SEVEN SPRINGS, Pa. - Two feet of snow didn't stop nearly 2,500 people from taking on more than seven miles of rugged terrain, an assortment of challenging obstacles and more than 1,000 feet in elevation change at Seven Springs Mountain Resort's Mud on the Mountain on Saturday.
The Laurel Highlands ski resort, located approximately 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, hosted its inaugural adventure race last May with 2,050 participants. Days after the event, the resort finalized a fall date for an encore event.
Participants from 17 states endured 21 obstacles where they were challenged to climb over walls, crawl through mud, balance on a tight rope over a pond, crawl through smashed pumpkins and crawl up a steep mountain "black diamond" slope.
Runners climb over giant logs that were part of Pole Land, an over-and-under obstacle at Mud on the Mountain at Seven Springs.
The goal of Mud on the Mountain is conquering the mountain. Endurance events are designed to test not only the running ability of athletes, but also their ability to overcome mentally and physically challenging obstacles.
"November can be cold here on the mountain," said Anna Weltz, the resort's communications manager, "and there's always a chance for snow this time of year, but no one thought we'd see this much. Superstorm Sandy brought us just shy of two feet of snow."
After the storm, the resort's event team, with tremendous support from the registered participants, decided that the race would go on as scheduled.
"At that moment, our mountain crew hit the hill with their snow cats and plowed the snow off the course, shoveled out obstacles," said Weltz. "Those guys are phenomenal and their dedication is to be commended."
For the safety and health of participants, event officials did remove one obstacle from the course. Dunk, Dunk, Goose required participants to immerse themselves under water three times. Several warming stations staffed with fully-trained first aid responders were placed throughout the course.
"I signed up this summer after doing the race in May," said Ben Gamble, 32, of Latrobe, Pa. "After the snow, I looked forward to it even more. What's more memorable than doing an event like this in the snow?"
Saturday's event was the first adventure for skier Michelle Santia, 47, of Wexford, Pa.
"The water obstacles made it tough," said Santia. "But I'd definitely do it again!"
While completion time was not the goal of Saturday's endurance event, the first man off the course, Nathan Heintzeman, 21, of Plymouth, Minn., finished his tour of the mountain in an 1:08.
Mud, and other obstacle-based events, have grown in popularity in recent years as athletes look for more challenging events to take part in. Mud on the Mountain used both natural and man-made obstacles to provide a unique challenge to participants.
Participants took of f in waves of 230 every 20 minutes for five hours with an average completion time of two-and-a-half hours. While some crossed the finish line covered in mud with an assortment of scrapes and bruises, most runners reached it with a smile and a sense of pride, accomplishment and camaraderie.
Registration for the next Mud on the Mountain, scheduled for May 11, 2013, is now open at www.active.com.