The company behind the world’s leading obstacle race pitches its Tough Mudder competition as a life-changing experience that tests a mudder’s “strength, stamina and mental grit.”

By comparison, the Tough Mountain Challenge at Sunday River is more about a reason to gather atop the Newry mountain range and party.

One new addition to the Sunday River race is the optional beer station atop Lift 2. But make no mistake, the Tough Mountain Challenge is no cakewalk.

“I would say anybody can do it. But if somebody has not been training or does not go to the gym quite often, they will have to walk it. My husband and I are pretty fit, and there were quite a few times we had to just stop,” said Lacey Castro of Alfred, who competed last year.

Sunday River’s signature summer event will be staged for the third time on July 21. It has grown from 500 the first year to 1,500 last year and now 2,500 this month.

Each year the event is capped and sells out early, said Sunday River spokeswoman Darcy Morse.

“We thought if we can do 1,000, let’s do 2,000. We’re already a little over 2,300,” Morse said.

Unlike the Tough Mudder series that pushes competitors through 25 obstacles over 10 to 12 miles of mud, Sunday River’s race is 3.1 miles and has 10 obstacles. And while the Tough Mudder that is staged in Australia, Japan and Tokyo, as well as New Jersey and Vermont, was designed by British special forces, Sunday River’s event is the work of mountain personnel who just want to showcase their home.

“We try to keep the obstacles true to Sunday River with the snowmaking guns, the use of the topography,” Morse said.

That said, the barricades, tunnels, hill climbs, mud pits and simulated storm sections at Sunday River will slap down the toughest multisport racer.

Take the Castros. They are training for their fourth wife carrying contest – Sunday River’s shorter mud race in which co-ed teams compete with one partner (usually the man) carrying the other.

The Castros even built a log obstacle in their yard to train, and went to Finland to compete in the 2011 wife carrying world championship. They wanted to break the world record.

“Even though we trained three months straight, ultimately we did not achieve our goal. The record is 55 seconds and our official time was 1 minute, 7 seconds, and we finished fifth,” Lacy Castro said.

When the Alfred couple returned to Maine from Finland, they entered the Tough Mountain, seeing as they were so fit from all that training.

They had to walk parts of it.

“We were on a competitive high. We love Sunday River and their events are always fun,” Lacy Castro said. “Almost 95 percent of the Tough Mountain is straight up. We were not expecting that.”

Castro said it was fun, in a tough-, confounding-, oxygen-debt-type way.

“At the start they spray water and you have to climb through the mud. There is so much water spraying in your face, you can’t see anything,” Castro said.

Morse said the Tough Mountain will keep growing, but slowly, to ensure it maintains its festival feel.

“We want to do it well. If there is interest, we hope to grow it. Once we get people here and they see the Chondola rides, the zipline tours the mountain bike course, the trampoline, they learn what there is to do here in the summer,” Morse said.

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

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