From the roadway, the campus of Bethesda Children’s Home appears rather compact.
There is a group of buildings used for housing, schooling and administrative work. Accompanying them are two large carved wooden sculptures and a basketball court. From Route 86, that’s pretty much all that is within eyesight.
Spread out behind those buildings, however, are 300-plus acres of woods and trails. Muddy trails. Trails usually used for dirt bike riding. Trails perfect for ... a mud run.
“This place is ideal,” Bethesda’s Chief Executive Officer Gene Wisinski said.
Wisinski first came up with the idea of a mud run at Bethesda while taking a ride along the trails in the home’s big backyard.
“I had been talking to a couple girls from Bill Lawrence’s Personal Fitness who said they were going to do the Warrior Dash (in Ohio),” Wisinski said. “I thought, ‘We could turn these trails into one of those mud runs.’”
What exactly is a mud run?
Well, it’s not your everyday jog through the park. Yes, there is running — usually a 5K or better. But there are also obstacles, such as hills to ascend, walls to climb, tunnels to crawl through and tree limbs to scoot under. And mud, lots of mud.
Some of these events can get a little extreme, incorporating elements such as ice cold water, fire, even electric shocks.
According to a recent story in “Men’s Journal,” this form of voluntary torture is really booming, evolving into a $70-million industry in the span of just two years.
“These things are really taking off,” Wisinski said.
So, Bethesda Children’s Home is getting into the game. Its inaugural 5K Mud Run is set for Oct. 27 at the campus. Registration is $40 per participant and includes a T-shirt. The event will close with a bonfire, food and beverages, and music by the band (appropriately enough) Face Down in High Water. Refreshments will also be available throughout the day. Parking for the event is free.
All proceeds will benefit Bethesda’s “Rebuilding Lives ... One at a Time” capital campaign.
Wisinski said close to 200 people have already signed up for the event. And while Bethesda’s Mud Run won’t be as insane as some other events held across the country, those who sign up had better be ready for a challenge.
As of Tuesday, not all of the obstacles along the trail had been completed. Organizers were still toying around with a few ideas in the final weeks leading up to the event.
One thing is for sure, though. There is mud and there is plenty of it.
“This is why we will be Duct taping their shoes,” Wisinski said last week while giving The Meadville Tribune a tour of the route. Piloting an enclosed ATV, Wisinski steers into a pool of mud and water that looked like just another puddle, until the front end of the ATV nearly disappeared into what turned out to be a pretty significant crater.
“I think these will surprise a few people,” Wisinski said.
The first mud puddle comes after about 250 yards of level ground covered in colorful leaves that continue to fall from the trees. The view is picturesque; calming you might say.
“The beginning kind of teases you,” Wisinski said. “It’s pretty simple and easy and then you get to this stuff.”
The mud is only the beginning. Also scattered throughout the course are a couple of climbing obstacles made of hay. There are tubes to crawl through, walls to scale and tree limbs and trunks to maneuver around. Some obstacles give participants an option to climb over, or crawl under them through the mud.
“I think the appeal is that it gives you the opportunity to be a kid again,” said Amy Gregg, who has participated in the Warrior Dash in Ohio the last two years. “They’re fun. It’s different than your ordinary 5K race. It’s not every day that you’re climbing, crawling around in the dirt, getting muddy and jumping over fire.”
Gregg participated in her first Warrior Dash in 2011 in Carrollton, Ohio, located about 25 miles from Canton. She participated again in 2012 and said she is already looking forward to next year’s event.
She’s pleased to see a similar event in Meadville and believes it will be a big hit.
“It’s really great to see a local organization like Bethesda do this,” Gregg said. “We have had to travel two to three hours away to participate in the Warrior Dashes. I think it will be a huge success for them and the community. And who knows where it will go from here.”
Wisinski said he is nearing retirement and isn’t too sure what the future will bring as far as the Mud Run goes, but he expects it to be an ongoing fundraiser.
The Mud Run is open to anyone. Wisinski said so far participants are between 8 and 67 years old and will be coming from as far away Elkhart, Ind. He said their running background ranges from novice to “weekend warrior.” Gregg agreed that anyone can participate.
“(The mud runs are) open to anyone from serious athletes, to weekend warriors to everyday people,” she said. “You can come out and walk it and even skip the obstacles if they frighten you. Sometimes you can even conquer some fears along the way.”
All mudders looking to participate at the Bethesda event are encouraged to bring sturdy gloves, Duct tape, a towel, a change of clothes, a plastic bag for dirty clothes, a sense of humor, and “an optional longing to befriend a fire hose.”
(Word is, participants will be cleaned off by fire hoses at the conclusion of their run.)
Several volunteers will be on site, including students from Bethesda Children’s Home, Allegheny College and Meadville Area Senior High School, as well as emergency personnel from Bloomfield, Centerville and West Mead townships.
You can go
The Bethesda Children’s Home 5K Mud Run is Oct. 27 at 10 a.m. To register, call 724-7510, ext. 228 or visit bethesda-home.org.
National Youth Project Using Mini-Bikes
Bethesda Children’s Home is a Christian ministry that provides behavioral health services to children, youth and families. Residents are involved in a number of activities on campus both indoor and outdoor. One of those activities is the National Youth Project Using Mini-Bikes program, which takes place along the course that will be used for the upcoming 5K Mud Run.
In the program, students sign a contract that sets guidelines for appropriate behavior at home, school, in the community or in the residential units at Bethesda. Chief Executive Officer Gene Wisinski said the students promise to attend school and keep good grades and to not use alcohol or drugs.
Good behavior and grades results in safety training on the bikes and the right to ride the bikes along the trail system.