Crossing the Finish Line Together at MuckFest MS Boston

Guest blog post by Andrew Perna, 2015 MuckFest® MS Boston Mucker.

There was a fair amount of hesitation when I first suggested to my wife that we take part in MuckFest MS. We needed to ensure we had a babysitter for a good chunk of the day; something she will admit was initially used to put off registering for the event.

 MuckFest MS Family Photo, Perna blog.

I participated in my first MuckFest MS last April with a friend I usually enter races alongside. My wife, Christine, and I, along with our families, have supported the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for more than 10 years, and I received an email about the MuckFest MS because of my history of fundraising for the annual MS Walk in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The cause is near and dear, so I signed up. It was cold and rainy, but the course was fun and made me feel as though I was making a difference. I told myself that even if I had to run it alone, I’d sign up for MuckFest MS every spring.

When I inquired earlier this year and found out that my friend wouldn’t be able to run alongside me, I hatched the idea of getting Christine to sign up.

She admittedly had a few excuses for not jumping into the mud headfirst. She hasn’t had a lot of time to exercise as a working mom with one-year-old twin boys. More importantly, Christine is the reason MS fundraising and awareness are so meaningful to our family. She was diagnosed with MS in August 2004.

 Before photo of Andrew and Christine Perna, MuckFest MS Boston muckers.

Not much of a runner — she has one 5K on her resume, the Boston Volvo Thanksgiving Road Race a few years ago — her biggest concern was having the legs to make the distance. Privately, I was more concerned about the obstacles. She’s in remarkably good health for someone that was diagnosed with MS more than a decade ago, but without much training, I worried that she wouldn’t have the physical reserves to call on that most people our age (we both turn 30 this summer) possess.

There was never any doubt in my mind that she could do it, it was more a matter of how she’d respond after the race.

All my worries quickly vanished when, as we approached the final stretch, she turned to me and asked if I could smell the hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill just past the finish line. The impending reward was all she needed to finish strong.

After crawling through the last bit of mud, we crossed the finish line holding hands. We have been a couple since meeting on the first day of our freshman year of college and have experienced a lot. Even with mud caked in places mud should never find itself, taking on that course as a duo and winning will always be a highlight.

 Flying Muckers zip line at MuckFest MS Boston. The Swing Set at MuckFest MS Boston

While Christine and I went into the event looking to bond as a couple, we ended up connecting with many people that share a journey similar to ours. Continue reading

Will you marry me?

We witnessed a romantic phenomenon at this past weekend’s MuckFest® MS Boston, where one beautiful couple got mucky and decided to tie the knot. Pro tip for all would-be suitors out there: proposing at an event means never forgetting the story of how you proposed to your paramour. Check out Chris and Robin’s below!

Proposal at MuckFest MS

Thank you so much for reaching out to us, and we would love to share our story with you. First of all, we just wanted to say how much fun we had at MuckFest MS Boston. Before I met my fiancée, I actually used to live in Ayer, and I would frequently play the disc golf course in Devens on Saturday mornings. Back in 2013, I passed by the MuckFest MS course on my way to disc golf and wondered what was going on at the Devens site. I did some research and found out what it was all about, and it sounded like a great time.

Cut to June of 2013, and I met Robin (actually through the company that I work for, believe it or not). The owner and his wife, Robin’s sister, asked if I was interested in going on a date with Robin. I was hesitant at first, knowing that if I were to screw it up, things might not go so well for me at work, lol. But I had met Robin at a company party a few years before, so I already knew what an amazing and caring person she was.

After I treaded lightly on a few dates, we decided to run the Warrior Dash together in June of 2013, and that is where we fell in love with each other. I knew from that moment on, she was the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So, early this year when I found out that MuckFest MS was coming around again at Devens, I knew that it would be a great place to share this special moment with family and friends present.

I had been planning this day since January of this year and could not wait for it to come. My original plan was to strap on my GoPro camera and I would ask Robin to marry me on video mid-way through the course. I concealed the ring in a little pocket in my shorts and I wrapped the ring in a small plastic bag so it would not get wet. It was a little nerve wracking to be honest, and I had to keep checking the pouch to make sure it was still there after every obstacle.

Well, 5 or 6 obstacles in I was at Swing Set, and when I jumped into the water, I lost the GoPro in a 6ft pool of freezing cold water. My plan of filming my proposal was out the door! Luckily, when I crossed the finish line, I had family members there that were taking pictures and video, so they were able to capture it on film for us. And most importantly, after asking the question, she said, “Yes!” which is most important of all!

Side note, I went back to check, and the MuckFest MS staff found my GoPro after the event, so we’re going to be watching the video tonight.

