It’s only year two, but the staff at Sunday River is ramped up to make its Tough Mountain Challenge muddier, uglier and more fun.

Consider the names of some of the 16 obstacles: Trench of Terror, Black Hole, Slip, Slide and Die; and Burning Man, which really is a burning field.

Last year, 200 people showed up for the new race. This year 650 already are signed up, and the race is capped at 1,000, said Sunday River spokeswoman Darcy Morse.

The race will follow the same footprint as last year’s. The length stays 3.1 miles. But the 10 obstacle stations grow to 16 and within each are more challenges, Morse said.

“Even within a few of those are two to three obstacles stacked on one another. You might be going through one and have to go up an obstacle and over and then through something else,” Morse said.

The Sunday River race follows a nationwide trend, with mud runs and races in the Tough Mudder series in nearly every state. Mount Snow in Vermont offers one of the biggest in New England, with a 3,000-runner Tough Mudder race.

That worldwide series now stages races in Canada, Japan, England and Australia.

And it’s only one of the mud run series out there at the moment.

California is home to 29 mud run races. Florida has 19. And New York has 13.

In Maine, Sunday River’s is the longest mud-obstacle challenge course, and Morse said it’s here to stay given the response. Members of the mountain staff like having their own unique event, she said.

“We control what obstacles are there. … Ours is seamless. We’re not only hosting the event, we’re organizing and running it. We are fully invested in the experience,” Morse said.

“A race that involves mud or obstacles or adventure has grown in interest in the past couple of years. They aren’t just foot races on the road. My guess is of those 650 (already signed up), some have seen something or done it themselves or know of someone who has.”

At My Fit 24 gym in Gorham, owners Jesse and Stacey Coleman are training for the mud run and have recruited 14 others to join them.

They were hooked after doing Sunday River’s last year. They did two more after that.

“Mount Snow is absolutely grueling, 10 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical. But we did really well,” said Jesse Coleman. “We fell in love with the adventure racing thing.”

Even for personal trainers, Coleman said, the challenge inherent in mud runs is intense.

“Without a doubt. We work out all the time. We live and work here at the gym. We’re in shape to begin with … we’re in so much better shape, we’re refining our (physical) ability,” Coleman said.

At this year’s Tough Mountain Challenge, runners will start in waves rather than all at once.

The event also will include a barbecue, live music and a kids’ mountain challenge.

Morse said the race will undoubtedly grow in the years to come, both in size and spirit.

“We have a big mountain and lots of room to play with in terms of courses and obstacles. We like to continue to get more and more creative each year,” Morse said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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