Stephanie Purka was exhausted Saturday as she reached the halfway point of a 9 1⁄2 -mile obstacle course of muddy trenches, steep climbs up slides and metal rings dangling above pools of water.
But the Farmingdale woman also was buoyed by how strangers stopped to help her, a friend and others make it through the Tough Mudder course at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
“It makes you feel good inside and gives you hope,” said Purka, 24.
The course is one of 130 Tough Mudders around the world in 2017, the Brooklyn-based company said. More than 8,500 people from several states were expected to participate in Saturday’s event and Sunday’s half-course, said spokeswoman Angela Alfano.
The thought of thousands of sweaty people slogging through pits of mud and darting past historic buildings amid the re-creation of a mid-19th century Long Island village has raised the ire of preservationists such as Natalie Naylor since before the event’s debut at Old Bethpage in 2015.
Naylor, president of the Nassau County Historical Society, worries that a historic structure could get damaged, and asserts that a muddy obstacle course is “an inappropriate use” of an open-air museum.
Nassau County spokesman Ed Ward said Tough Mudder has never damaged the site, and the company is required to restore it to its pre-event state. Tough Mudder pays the county a $50,000 fee and pumps money into the local economy, he said.
For participants like Corinne Mahoney, 44, of Lynbrook, Tough Mudder is an excuse to act like a kid again.
“It’s like a playground for grown-ups,” Mahoney said after resting with friends at the finish line, beer in hand.
Some of the obstacles are impossible to complete without help from others. In “Block Ness Monster,” participants standing in water up to their chests or necks grab onto a large plastic-coated wooden rectangular block and can only get to a second pool of water if people on the other side pull the block down, so it spins around.
Throughout the course, participants shout “You got this!” and “Do it, bro!” to encourage each other.
“You don’t have to ask anybody for help,” said Mike Perry, 32, of Mastic. “If you see someone falling, you pick them up.”