MuckFest Boston will forever be special to us, and we will be running this race every year going forward! We have already set a date for a fall wedding in October of 2016. Thank you again for putting on a great event that goes to such a great cause!
Chris LaTouche & bride-to-be Robin Holder, the soon to be Mrs. Robin LaTouche

Team “We’re Getting Mucking Married” at MuckFest MS Boston

Buy wedding dress? Check. Pick out wedding cake? Check. Ask bridal party to join team We’re Getting Mucking Married? CHECK.

Boston Blog about Bride and Groom

Meet Ashley and her fiancé, Johnny, two Bostonians ready to tie the knot, both at their wedding and on their MuckFest® MS tennis shoes as the co-founders of team We’re Getting Mucking Married in Boston. We caught up with Ashley on event day for the details.

Is this your first MuckFest MS?

This is my second MuckFest MS event. We had so much fun last year and couldn’t wait to do it again!

Who is on your MuckFest MS team?

My team includes my fiancé Johnny, five bridesmaids, a groomsman, and several special plus-ones.

We LOVE that you’re doing MuckFest MS with your wedding party and loved ones in celebration of your special day. Why did you and your groom decide to celebrate at MuckFest MS?
We really enjoyed running last year and knew we wanted to do it again. We thought it would be fun to get our friends/family together to raise awareness for MS and to let loose and run through the mud.

Why is fundraising for the National MS Society important to you and your groom?

As a nurse, I know how unpredictable this disease can be. We want to do all we can to help those living with MS and to hopefully help find a cure.

What are you most excited for at MuckFest MS Boston?

I am excited to challenge myself by running the entire course through the mud. We’ve been in wedding planning/house buying mode, and MuckFest MS gives us a day to take a break from all that and to have fun with those closest to us for an incredible cause.

Event Recap: MuckFest MS Boston 2015

Now that’s how to get the party started!

Outstanding, Boston! You delivered in a big way, going above and beyond our muckiest dreams! After a winter that would make even the toughest among us cry, “Uncle!” you showed up on a sunny (and chilly) weekend ready to muck it, demonstrating that Boston Strong is a tradition. We loved seeing you conquer and own the three new obstacles, but after watching you on the Crash Landing, we think some of you have a second career as a stunt double. Speaking of stunts, way to celebrate in the MuckFestival area after the run, playing Giant Beer Pong and thoroughly enjoying the Traveler Beer, provided by our muck-tacular national sponsor. A sincere thanks to all the great volunteers; it all worked, and worked beautifully because of you and all your efforts. Thanks to the Willard Athletic Complex for being such a wonderful host and allowing us to muck about on your site for the weekend.

A sneak peek at event photos available here! All event photography will be available later this week via our Facebook page.

Boston information.

REBLOG from New England Spahtens: “Featured Review: MuckFestMS”

Featured Review: MuckFest MS

The original post is available on the New England Spahtens’ blog. Thanks for your continued support of MuckFest MS and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society!

“Michael Carr took on the duty of writing us a review for MuckFestMS 2015 – Michael has run multiple MuckFest’s and many *many* other events, from fun runs to GoRucks to endurance races – always smiling, always helping others, I can’t thank him enough for taking this duty on for the community!

As the OCR industry continues to expand, we have seen many niches form. The upside to this is that it helps grow the overall sport by reaching different types of people with different interests, abilities, and goals. For the ultra-elite athlete looking to see where they measure up to their peers, we have the OCR World Championship race, and those that lead up to it. For the obstacle hungry, we have courses like Shale Hill and BoldrDash, which feature a very high obstacle per mile density. We have themed races featuring zombies. We have winter races. We even have color runs and foam runs, on the fringe of this industry.
And then we have MuckFest. Where does it fit? Well, first, keep in mind that 100% of the proceeds go to charity (specifically, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation). Second, know that it is not a timed race. There is no podium, no placement, no timing chips. Also, the obstacles, for most of us seasoned “hard-core” OCR athletes, are not particularly challenging. For their target demographic, however, they may be the hardest thing these people have ever done. The bottom line is MuckFest is a “fun run”, in the mud, with some really fun obstacles. If you go into it with that mindset, it is very hard not to have a blast at this race. Judging by the muddy smiles at the finish line and folks swapping stories at the beer tent, they succeeded big time, for the third year in a row.
Let’s start with the operation and venue. For the third year in a row, MuckFest Boston has been hosted at Ft. Devens, a perfect spot for a race like this. Some short hills and backwoods trail running immediately take most people that sign up for this race out of their element. Onsite parking is free and plentiful, and in no case more than 1/4-mile walk from the start. Registration is a breeze, with plenty of lanes for racers. Ample porta-potties, huge mens and womens changing tent, a merch tent, a beer & food area, and hose-type showers were all present in the infield festival area. At the 1.5-mi mark were more porta-potties and a water station. Security & staff were clearly present and visible, and there were always volunteers at every obstacle. Like most OCRs today, people were sent out in waves, every 30 minutes. Some logjam may have been prevented by using 15-minute intervals (more on this later). The start line MC was great — not the same rah-rah, testosterone pumping delivery as the well know Tough Mudder front man, but definitely more fun, and keeping in the spirit of this particular event.

