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I woke up early as I had over a 130 mile drive to Utica NY. I met up with my friend Raymond Figarella (we recently met at the Zombie Run in Pennsylvania on August 30th) and we were off to Utica. The temperature outside was only about 52 degrees and it looked like rain would be starting shortly. We made great time and arrived to Utica with zero delays. We exited the highway and immediately saw signs that pointed us in the right direction to The Mighty Run and this was awesome because my GPS was going to take us to the wrong direction. The signs where abundant and made finding our way a breeze!

We parked and it was raining cats and dogs. I was impressed to see so many parked cars and people. We entered the event area and right away I was impressed with the layout. It was easy to see where we needed to go to register and we also could see where all the other tents where. I was extremely impressed with the portable amenities they had on site, they had top flight outdoor showers and portable indoor heated showers! They also had a really nice high end portable sink which you would only expect to see at some of the million dollar OCR events. We registered really fast and the ladies were awesome.

We quickly made our way over the large bag check tent. The reason we went to the bag check tent was they did not have dedicated changing tents; I was wearing most of my gear under my shorts so this tent would do just fine. While getting my gear on, I noticed a lot of cold and shivering people that had already completed the course but they all were very happy and having a good time regardless of the weather.

Raymond and I waited in the bag check tent until the very last minute for our start time to stay dry and avoid the wind! Raymond and I decided to run the two man version of the course wearing our “High Altitude Training Masks”. Raymond had “one rule” once the masks go on, they do not come off until the course was finished. I was cool with the rule, and only took it off in the heavy water obstacles to make sure it was not damaged and then immediately put it back on. Considering the weather, the DJ was in a great spirits and doing an adequate job pumping up the crowd and participants.

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The race started and this was a new experience for me to be running in such cold weather. The training mask seemed to be helping keep my face warm and my breathing regulated. The course was great and all the obstacles where well-built and a lots of fun. The course included monkey bars, a tires hill climb, a large log carry, a human wheelbarrow in the mud, an amazing slip and slide, and several challenging wall climbs. Even though it was raining most of the day the course was in great shape and the only issue I heard about (from the DJ) was a bee’s nest reported during the first race of the day but it was definitely gone by the time we ran the course. We finished the course and immediately went over to the fire pit to warm up.

The last run of the day (called singles flight) was for the volunteers and anyone that wanted to run as an individual so Raymond and I decided to run the course again. The course was just as fun the second time and this time we didn’t stay together (Raymond smoked me) and we didn’t wear the Training masks. After the finish, we rested for a moment at the fire pit to warm up and then got our bags from the bag check. Unfortunately it was still raining and cold so the place was clearing out fast. I was sad to see the event would end early but I completely understand why it did. Funny Story: while washing off in the outside showers a group of 3 or 4 young children were talking to me while waiting on their parents and one of them noticed my feet (they are beat up and blistered) and he asked “sir, what happened to your feet” the other kids took notice and they now wanted to know as well. I explained I ran the NJ Spartan Super the following weekend and my feet got a lot of blisters. They just thought it was so funny to see an old man with really ugly and beat up feet.

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I had an opportunity to talk with Director of Communications and Marketing, Kathy Contino-Turner, for both The Mighty Run and Masonic Care Community, the first thing I asked, was how many participants they had on such a cold and rainy day. She explained they ended up with close to 1200 adult participants and 500 children (ages 5 to 12) who completed the kid’s version of the course (The Mighty Mite). I could tell from looking around throughout the day they had an amazing turnout but those numbers are amazing and speak to the local fan base that The Mighty Run has created in a very short time. We talked about The Mighty Run’s future and she explained they are already planning Mighty Run III, and it will most likely be around the same time of year next year. The finisher shirt lists a lot of sponsors so we talked about them. The major sponsors are Gaetano Construction, Stevener Backhoe, Roser Communications (CNY radio stations) WKTV News channel 2, and Trainor Associates. The Mighty Mites course was sponsored by First Source Federal Credit Union, Mc Donald’s and Getnick-Livingston and Atkinson Attorneys. She explained other companies sponsored individual obstacles. It was clear they have done an amazing job of reaching out to the local community and getting major financial support.

