GORHAM — Four middle-aged women made final adjustments to their dinosaur outfits Sunday as they nervously watched hundreds of mud-covered children cross the finish line at the Into the Mud Challenge at Gorham Middle School.

What had their friend, Pam Kabitzke of Newfield, talked them into this time?

“We have never done this, and we may never do this again,” said Pat Sondie of Saco.

Sondie, Judy Muccio of Newfield and Arlene Carroll of Sanford said Kabitzke had talked them into some crazy experiences before – riding a zip line, climbing a mountain and taking in the sights in New York City. But running a 2.5-mile obstacle course featuring mud pits and climbing walls – while wearing dinosaur costumes – elevated their group dares into a whole new realm.

“The revenge on Pam is riding home in her car” covered with mud, Sondie said.

The four women, who called themselves the Dino Divas, were among nearly 1,000 people who paid up to $35 each to wallow in the mud. The annual challenge is put on by students in the event management course at the University of Southern Maine’s sports management program. The students learn how to organize a major event, finding sponsors and getting the word out, and raise about $12,000 for scholarships for student internships.

In its fourth year, the event is so popular that organizers limited the number of runners this year and sent them out in four waves an hour apart to keep the traffic moving along the course.

Participants come from across the state, many of them dressed in elaborate get-ups hoping to win the costume contest.

“The guys had so much fun (last year), the girls decided to run this year,” said Debby Alley of Southwest Harbor, who was with a group of about 15 family members and friends from Bangor and Addison.

Entire families participate. Jason Harris of Newfield and his children, Colin, 12, and Maggie, 8, were making their maiden voyage into the mud.

“They grew up on a farm, so it’s all good,” Harris said.

The children ran the course first, their faces full of glee, fear and astonishment as they hit the initial mud pit.

A number of parents had to wade in to extract a stuck child. The children used various strategies to make it through the course.

“I just run fast,” said Brady Harvie, 8, of Westbrook, who was among the first few children to cross the finish line.

Landon Bickford, 10, of Gorham, who the first to finish the children’s race, said experience taught him to stay close to the edge in the mud pit. Even though his father is Olympic runner Bruce Bickford and his mother, Meredith Bradley Bickford, is assistant athletic director at USM, Landon said he didn’t expect to finish first.

“I was surprised,” he said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]