2015-04-25 13.30.21

Now a little about the race itself. After the hounds are released, we immediately ran through a rain stream, so you start off out of the gate wet. It’s really fun watching the reaction of newcomers to the sport who have no idea what they are in for. Next up, a series of four muddy up and overs, each one higher than the next. A short run from there, still in the infield area visible to all guests and supporters, is one of their signature obstacles: Big Balls. Going through alone is a no challenge at all. Going through while the other 200 people in your wave are pushing and shoving their way through at the same time is surprisingly difficult. And again, listening to the laughs, giggles, and screams is just the beginning. Up next just a short distance away (still within 3-4 minutes of the start) is the first backup: the 2015-04-25 13.31.36Spider Web. A take on the traditional barbed wire crawl, made with bungies. The idea is to weave between the ankle high cords and the belly-button high cords. But as 200 other participants crowd into this, it basically just turns into everyone stepping over all the cords, pushing them to the ground with each step. With 3-4 people entering this obstacle, it is challenging and passable. With the mass that descended upon it because it is so close to the start, it is impossible to do as intended. Once through, it’s a third-mile mostly uphill run to the first water obstacle, just a simple pit dug into the ground, lined with tarp, and filled with water — waist-deep water. Up and over a big mound, 2015-04-25 13.36.52and more running. To the next signature obstacle, the Ring Swing — a rotating structure over a moat. This year, they replaced the ropes with gymnastic rings. This greatly improved the success rate over the last two years. Racers grabbed onto a ring and hung on as it spun (slowly) around in a circle, dropping them off 270deg later. After this a short run along the street and back into the woods, and the next obstacle, a twist on last year’s high-low rope traverse. This year, they added another set of ropes running perpendicular. Not only did this improve flow and prevent additional backup, it added a little more challenge to the obstacle, as you had to contend with another racer crossing your path. 2015-04-25 13.38.51Another short run, and onto their newest obstacle, one that this racer has never seen at any race: a zip-line over a 8′ water pit. And the zip-line ended before the edge of the pit, so no matter how skillfully you handled the zip-line, you were dropping into the muck. Continuing on, shortly ahead is a favorite from previous races, the Swing Set. Stand on a giant swing and try to build up as much momentum to launch yourself as far into the water pit as possible. Regardless, you still going in up to your head and swimming out. After another short run, a new obstacle that was 2015-04-25 13.46.45really challening, the Balance Bridge. Even if you are able to keep your balance and cross without falling in, the volunteers are at the controls of water cannons that will surely get you wet (and possibly disrupt your balance). After that, anoter twist on the familiar corrugated tubes: on rollers. As you crawl through the tubes, volunteers rotate them — sometimes with great enthusiasm! This was actually one of the hardest obstacles. Next up: a platform jump into a deep water pit. Not nearly as2015-04-25 13.59.51high as Tough Mudder’s Leap of Faith, but not everyone is looking for the TM experience. Coming out of the woods and back into the infield area, the next obstacle is actually the Spider-Web station, serving double duty, as a cargo net up-across-down. This was a pretty big logjam, due to the volunteers only allowing 5 climbers at a time. This was a big change over the last 2 years, in which there wasn’t really a volunteer “controlling” the station. There were 20-30 people on that obstacle at a time last year. They were certainly erring on the side of safety and caution this year. A few people grumbled about the long wait, but most people (again, keeping the target demographic in mind) were just taking the opportunity the catch their breath and share some laughs.2015-04-25 14.07.55Right after that, was another cargo net obstacle, a simple (but very high) A-frame. Then on to a long grass out-and back run to another brand new obstacle, a giant air bag, and racer’s choice of low or high platform off of which to jump. Here too, was a significant backup at certain times of the day. Finally, the last two obstacles immediately before the finish, both extremely muddy: Skid Mark and Belly Crawl .

On this specific day (Saturday), temps were in the low-40s at the start, and rose to mid-50s in the early afternoon. Overnight had been upper-30s, so you can believe that the water obstacles were very cold, especially in the first few waves. The water warmed up significantly by noon, and really 2015-04-25 14.15.04wasn’t bad at all. Most people were shocked at first, gasped maybe, caught their breath, and just moved on, warming up by running. At the end, most people spoke of it as a badge of honor, having endured something they don’t normally do in the normal lives. Your registration got you a free event-specific t-shirt, a beer, a snack bag, a really neat orange MuckFest cup, and a lunch voucher. Also in the infield area were games for adults and kids, such as a “log roll” in a raised pool, and there was also a “kid’s race” (which the writer knows nothing about).

