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Events: Tussey Mountain hosts Hardcore obstacle-course event

on August 27, 2012 2:40 PM

   As local firefighters, Gideon Schwartz and Rich Olsen know about teamwork and camaraderie. The two wanted to put together an event where others could experience those things as well with friends or coworkers.

   As a result, on September 8 and 9, Tussey Mountain will be turned into a 6.5-mile obstacle course where participants will have to crawl through mud (maybe even with fire over them), climb walls and cargo nets up to 25-feet high, and jump from logs. The first Hardcore Mudd Run took over a year to plan, but it is attracting participants both locally and across the country.

   Margaret Schlachter of Vermont has competed in nearly 20 mud runs all across the country since 2010. She normally competes as an individual, but she is always ready and eager to help out a fellow racer, as well as receive help when she needs it.

   “I will be competing at the Hardcore Mudd Run alone, but will most likely be helping or looking for help from fellow competitors. The walls can be challenging if they are over 10-feet tall because I am only 5-foot-4,” she says.

   Having seen an assortment of different obstacles during her mud-run career, the one obstacle that stopped her a bit was one where participants could be electrically shocked. Though she did complete it, the idea of it was a bit daunting, she says.

   There is a possibility that the Hardcore Mudd Run may have an obstacle with electric wires, but no one will know any of the obstacles until the day of the race.

   “The unknown can be the toughest. You don’t want to go too hard in the beginning and bonk before the finish, but leave too much for the end and you will be unhappy with not giving 100 percent,” Schlachter says.

   The event is different than most other runs because it is not timed. Timers will not be handed out to the participants before they start, and, in fact, there will not even be a clock shown on the course because Schwartz and Olsen don’t want time on the participants’ minds.

   “It is not about beating somebody, it is about beating yourself. It is about overcoming yourself when you are saying that you can’t do it,” Schwartz says.

   With an impressive reputation in the obstacle-racing community, Schlachter is used to competing with fellow runners and showing her aggressive side, but she is really looking forward to the unity of this race.

   “It will definitely be different for me — not having a clock on me — but I am greatly looking forward to being able to help people out and just run for pure fun and meet people on course,” Schlachter says.

   While seeing people work together and overcome their fears is rewarding, Schwartz and Olsen find that being able to help multiple charities is more satisfying. A portion of the money raised from the Hardcore Mudd Run will go toward the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital (part of the Children’s Miracle Network) at Geisinger, and Umuryango Children’s Network.

   “This is a fantastic addition to our fundraisers and fundraising groups, not only monetarily but it is an event that reaches people from across the country. People come from California and they get to come help us raise money for our local children’s hospital,” Children’s Miracle Network coordinator Vanessa Houser says.

   The Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger is devoted to helping kids with different illnesses and injuries. Olsen says some Children’s Miracle Network families will attend the mud run and meet with people to share their stories.

   Umuryango’s Children’s Network is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to take street children from Rwanda and place them in family homes where their needs are met. This allows them to grow up and become fully integrated into the community.

   “They take them in, give them shelter, spiritual guidance and education, and help them become productive members of society who can help build Rwanda back up,” Umuryango Children’s Network board member Bruce Eveleth says. “And along with a monetary donation, participants are also asked to donate their shoes after the run to help put shoes on the people in Rwanda.”

   Schwartz and Olsen started planning this event in the spring of 2011. The course runs up and down the terrains of Tussey Mountain, and if that is not hard enough, add the 18 to 20 obstacles into the mix. The two actually created 50 obstacles that they will be choosing from, including crawling under fire, running in mud, swimming in ice water, jumping from logs, and climbing walls and cargo nets.

   Facing the obstacles is where people will really challenge their strength and minds. Mastering many obstacles is not possible unless there is help from others.

   “Fear is a big thing to overcome,” Schwartz says. “People are afraid of heights, so if you have a big gigantic team, you can use that teamwork and camaraderie to get each other through the course, and that is what we are looking for.”

   Anyone can register, as an individual or with a team, as long as they are 18 years or older. There is no limit to the number of people per team, but all team members must finish together, which can be tough with larger teams.

   “It is definitely easier to come with a big team, but there are advantages for a small team. It is easy for a large team to get through the course, but it is hard to get that larger group throughout the whole course together,” Schwartz says.

   Because some obstacles may be too difficult for some of the runners, it is not required that everyone completes every obstacle. However, it is required that everyone at least tries to complete every obstacle. If someone does not even attempt an obstacle they will be stripped of their race number and won’t get the T-shirt at the end of the run or the pride of being able to say they are hardcore.

   “You don’t have to be in excellent shape to do this event. It takes your mind, heart, and spirit … but it doesn’t hurt to be in good shape,” Olsen says.

   Schlachter, the creator of the Dirt in Your Skirt Web site, blogs about her experiences through the obstacle-race season. She encourages and advises her readers through her personal stories.

   “It’s all about running your own race,” she says. “Anyone can do these events. They are a great opportunity for you to learn a little bit about yourself.”

   After participants finish the course, awards will be given and there will be a post-party. Since the run was not timed, participants will not be awarded for stellar performances, yet one male and one female will be awarded for the best teamwork displayed during the run. Those are called the Brotherhood and Sisterhood awards. Other awards include Best Original Costume, Largest Team Completed, Furthest Distance Traveled, Most Adversity Overcome, and the Best Birthday Suit, which one can probably guess is the person who finishes wearing the least amount of clothing, while still keeping it legal.

   “I have seen some pretty interesting costumes at other mud runs. There was a Fred Flintstone, an Avatar, a team came as the Blue Man Group, and there were four men who wore wedding dresses. So people get pretty into it,” Schwartz says.

   While this is Schwartz and Olsen’s first event, it is certainly not their last. They are currently planning 2013 mud runs in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas. Each will vary in distance and difficulty, but for the real hardcore mud runners they want to have an Ultimate Hardcore Mudd Run at the end of next year that will be 26 miles long and include all 50 obstacles.

   Schlachter has participated in mud runs that go for 24 hours, and will be doing her first marathon-distance obstacle race this month as well, so an ultimate mud run is something she would consider.

   “I love longer distances, however your approach changes and everything slows down. The hardest part of long races is proper nutrition and pacing,” she says.

   The Hardcore Mudd Run starts 8 a.m. both days — rain or shine.

   “It’s a mud run,” — Schwartz says — “we pray for rain.”

   For more information on the Hardcore Mudd Run, visit

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