Despite some ominous-looking weather, almost 400 runners, walkers and dogs trudged through the mud Saturday at Willistown Conservation Trust's Run-A-Muck and Countryside Bash.
The Run-A-Muck, now in its third year, is the WCT's biggest—and more or less, only— fundraiser of the year. Traditionally, it's been held at Heartwood Farm Estate, a private property that is protected by the Trust.
"We wanted to have an event that got people out on the land," explained John Turgeon, the Trust's Director of Public Grants and Associate Director of Land Protection. "This is one of the most beautiful properties we have, and we thought a cross-country race would be a way to get people out here. And, hopefully we'll help the Trust."
Last year, the event raised $92,000, and the year before that, about half that amount. The goal this year was to beat last year's total, but a number of sponsors reduced their donation amounts for economic reasons, said Susie MacDonnell, the Trust's Events and Public Relations Coordinator. Even so, as of last week, the Trust had raised $82,000, and donations were still flowing in on the eve of the event.
The main event of the day was the titular cross-country run. Hundreds of runners braved the hilly, muddy course in competition for the coveted golden boots, awarded to the top male and female finishers.
Taking home the prize this year were Matthew Neugebayer, with a time of roughly 25 minutes, and Jennifer Barrow, who finished in 30:13.
Prizes were also awarded to the top male and female finishers in each of three age categories, as well as "Most Enthusiastic Group," "Best Nature Inspired Costume" and "Best Dressed Dog."
View the attached photo gallery for pictures of the winners.
After the race, attendees enjoyed food and drinks provided by local businesses, and kids got to take a ride on a mechanical bull or ride in Arader's cherry picker, all while listening to some live country music.
For many runners and muckers, it was less about winning and more about supporting the cause.
Jonathan Payne, a sustainability analyst for a local company, said he and his family are long-time supporters of the Trust.
"Sustainability is something I hold dear," Payne said after the race. "Maintaining the local neighborhood and landscapes, and keeping it for future generations, is really important to me."
Members of "Team Hogan," which won the "Most Enthusiastic Group" award, said they came out to support the Trust as well.
"This is where we all live and play," Debbie Abel explained. "It's for a good cause."