By Louisa Benatovich

For Father’s Day weekend, over 1,000 mudders of all ages participated in the annual Holiday Valley Mudslide Obstacle Run, held June 15.

A tradition for nearly 10 years, this season’s event drew individuals from all across Western New York and the surrounding states.

Featuring a collection of brand-new participants and veteran competitors, this year’s muddy obstacle course was truly one for the books. 

“This all started many years ago when a company called Muddy Buddy organized a mountain bike and mud run at the valley,” said Katie DiDonato, general manager of the Inn. “We thought, ‘We can totally do this ourselves!’”

Now, DiDonato said they have a large committee of department heads who help organize the event every year. She said the planning period begins in early March.

“We have it down to a science,” she said. “We always do our best to come up with new obstacles to keep our runners coming back year after year.”

This year, the course had two new additions.

“Because of all the snow left over, we were able to make a huge snow pile for people to climb,” DiDonato explained. “We also built a tire wall and brought back annual hits like the Lily Pads at Spruce Lake.”

With 3.5- and 5.4-mile options, the first competitive races began at a bright and early 10 a.m. The very first finisher broke through the final wall of foam after about 45 minutes of pure physical rigor. As his fellow competitors trickled in after him, the DJ chastised the breathless finishers, telling them that “they weren’t muddy enough.”

“The hardest part about organizing the Mudslide is getting people to give up a Saturday,” said Justin Swan, the event’s volunteer coordinator. “We have about 120 volunteers donating their time to help us here today. Without them, this event would not be possible, all the way from registering people at the door to keeping track of finish times in the competitive heats.”

However, Swan said the best part of the event is seeing people have fun at Holiday Valley, whether it’s winter or summer.

“The Mudslide is great for families and solo athletes alike,” he added. “This event is truly some of the best that Ellicottville has to offer.”

Chris Coupal, a 16-year-old competitor, was the third-place finisher in the Mudslide’s first competitive heat. A track runner at Kenmore West, Coupal was using the ‘Slide as preparation for next year’s cross-country season.

“It was more wet than muddy,” he said of the course as he chowed down on a post-run pulled pork sandwich. “My favorite part of the race was the downhill. The uphill was rough.”

Sofia and Zoltan Revy, prospective Mini Mudsliders, had trekked all the way from Ohio to take part in the event.

“We’ve never done this before,” said the siblings, “but we’re excited to get muddy.”

When asked if they planned to win, the two were skeptical. “We don’t think it’s a competitive race,” they said, cautiously. “It’s just for fun.”

As the day progressed and clouds threatened to drive away the sun, the smiles on people’s faces only grew wider.

With Jane Eshbaugh’s creatively-designed trophies as an incentive, many pushed themselves to the max in the hopes of receiving one to display on their mantel.

And though there were many a complaint of ruined shoes, the 2019 Holiday Valley Mudslide was the perfect kickoff to what promises to be an amazing summer.

Be on the lookout for information on next year’s Mudslide, set to take place on June 20, 2020.