- Associated Press - Saturday, August 23, 2014

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Playing dirty has a whole new meaning; just ask anyone who has ever taken part in one of the latest sports crazes - obstacle mud running.

Competitors are diving in and organizers are cashing in on obstacle mud runs like Tough Mudder, Dirty Girl Mud Run, Warrior Dash and Spartan Race, and the popularity of these events has surged amid safety concerns.

Tough Mudder, which began in Allentown with 4,500 participants in 2010, has grown to numerous races scheduled around the nation with more than 800,000 paying to take part turning the military style obstacle race. Tough Mudder is now a multi-million dollar business with corporate partnerships with companies including Under Armour, Clif Bar, Degree, Advil, Bic and CamelBak to name a few.

Similar military-style competitions have erupted all over, including Mud on the Mountain at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion.

“We started our first adventure race in May 2012, and we had the second Mud on the Mountain in November of that year after Super Storm Sandy brought us a foot and a half of snow,” said Anna Weltz, resort communications manager. “Then after ‘Mud’ in May of 2013 someone mentioned to do one in the summer. We followed up with our first ‘Mud in the Dark’ in August 2013.”

Last weekend, the second ‘Mud in the Dark’ event was held.

Eron McMillen of Elizabeth was there for Mud on the Mountain In the Dark. The 31-year-old alternate education counselor was inspired to run after watching his brother-in-law run in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2012 but becoming a “mudder” helped boost and hold his interest in running.

“I get bored out of my mind just running. I easily lose focus with just running. The obstacles and different challenges keeps me focused, and it’s a better challenged of mental and physical strength,” said McMillen. “My first 5K was the zombie mud run Run for Your Lives. So my first race was a mud run.”

McMillen is a Tough Mudder participant as well. He loves the competition and the camaraderie.

“There are so many friendly people on the course who are willing to help out. There’s teamwork involved, and I enjoy that. Just meeting those people is really great especially when you’re doing a lot of these on you own,” he said.

Lindsay Hull, 32, of Coal Center is a wife, mother of three, engineer and a committed mudder for the last three years.

“I started doing it just because I run a variety of distance races but I’m not a track star athlete kind of person. I like to run but I also enjoy weightlifting and challenging myself in other ways. A mud run was a good way to use all my training in different ways.”

Her first mud run was Ruckus at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

“It had rained heavily leading up to the day of the race. The course was muddy and really challenging. Falling or turning an ankle was a concern,” said Hull.

She has never been hurt in the dozens of events she’s participated in, but she is aware there is always aware injury is a possibility.

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