FORT CARSON, Colo. -- 2nd Lt. Harry Murphy and Maj. Earl Brown stared at the giant mud pit.

"Cannonball?" Brown asked.

"Cannonball," said Murphy, nodding.

The two took a running start, leapt into the air and kerplunked into the muddy water as spectators laughed and cheered.

Murphy, a fire direction officer with 1st Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said the water was cold and "almost refreshing."

He added that despite mud and water going up his nose, he enjoyed the race.

"I liked the excessive amounts of mud pits. It's like a boyhood dream come true," he said. "Sleeping in the mud during field trainings helped (me prepare for the race). I'm used to being dirty from my military training."

Murphy ran the race with a team of friends, including his fiancée.

"She was an additional source of encouragement. We helped each other and pushed each other," he said. "It was a fun challenge, especially with a group of friends."

More than 10,000 racers battled 4.5 miles of mud, dirt, muck, sludge, hills and obstacles Saturday and Sunday

during the second Colorado Military Spartan Race in Iron Horse Park, which was hosted by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. According to the Spartan website, the sun and dehydration proved overwhelming for Saturday athletes while some Sunday racers had to be pulled off of the course due to hypothermia.

"It was brutal," said April Luu, a former Fort Carson Soldier and elite Spartan athlete.

Luu placed first among females and 11th overall with a time of 52 minutes, 1 second.

"I killed it," she said. "To stand on your home turf and win, it was awesome."

Luu said the 28 obstacles and hill climbs made for a fierce race.

"It was a good leg burner," she said.

Luu currently holds the No. 1 title for female Spartan athletes in the world.

Leilani Luu, 9, followed in her mother's footsteps, competing in the Junior Spartan Race -- a one-mile course with junior obstacles for children ages 4-13.

Leilani finished fifth among female athletes.

"She's going after it, just like her mama," said April Luu.

For the next seven weeks April Luu will train for the Utah Spartan Beast, a 12-mile course dubbed the "race from hell."

Designed by seven "ultra" athletes and a Royal Marine, the Spartan Race began in 2005 and has evolved into a worldwide racing community. The Spartan Sprints are a little more than three miles and feature between 15 and 20 obstacles. The Super Spartan is eight-plus miles and features more than 20 obstacles. The Spartan Beast, known as "the toughest race on the planet," features more than 25 obstacles.

Should April Luu win the Spartan Beast, she'll earn a free entry into the Death Race, a 24- to 48-hour contest that pushes athletes to their breaking points with obstacles, trail racing and physical and mental challenges. According to the Spartan website, 90 percent of racers do not complete the course.

At Fort Carson, athletes participated in the Spartan Military Sprint, a longer race than the Spartan Sprint with almost twice as many obstacles. Athletes climbed "Commo" hill at four different points in the race, dragging blocks of cement, carrying weighted rucksacks and sandbags. Racers made their way through frigid water in mud trenches, climbed ropes, flipped tires and crawled under a 100-yard barbed-wire mud pit.

Some added an extra adventure to the race.

Toward the end of their race, Diane Santos and Mike Santos of Arizona took the opportunity to exchange vows beneath the cargo net. According to the Spartan website, the two leapt the fire pit together as the Spartan gladiators formed "a guard of honor" around the couple as Mike Santos carried his bride across the finish line.