To the athletes who are tired of running around their block a dozen times for their daily workout: On Saturday, Seven Springs Mountain Resort hosted a daring – and dirty – run for thousands of local competitors.
“Mud on the Mountain,” Seven Springs’ first stab at an “adventure race,” had its opening gun at 8 a.m. Less of a race and more of a test of stamina, participants slogged through a perilous, seven-mile obstacle course that was steeped with mud – all for a little thrill.
How thrilling was it? Take a look at the official Mud on the Mountain waiver form:
Risks I may encounter include, but are not limited to, collisions with natural objects such as trees, rocks, stumps, and other forms of forest growth and debris ... falls; exposure to sun, cold, wind, lightning, and other hazardous weather conditions; hazardous terrain such as drops, cliffs, holes, ditches; slippery surfaces and difficult footing; heat exhaustion; heat stroke; hyperthermia; hypothermia; exhaustion, edema, abnormal heart rhythm; abnormal blood pressure; heart attack; heart failure; seizure; and stroke.
None of that stopped the 2,050 participants as old as 69 from testing their mettle.
The runners, a near-even mix of male and female competitors, came from 21 states and Canada.
“They’re gonna fall, they’re gonna scrape themselves – they keep on going,” said special events coordinator Melissa Cullin. “That’s what it’s about – conquering your fears.”
Those who finished climbed 1,063 feet past 20 physical challenges that dotted the course.
MotM forced runners to climb, jump, crawl and, if they were unlucky, swim to the finish.
Here’s a quick look at some of the devilishly designed obstacles that tested the sodden competitors’ endurance along the course:
- “The Head Banger”: Runners were forced to crawl under nets of barbed wire – reminiscent of Army training drills. Some who poked up their heads may have required a stop at the first-aid station just out of the mouth of the pit.
- “The Belly Flop”: Encouraged to get a running start and leap off the steep drop, The Belly Flop launched the muddied athletes into a bath of frigid lake water.
- “Trout Line”: This one’s all about balance – suspended over a trout-filled pond, the Trout Line at mile five required athletes to cross via a thin rope.
- “Dumpster Dive”: As if the physical intensity of the course wasn’t enough of a shock – the Dumpster Dive is an icy plunge into a lined dumpster that’s been kept just above 33 degrees. The official MotM brochure calls this “exhilarating.”
Cullin said about half of the course utilized the existing terrain – save surrounding foliage that needed to be cleared or cleaned up.
“We wanted to make it difficult, but not evil,” she said.
Jim Gibbons is an IT specialist from Seven Springs’ parent company, Ogden Publications.
Cullin said it was up to him to plot a course that would be fiendish, but also allow runners an easy, visible path forward.
“We don’t want anyone to hurt themselves,” said Cullin.
“Obviously (serious injuries) don’t make for a good time.”
Cullin said that Seven Springs workers were tweaking the slope of the final obstacle even as late as 6 p.m. the evening before.
The blueprints for MotM began to materialize more than a year ago, when event organizers initially dreamed up an extreme obstacle course for visitors.
But given Saturday’s success, communications manager Anna Weltz said next year’s run will be even better.
“We are already planning a bigger, better and dirtier Mud on the Mountain,” she said.
Prospective participants better start training now. First-time mudder James Streets of Greensburg said the toughest part about the course was meeting your limits.
“This is something that totally kicked my butt – no doubt about it,” he said.
“I thought I was in good physical condition, but I’m not even close.”
But the feeling of achievement when crossing the finish line is a rare sensation. The first thoughts when first-timer Courtney Smith of Glassport slid down the 30-foot mound of snow that marked the MotM finish line:
“Freezing! And accomplished,” she said with a laugh.
Smith’s service industry job is about as much exercise as she gets so she said running the event was a personal challenge – one that she and every MotM finisher triumphed over.
Near the midafternoon, Cullin seemed as though she had spent too much time in the maelstrom of Seven Springs’ first adventure race.
“Although it’s been a crazy day, it’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
“That’s why I like my job – it’s fun. At the end of the day, if everyone’s smiling, I’m happy.”