Tough enough: Local compete in different kind of race

Before a mob of nearly 5,000 athletes lies a long stretch of grass. The race’s initial fast break looks easy enough.

Deceptively easy.
Following the hectic running start, called the “Braveheart Charge,” are a series of military-style obstacles over a seven-mile course up hills and through wilderness and mud. And all the while, competitors high-five and cheer each other on.
A small team of rugged – and perhaps slightly crazy – athletes from Northeast Pennsylvania and the surrounding area went through the Tough Mudder once and survived.
And they want to do it again.
No ordinary race
The Tough Mudder, a one-day event that tests fitness, strength, stamina and determination, is more of a challenge than a race.
“I actually never heard of it until my friend Lauren (Benedict) mentioned it to me,” said Cari Reynolds, 24, of Lenoxville. “After a brief description, I couldn’t think of a good reason to not do it.
“It sounded like an absolutely terrible, dangerous thing. But life’s too short not to try stuff.”
Reynolds and Benedict competed at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie this May with a team of more than 15 friends and Sanofi Pasteur coworkers.
The course featured 17 obstacles, including “Fire Walker,” a run between kerosene-soaked stacks of straw; “Kiss of Mud,” a crawl under wire just 8 inches off the ground; and “Berlin Walls,” a series of 12-foot high walls that competitors scrambled to scale.
No real prizes exist for finishing the course; crossing the finish line is reward enough.
“People doing 5Ks or marathons are just running to win,” Reynolds said. “This, you’re running to finish. You just want to make it.
“I came to the realization that I can do anything if I can finish something like this.”
‘My fellow Mudders’
The Tough Mudder pledge, brandished on a sign at the start of the track, calls for camaraderie as the competitors accept the challenge of the race: “I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.”
And while some of the NEPA-led team fell behind, every member crossed the finish line.
“Teamwork was definitely part of my race experience,” said Kristen Wiggins of Tunkhannock. “I learned that some of my coworkers are way tougher than I imagined. I was pretty pumped that every one of us finished without injury and we did it faster than we thought we would.”
Along the way, Wiggins said the team also ran into another group from the Scranton area, and of course, encouragement in the form of quotes from “The Office” ensued.
“Nothing like hearing ‘There ain’t no party like a Scranton party’ and a ‘When I say Dunder, you say Mifflin’ chant when you’re muddy, tired and running aimlessly through the woods,” she said.
Some members of the team plan to compete in November at the Tri-State Tough Mudder, a 12-mile event to be held in Englishtown, N.J.
And next time, they intend to train a little bit differently.
“Definitely a sense of accomplishment came with finishing the race, but I plan on improving on my stamina so I’ll be better prepared,” Reynolds said.
“I’m just looking forward to having another extremely wonderful experience.”