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Training for a military-style run

Father Rich Peck, daughter Jamessina Hille and son

Father Rich Peck, daughter Jamessina Hille and son Matt Peck work out in their father's cross fit style gym he made in his garage in Merrick on Sunday Aug. 24, 2014. The three are training to compete in the combined Military Challenge race in late September. Credit: Kristy Leibowitz

After much prodding from friends at her local Cross Fit gym, Jamessina Hille finally agreed to enter the CMC, the Civilian Military Combine, one of the growing number of military-style obstacle-course races that have emerged around the country in the last few years.

Hille, a 33-year-old-mother of two, decided to do the 2012 combine event at the Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania.

"I said, 'All right, I'll try it,' " Hille recalls. "My dad came along to cheer me on."

Before the race, which consists of a series of strength exercises performed over a five-minute period followed by an obstacle course run, Hille's father, Rich Peck, surprised her with the news that he was going to compete as well. "He said, 'I'm going in,' " she recalls.

"We had a blast,'' he said. "We crossed the finish line together."

Since that first race two years ago, Peck and his daughter, since joined by Hille's brother, Matt, 28, have competed as a family team in six combine races. They plan to do four more this fall, including the local edition of the series, being held at the Aviator Sports & Event Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn on Sept. 27. (The events are scored based on a combination of the number of repetitions completed and the time taken to complete the run, which varies in distance from four to seven miles).

The combine is part of a red-hot trend in fitness. According to Running USA, a Minnesota-based not-for-profit organization that tracks trends in the sport, participation in so-called "Non Traditional Running Events" -- a classification that includes military-style endurance competitions like CMC as well as the popular Mud Runs -- has grown nationally from the low six figures in 2009 to 4 million participants in 2013.

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Mobilized by social media, these events attract a younger audience. At 57, Peck is one of the older competitors in the combine races he does with his children. The three, all of whom live in Merrick, have embraced not only the competitions but the training. Peck has converted his garage into a gym where the family swings kettlebells and hoists barbells in preparation for the combine's strength portion (known as "The Pit"), which, in addition to Brooklyn, includes races in Philadelphia on Sept. 13, Bryce Resort, Virginia, on Oct. 18 and concludes in Baltimore on Dec. 13.

Hille acknowledges that crawling together under barbed wire is hardly the typical family bonding experience. "People say, 'This is what your family does?' " she relates with a laugh. "But we love it. For me, it's the ultimate fitness test."

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