ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Mudder Nation, you've done yourself proud.
Perseverance was on full display Saturday at Powerline Park as more than 11,000 men and women put their strength and stamina to the test as the popular Tough Mudder made its way to rural Belmont County for the first time.
The event was officially tagged as Pittsburgh's, but took place about an hour's drive from the Steel City due to the logistical needs of the event, which Powerline Park was able to fulfill completely.
Rob Anderson, of West Greene, Pa., makes his way through the Electroshock Therapy obstacle.
Participants poured in from near and far, mostly far. Evidence of that was visible on the license plates of the vehicles parked at the Jamboree in the Hills site on National Road, where Mudders and spectators alike boarded buses for the nearly 20-minute trek to Powerline.
Among those were Jenna Sheplock from Austin, Texas. She came to the event with Mike and Mindy Bowen of Pittsburgh, whom she worked with when the trio were in college.
''This is my first one,'' Sheplock said, noting all three had T-shirts on stating ''Mind Over Mudder.''
Mike Bowen explained he and his wife had spent the last three months training for the event.
''It looked like fun,'' Mindy Bowen said. ''So, here we are.''
Steve Cordy and Greg Clark didn't have to drive as far to participate. The Belmont County residents got together with seven of their friends to take their crack at the 12-mile obstacle course.
''He talked me into it,'' Cordy said pointing to Clark. ''I thought he was crazy, but I stuck with it.
''It was pretty awesome. It's trying. It tries your physical and mental abilities.''
Cordy, who's worked for the past 15 years at the Belmont County Correctional Facility, said he prepared by watching YouTube videos, etc.
''I was still a little anxious and nervous coming into it,'' he noted.
Clark was happy to do his part for the Wounded Warrior Project, a beneficiary of all Tough Mudder events.
''Some people will say we're crazy,'' he said. ''But you can't sit around on the couch all day eating potato chips.
''It's great. I can't wait to do it again.''
Sunny skies and warm temperatures didn't deter the participants who made their way through the rough, muddy terrain, not to mention 15 challenging obstacles, all constructed on the site during the past week.
Near the end of the course, Mudders were challenged by Everest, a slopping, slippery ramp climb.
Then came the finale, Electroshock Therapy. There, Mudders made their way through deep mud, sometimes losing their shoes in the process, while climbing over bales of hay caked in mud. All the while they tried to avoid electrically-charged wires dangling from the air.
All that didn't deter 62-year-old Greg Slatcoff, one of the older participants.
''It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life,'' the Sandy Lake, Pa. resident said moments after he completed the course, his body caked with mud from head to toe.
Slatcoff was there with his son, Mike, and members of the Pittsburgh and Bethel Park police departments participating in honor of fallen officers.
''It was great doing this with my son and the other officers,'' Greg Slatcoff said. ''I'm not a police officer, but I certainly like hanging around with these guys.''
After every participant reached the finish line, volunteers placed a bright orange Tough Mudder headband around their head, a crown so to speak signifying their welcoming into the Mudder fraternity.
Most of the Mudders who finished didn't care about headbands, they simply wanted to grab a cup of water or a beer, take a picture with their teammates and savor the feeling of a job well done.
''I'd do it again right now if I had to,'' Clark said.