Mud, Run and Fun at 2013 Ruckus Pittsburgh

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Over the obstacles, and through the mud, to the finish line thousands of runners went Saturday at the 2013 Ruckus Pittsburgh, held at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Ruckus Pittsburgh is a mud run and obstacle course that people of all ages can enjoy – whether it be the 2-mile run, 4-mile run, or Mini-Ruckus for kids. Ruckus Pittsburgh has been held at the Washington County Fairgrounds for the past three years, and Ruckus Pittsburgh uses local vendors and contractors to set up the event.

“(It’s) a really beautiful site,” Vice President of Operations Anton Villatoro said. “Every year, we mix up the course.” The difficult obstacles didn’t seem to faze runners. In fact, runners talked with excitement as they warmed up and stood in line for the race. Wearing bright and colorful T-shirts, workout clothes, and sometimes even zebra-striped socks, many runners looked ready to conquer the difficult “ranger bars” and “lobster traps.”

At the ranger bars, runners had to cross their arms and ankles in an attempt to shimmy across something similar to monkey bars. The lobster traps forced runners to crawl in the mud under traps. By the end of the course, bright T-shirts are a dull brown, workout clothes are barely visible under dried mud, and runners look exhausted. But none of them have a look of defeat on their face.

“I truly feel we’re in the business of elevating self-esteem and self-confidence,” Villatoro said. “(Just) go stand on the finish line, (when) people finish, they feel good about themselves and that makes me feel good.”

Marie Bartoletti, 55, of Bethel Park, said she really wanted to try a mud run. After running in 257 marathons, she seemed well-prepared for the race. But sometimes the height of obstacles proved challenging. “I’m afraid of heights,” she said. “(It’s) hardest climbing over the top. The run part was easy.” Mud-spattered, but happily discussing her running exploits, Bartoletti looked none the worse-for wear having just run a four-mile course through mud and obstacles in less than an hour.

“I’m glad it’s done,” she continued. “I loved coming down the slide. I had no idea what to expect, except I knew there would be mud and obstacles. I didn’t think there would be so many things to climb. Every obstacle surprised me.”

Each runner prepared for the race differently. Nikki Saracco of Mercer said it was a girl’s day for her and her friends Beth Foringer, Michelle Sullivan and Leah Erdos. How did they prepare for the race? By eating pretzel burgers from Wendy’s and eating donuts. Erdos even had a Monster energy drink the day of the race.

When she came in, Saracco saw a few obstacles and thought, “Yea, we can do that one!” Unfortunately for her, it turned out to be the kiddie course.

The “Steel City Buzz” team prepared a little bit differently than Saracco and her friends. Consisting of team captain Rob Phillips of Peters Township, Bill Hinchy of Slatington and Tiana Blount from Claysville, the team is very fitness-focused. The race was Blount’s third Ruckus Pittsburgh event, and she invited her friends to join her. “(We’re) always excited to run as a group,” she said. “(We) did some boot camps, running, and lifting.” The team ate healthy too. Their breakfast? Smoothies with almonds, spinach, blueberries, and whey protein. The night before, they had a competition to see who could eat the most carbs.

“We’re just trying to finish,” Blount said, “(and) see where we stack up according to the younger group.”

Dave Coleman of Pittsburgh finished the race in 35 minutes. He credits Cross Fit and running a lot for preparing him for the race. “(I) didn’t know how hard some of it would be,” he said. “(I) fell once in the mud pit.” To keep going, he told himself: “Keep moving. Don’t stop. If you stop, you’ll be done.”

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