About 8,000 mud-soaked athletes descended on the historic grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration over the weekend to participate in endurance tests with names like "Arctic Enema" and "Everest."
For the fourth consecutive year, the Tough Mudder challenge series took over the living history museum that spans more than 200 acres in Old Bethpage. The events, which include muddy exercises and running through an ice bath, spanned two days on the secluded property that, on any other day, might host a school trip visiting farmhouses, livestock and actors in Colonial garb.
On Sunday, live music blared and spectators cheered as participants trudged through miles of course obstacles, including the muddy "Everest," a sprint up a halfpipe into the hands of teammates. Off to the side, two Nassau County police officers smiled in front of a red wooden building.
"You slip really easily," Kyle Miller, 48, of Medford, said of the challenge. He was among 40 teammates sponsored by Oerlikon Metco, a Westbury provider of surface solutions, where he works as director of financial planning and analysis.
The key to success, he said, is for those atop the pipe to "just keep grabbing body parts till you get them over the wall," he said. "Never give up."
Annie Kim, 28, of Queens, was participating in the 5K race — a new challenge added this year to the Tough Mudder, which also features a 10-mile and 5-mile race. Midway through the obstacle course, she acknowledged, "I feel underprepared, undertrained, but everybody is helping out."
"Peer pressure" is why she signed up, Kim said with a laugh, pointing to her teammates, one of whom denied the charge.
Tough Mudder has had its detractors who say the event's organizers should look for a more appropriate setting than the grounds of a Colonial recreation.
“It’s an abominable kind of thing to do at Old Bethpage. I’m sure Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village would never even think of having such an event," said Natalie Naylor, president of the Nassau County Historical Society and a longtime opponent of the race.
Naylor, who opposed the county hosting Tough Mudder at Old Bethpage during the administration of former Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, said she was disappointed that the administration of his successor, Democrat Laura Curran, was continuing the practice.
Tough Mudder pays $50,000 in permitting fees, said Nassau County Parks Commissioner Eileen Krieb, adding organizers were "very good partners to work with" and that no damage had occurred in previous years. The county also holds a $25,000 security fee from the company. "The people that are participating are not there to do any type of vandalism; they're just there for a good time.”
Event director Robyn Pigozzi said organizers will stay for a week to finish cleaning up the property, restoring the grounds and reseeding where needed. "We want our participants to be able to see it, to see the beauty of the property, but we don't actually want them to touch it," she said.