NEWRY — Sunday River Ski Resort welcomed adrenaline junkies on Saturday to participate in the 3-mile-long obstacle course up and back down the mountain.

The Tough Mountain Challenge, started in 2010, is an adventurous race that combines the mountain’s alpine terrain and adds man-made obstacles that are sure to get one’s heart pumping and clothes muddy.

More than 3,000 contestants were split among 37 separate groups to brave the steep climb. Throughout their ascent, contestants are faced with over 20 different obstacles designed to slow them down and get them a little dirty in the process.

Despite competitors having to run through industrial snow guns, climb up a waterfall on tires, crawl through tunnels and leap across obstacles floating in a pond, racers generally agreed the most difficult obstacle was the mountain itself.

Racers often form teams with friends and family, like one Bangor family calling themselves the “Remington Renegades.”

This was the Renegades’ second year competing. They had advice for those who are considering whether to race: “Just do it. You’re going to be nervous the first time you do it, but once you cross the finish line with your legs aching and your clothes covered in mud, you get addicted to it.”


Mackayla Jackson of Poland shared her love of the challenge as she returned for her second year. “Everybody’s in this together when they start the course,” she said. “You think it sucks, and it does, but that means that it probably sucks for the people you’re competing with, too.”

Jackson was accompanied by her fiancé, Brandon Williams of Lisbon, who was participating for the first time. “I’m really excited,” he said. “I think to do something like this you just need to push yourself and strive to be better.”

Williams also shared the phrase, “pain is just weakness leaving the body,” which was repeated by multiple racers as they gathered at the starting line.

Despite racers being out of breath and covered in mud as they crossed the finish line, none finished with a frown. Competitors rushed straight to the bar from the finish line to enjoy a cold beer with their fellow racers.

Mike Krakowka of North Yarmouth has been participating in the race for the past 11 years. “It’s a great community, everybody will help each other,” he said. “If you look like you’re struggling, somebody will make sure you’re OK. It’s not a race it’s a challenge, and everyone knows that. You’re not competing against everyone else, you’re competing against yourself, the clock and the mountain. Any of the racers will put that on hold if someone else needs help on the trail.”

Nikki MacDonald of Winthrop encourages people to attend the race each year.

“This is my fourth year doing it,” said MacDonald. “I’d say just don’t look up the mountain, that’s the most intimidating part. Don’t worry about your time, just make sure to have fun on the course.”


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