Kathy said they had around 200 volunteers, many from MCC, some from their sponsors, and others from the community who didn’t feel they could run the race, but wanted to be part of it. I asked Kathy to explain what separates The Mighty Run from the other OCR’s and she said The Mighty Run is a true community event. Working in concert with area businesses, local volunteer fire departments, area police agencies, and everyone pulled together to make the event one that the region was proud of! I asked if they had any difficulties with setting up the course and how it affected the choice of obstacles. Kathy explained the Masonic Care Community has more than 440 acres of land. For constructing the obstacles, they utilized the resources on campus, for example the first obstacle and Lumberjack Loop used logs from trees they cut down from the property. She explained this year’s finish line was really sloppy, which was great for finishers but made for a challenge getting the vehicles out after the wet day and she wanted to make sure to give kudos to her grounds staff, whom not only donated their time, but came up with their own obstacle, the “The Down Under”, which required participants to crawl in the mud and dark and per feedback was loved by the participants. The grounds and maintenance team also created the outdoor showers and the sprinkler system for the “Adirondack mudslide”.

The Director of the Child Care Center was involved in all aspects of obstacle creation for The Mighty Mites kid’s race, and a variety of their teachers worked on the course right along with the grounds crew. They made obstacles that were not only challenging, but made the kids use a variety of motor skills (climbing, jumping, balancing, running, etc.). Children under the age of 8 were required to be accompanied on the course by their parents, many of whom got down in the mud with their kids. They also had several retired military men who in addition to running the course with the kids, made them do push-ups, burpees and jumping jacks before the race to warm up.

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The event was hosted, created, and 100% of the revenue generated goes directly to The Masonic Care Community so I felt it was important to get some history. The Masonic Care Community opened its doors in May 1, 1893 as a Masonic Home and School. The original mission was to care for seniors and children. Their kids were sometimes orphaned, and in other instances, had one parent who died and the other parent was unable to care for them. A total of 979 children lived on the campus from 1893 to 1982 and not a single one was adopted out. They were provided a basic educated and if they showed promise, the Masons paid for their college. Today, the Care Community is open to all and they care for more than 500 seniors and operate the Child Care Center. They have an Independent retirement community Acacia Village (the Mighty Run ran around it), an Adult Residential community, a Skilled Nursing services, a Respite care, a Palliative care, and an in-patient rehabilitation center. They also operate Acacia Home Care, which sends nurses and therapists to assist home bound residents. The Masonic Care Community is truly involved in Central New York as they open the campus to a variety of not-for-profit walks and events.

Kathy had a great outlook on the bad weather; she said “you can’t control Mother Nature”, the first Mighty Run was sunny and in the 70s and they had several thousand spectators in addition to participants. The weather clearly had the biggest impact on the after party as spectators didn’t show up to watch, and people didn’t hang out to enjoy the food & beer because they were cold and wet. As noted above, the fire pit was a great, and many people gathered there to keep warm! The rain certainly helped create more mud than they had in the first year, and they didn’t need the water tankers from the local volunteer Fire Departments. Kathy was happy with the day as she put it, those who participated seemed to enjoy it, and even though the volunteers were out on the course standing in the cold and rain, they were having a good time because the participants were having a good time.

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The Mighty Run was developed to raise money for care provided on The Masonic Care Community campus. The Mighty Mites course rose over $12,000 to benefit its Child Care Center (the Center cares for children ages 8 weeks to 5 years old from all over the community). The Mighty Run raised almost $38,000 for its rehabilitation center. Everyone connected with the Mighty Run, clearly felt a great deal of pride on Saturday, despite the rain and cold, participants ended the course with smiles and energy!

The Swag was nice, I received a nice shirt, 2 very cool medals (one for the team and one for the singles event), some mints, and a variety of coupons for local businesses.

The weather blew chunks but no one allowed that to ruin the day, everyone had a great time. I am very happy I went to this event and have to say for a local event I was so impressed with everything from the course, the signs on the road, the event area, the on-site portable amenities, and most of all the happy staff that clearly wanted and did put on a great event. Overall I am giving The Mighty Run a 4.5 out of 5 stars, this is based on both mine and Raymond’s experience with the overall event/day. The only improvements I can and will suggest are his and her changing tents, otherwise the event was spot on and I hope to go again next year on a media pass! As always I want to thank both The Masonic Care Community and MRG for the opportunity to have such a great day.

—–Walter F Hendrick (Sandy)—–

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