Wearing only patriotic “Rocky” trunks, Chris D’Amico crawled through a 40-foot mud pit, inching his way closer and closer to the finish line as sweat, rain and mud dripped down his face.
D’Amico, running alongside his girlfriend, was among the hundreds to try out the Long Island Adventure Race 5K Obstacle/Mud Run at EPCAL in Calverton on Saturday.
“I train six days a week at L.A. Fitness, and this run pushes you to your limits,” said D’Amico, 31, of Centereach. “It’s definitely an experience I’ll remember, and so much more fun and challenging than any other survival-type, rugged race I’ve tried.”
Co-organizers Bill Borges, 42, of Baiting Hollow, and his cousin Chris Witt, 39, of Riverhead, began planning for the run last December, but spent the past week building the course.
“It’s only 48 degrees, windy, rainy and cold," Borges said around the 9 a.m. start time as 600 people gathered to compete. "But honestly the rain makes more mud, which makes the experience even better.”
Groups of 50 people took off from the start every five minutes. Teams and individuals ages 8 and older braved the weather, traveling from all over the tri-state area, and as far away as California, supporting one another from obstacle to obstacle.
“We wanted to gear the course towards young kids to competitive athletes,” Borges said. “The obstacles are split in half. The easy route has a green diamond and the other route has a black diamond, which is the more advanced route for experienced athletes.”
The best part: Runners had no idea what the obstacle course would look like.
In between running 3.1 miles through hilly terrain, runners had to conquer a 4-foot wall, slide across a 60-foot slip and slide and search for two golf balls in a foam pit. As they neared the finish line, they climbed a 10-foot wall, plunged into a Dumpster filled with water, walked across a log over a mud pit, hopped over ropes and crawled through mud.
The run benefited charities including the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, North Fork Breast Health Coalition, Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, the Heidi Behr Scholarship Fund, Riverhead Youth Bureau and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The first woman to finish from the initial group, in 33 minutes, was Suzy Heffernan. Her husband and daughter cheered her on as she reached the finish line, with rain and mud dripping down her legs.
“I had no idea what to expect,” said Heffernan, 42, of Cutchogue. “The obstacles were so challenging, but so much fun. It’s definitely not your typical 5k and I run 5ks often.”
Another woman, Debbie Franchi, wore a tutu and princess crown to embarrass her son Matthew, 13, who ran alongside her, but later left her in the dust.
“I loved it so much that I’m going to run again in August,” said Franchi, 48, of Manorville. “I’ve ran a 5K before, but this was an entirely different experience. I’m so glad I did it.”