So, all in all, the vast majority of people this writer saw and talked to during and after the race had a great time. It is true that this race would not challenge many of our elite athletes to their limits, and may not appeal to everyone, but, it certainly succeeded in appealing to their target audience. Looking around, most people were part of a small-to-medium sized team, each with unique team-specific shirts made just for this event. Participants really put a lot of time and effort (e.g., fund-raising) into this event, which is readily seen. The event was sold-out for Saturday, and nearly at capacity on Sunday as well, so they are clearly doing something right. So if beating your PR time is your goal, consider a Spartan Sprint, but if having a really fun time with a group of friends, and doing it all in the name of a really great cause, this race is a no-brainer.”

Message from MuckFest MS Staff: MuckFestival Additions


We have some awesome additions to our course and MuckFestival area for 2015. Not to spoil all of our surprises, but we’re excited to announce that a new sound system, giant beer pong, a custom washer game, corn hole, and log rolling will be making an appearance at select 2015 events.

Giant beer pong at MuckFest MS

In addition, we’ve made some changes to how you pick up your t-shirt/snack and the changing area that we think will help make your MuckFest MS experience even better.

While we still have many other new surprises up our sleeves for 2015, two of our most important additions involve how we’re working towards a world free of MS.

At the finish line, we’re starting a new tradition where you’ll rub our giant Gold Duck pedestal and ring a bell to show your support of a world free of MS.

MuckFest MS finish line I MUCK IT WITH MS is a special new National MS Society program that celebrates participants who are also living with multiple sclerosis. MuckFest MS participants with MS can wear the blue I MUCK IT WITH MS bandanas on the event. The bandanas will be given to participants who selected “I have MS” in response to the registration question, “What is your connection to MS?”

I Muck It With MS Bandana

We can’t wait to get mucky with you. Full schedule available here.

–MuckFest MS Staff

National Volunteer Week – Ross Chapman, MuckFest MS Boston Volunteer

Since my very first National Multiple Sclerosis Society event, I have had a longing to contribute to something larger than myself…to be a part of something that will help make a difference in the lives of other people. It has become my source of joy to participate as a volunteer for many of the Bike MS and Walk MS events for the National MS Society. The decision to be a part of the MuckFest® MS seemed like a natural thing to do.

Blog Volunteer, National Volunteer Week

This decision proved to be an exhilarating time with friends and an excellent opportunity to meet new friends. As with every event I participate in, regardless of any repetition, each time offers something new and inspiring.

As a volunteer, the enthusiasm of participants and other volunteers charges and amazes me. It would seem that there is no mountain too big, no puddle too deep, and no obstacle too insurmountable to be impassable for the determined participant set to meet the demands of the MuckFest MS event.

When the time comes to pack up and head home, I take with me that charge and enthusiasm to make a difference until next time, when we will gather to do it all again.

–Ross Chapman, MuckFest MS Boston Volunteer


Want to volunteer at MuckFest MS? Sign up here.

Inspiring Muckers: MuckFest MS Boston, Marc Mingolelli of Mingo Muckers

UPDATED ON 4/28: Check out the Mingo Muckers team at MuckFest MS Boston 2015!

MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7 MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7   MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7 MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7 MingosMuckers_MuckFestMS_Boston_2015_7

Original Post

We’re excited to sit down with Marc Mingolelli, team member of MuckFest® MS Boston’s Mingo Muckers.

MuckFest MS Boston, Marc Mingolelli's Blog

Tell us about your connection to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

It may sound strange, but I am happy to know that my brother has MS. About seven years ago, Mike was complaining of dizziness and blurred speech. Finally, another episode occurred, and he was rushed to an emergency room where doctors told us he had cancer, and it was not good. The diagnosis made all of us scared and nervous for two weeks while tests were being conducted. When the news finally came back that it was MS, we were relieved – although there is no cure for it yet, every day strides are made to find one and people with MS can still live long, productive lives.

How did you first get involved with Muck Fest MS?

To complement Mike’s role on the New England Board, the family wanted to find a way to help raise awareness and money for the MS Society. We are not a family of long distance runners or walkers. We like to have fun and bring people together. Participating in MuckFest MS accomplishes this goal – getting dirty is just an added benefit! Our biggest challenge was coming up with a name and slogan. We ultimately decided on the Mingo Muckers, where “Finding a Cure is Dirty Work.”

MuckFest MS Boston, Marc Mingolelli's Blog Continue reading