing your glasses with you during the challenge in a waterproof, shock-proof case that you can clip on somewhere, is always an option depending on how bad your uncorrected vision is. You’ll have decide for yourself if this is necessary or practical for the type of mud and obstacles that you might encounter.
4. Close Your Eyes When You Hit the Mud and Water
Keep your eyes shut tightly when you get into the mud and water. Once you’re out, wipe your eyelids lightly and resist the urge to rub your eyes. Rubbing could cause mud to get into your eyes or your lenses could fall out. As soon as you can get the chance, rinse your eyes and face with water. Maybe there’s a volunteer with a hose or a water station, but try to get your eyes clean.
5. Consider Goggles
If there is a lot of water obstacles you may want to consider goggles. Water won’t make the goggles dirty and they’ll protect your contacts from funky streams and ponds. You can hang them around your neck during the running portions of your race and the straps shouldn’t be strong enough to strangle you if you manage to get them caught on an obstacle. If there’s a lot of mud, goggles might not be all that helpful after they get dirty. You’ll have to research your venue and decide whether the goggles are worth wearing.
6. Wash Your Hands and Your Face
When all the running is done and the mud and obstacles have been conquered you’ll need to get clean before touching your eyes or your contacts. Rinsing your hands and face with clean water is essential, but soap and water is preferred before removing your muddy lenses. If you plan to wear new contact lenses after your mud run, you MUST use soap and water. Alcohol based hand sanitizer will damage contact lenses, so using it before removing your old lenses is ok if you have nothing else, but DO NOT use hand sanitizer when handling your new lenses.
7. Throw Away the Contact Lenses That You Used During Your Mud Run!
After you get the mud cleaned off, you may be tempted to keep those stanky lenses. Don’t. There are certain types of bacteria and parasites in mud and untreated water that can survive soft contact lens cleaning solutions and disinfectants. Disposable contact lenses were made to be thrown away so don’t think you’re saving money by keeping them, when really you’re just risking your vision. Toss them in the garbage and go get your beer!