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.

Participants that signed up for MuckFest MS and indicated that they have MS themselves were each sent a bandana declaring “I Muck With MS” and asked to wear it during the race, should they feel comfortable. Christine has never asked for any special attention or consideration because of her diagnosis, but wearing the bandana evoked a sense of pride.

 After MuckFest MS Boston photo.

We tied the bandana around her head, displaying it out in the open for all to see. While walking around prior to our wave, we remarked that there didn’t seem to be many others doing the same. Before long, however, we began to see more and more of the dark teal garments. In our wave alone there were a handful of fighters proudly displaying their MS. There were a few women in their twenties with one tied around their biceps, a man with one tied around his head and an older woman in a tutu with one wrapped around her neck.

When the emcee of the event called on race participants to clap and cheer for those wearing bandannas, specifically pointing out Christine in the process, I saw a wide-range of emotions streak across her face. It started with vulnerability, but ended with a feeling of warmth.

The love continued to flow during the race. A guy, probably college-aged, standing next to us high-fived my wife as we got started. A few minutes in, a woman asked Christine if she was doing OK. While crawling across the dreaded rope wall, people cheered her on as she began her descent from the obstacle.

Those people may tell you that Christine inspired them, but their kindness inspired us.

For an April weekend in New England, the weather could have been much worse. Still, an overcast sky and significant winds made jumping in and out of mud and water a little harder than it had to be. Once we finished the race, I set out to get our towels and clean clothes and returned to find my wife standing alongside a family, no longer trembling from cool air and wet clothes.

The family had wrapped her in one of their precious towels, sparing her a few extra moments of shivering before I arrived with our bags. In one random act of kindness, the family embodied what the MuckFest MS is all about.

Perna family with Puck Muck Duck at MuckFest MS Boston

One Comment on “Crossing the Finish Line Together at MuckFest MS Boston

  1. Your posting made me cry. What an inspiration you both are to so many. My daughter who is 27 was diagnosed in Jan of 2013, while finishing her graduate work in college. What a tough year that was. We started fundraising for MuckFest MS Philly and have had so many great memories because of this event. She also will be proudly wearing the I Muck with MS headband! Good luck to you both and thanks for sharing! ( She also wrote a blog under the Philadelphia site- “Dirty Work”)

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