Muckfest MS-Philly: My “Why I Race”

“I DID IT!!!! I was diagnosed 3 yrs. ago. Today is what I needed. I needed to show myself that I may have MS but it sure doesn’t have ME. I did every obstacle. I pushed myself to the limits. The best part is that my husband, 15 yr son and my 65 yr mom did it with me <3 THANK YOU FOR THIS EVENT- feeling strong”.

This was a comment left on Muckfest‘s Facebook page by Beth McDanel Nowaczyk after this past weekend’s event. It’s stories like this and events that raise money for diseases and disorders that affect people and families daily, that remind me how grateful I am to be healthy enough to do OCRs on a weekly basis.


I had never run a Muckfest event, and had minimal knowledge of the course and company going into race day. I knew the sole purpose was to raise money for the National MS Society to fund research. I knew there would be water, mud, and obstacles. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect.


Shuttled parking was organized last minute due to heavy rains forecasted for event day with notice sent out Saturday afternoon(Sunday event). They provided 2 parking location options to be shuttled from. I parked at a high school location and was pleased to see quick and efficient shuttling for a 5-minute drive to the event. At drop off, I immediately noticed the start line way before you approach the registration lines. A much more relaxed approach from many events that wish to monitor racers more closely to assure paid registrants.

Registration was organized and moving throughout the day. As you walk through the registration tent, you immediately notice a massive orange duck in the middle of the event area. A fun, attention grabbing mascot, a different approach from the flexing frog or citizen of Sparta. Muddy participants and families lined up to get a commemorative photo with the huge duck before and after they ran the course.


On a scale of ? to ????? …….(1?=crap to 5????? being Battlefrog elite level), the porta potty situation was a ??. For the 7,300 racers (based on Muckfests confirmation… So probably 6k) for the two day event, they probably could’ve used a few more crappers. Cleanliness was lacking on day 2 (I’ll save you from the photo I got). BUT… Just behind the (??rated), crappers there were 2 large rows of bright orange, single person, full sizepop-up up changing tents. I’m sure this isn’t a new idea but it was the first I’ve seen it and very convenient for post race, private clean up.


The course started with the muddiest, wettest start I’ve encountered for an event….it was awesome. The emcee had dance offs and dared participants to belly flop in the start line mud. It was certainly a fun, energetic beginning, very fitting for this event. Once we were off, the entire heat was slowed and backed up with mud mountain/water pits as the first obstacle. If this were any of the usual, timed, more competitive events I’m used too, this would be the time you’d hear the frustration, groaning and “on your lefts” from the PR crowd.

What I actually saw and encountered amazed me. People were laughing and smiling. Mud was being thrown around and people were being pulled down into the wet mud by friends, teammates and strangers. Throughout the entire course there was minimal grass and dry spots, which enhanced the entire experience and ensured a muddy, wet, good time.


Not expecting the obstacles to be challenging for anyone who’s done multiple OCRs, it was a very pleasant surprise to see they had found a common ground between fun and mentally challenging more so then physically. An event was able to take Tough Mudder style obstacles and adjust them for a first time racer to feel comfortable yet challenged.


There was a platform jump into water, roughly half the height of Savage Races “Davey Jones Locker”. There was balance beams over water that had motivated volunteers pushing oversized, lightweight plastic balls towards you, in an attempt to knock you in the water. That was followed by a sprint across a bridge barely submerged in water while water intermittently sprayed upwards from the surface.


At this point you’d expect some filler obstacles in the form of a wall climb, or tube crawl, which there was. But what I didn’t expect was a 4 lane zip line over water. The rope had a stopper 3/4 of the way over the water that forced you to release into the water or be bounced slightly back on the line before you’d have to release into the water. The fun didn’t end there. Everyone has fun on a swing, but everyone has more fun on a stand up swing that releases you into water, and believe me, from the smiles and laughs all around, everyone had fun. Carousels were always fun as a kid. But hanging rings that you grip as you’re taken for a ride in a circle, suspended over water, is fun as an adult. Of course when you start in mud, you have to end in mud with a crawl to the finish.


I went into the event without any expectations and came out of it with several realizations. In the beginning when the back up caused people to interact and engage with each other on a fun level, as opposed to competitive, I thought that was an anomaly. Until my second lap when I ran into the much anticipated back up at an obstacle such as the 4 lane zip line. Generally this is when you hear the bitching and moaning of participants saying what the race company could’ve done to make this run smoother (everyone’s a race director), but instead I heard friendly conversations and strangers talking amongst each other about their mud run experiences outside of Muckfest, even people suggesting other participants go in front of them in line. It was an extremely unexpected and refreshing social atmosphere all day. Add that to the reported 7,300 registered racers over 2 days, the amazing cause the race supported, and positive experiences all around. Maybe other race companies should take note, this event was a success for the company, the cause, and most of all, for people like Beth who was able to prove to herself and others living with MS that she’s in control of her life and body.

Mike Natale

Mike Natale is an OCR addict who loves life, family & medals!
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