Wednesday, May 15, 2013

By Jennie Grey
The Saratogian

Runners beware: This is not your average 5K fundraiser race.

This year, the heavy equipment students at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services have built a new and difficult course for Tuff eNuff, the obstacle course challenge that benefits Saratoga County’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council.

And on Saturday, runners will tackle the route laid out through the Henning Road BOCES campus and the New York Racing Association Lowlands, leaping over, crawling under and wading through obstacles — and getting very muddy.

The route’s biggest challenges are strung out across the heavy-equipment class’ practice field on the south side of campus. Keeping white tape on their right and colored tape on their left, runners must climb up and slide down tall mounds of dirt, scramble through 3-foot-deep trenches full of muddy water and army-crawl under zigzag rope courses. Other obstacles involve crossing a stream on a log and creeping through tires set in puddles.

The first wave of participants will set out at 9 a.m.; the second at 9:30 a.m. The children’s one-mile race begins at 10 a.m.

The race is a far cry from the annual gala the Prevention Council had held for four years, starting in 2008. Deciding that Spa City had so many galas, council staff chose a new direction for its fundraiser.

“We wanted something more about families and children, which is our mission,” Executive Director Heather Kisselback said. “Running is popular in Saratoga; lots of people here are very active. So, we thought a road race would be fun for families, and for something different, we decided to throw obstacles in the way.”

The physical barriers represent the social and emotional obstacles, such as peer pressure and substance abuse, that children face every day, she said.

Last year, for the inaugural Tuff eNuff race, the Prevention Council met with BOCES heavy-equipment instructors Ken Brooks and Greg Hammond to discuss construction of the course. The teachers and their 70 students, juniors and seniors, were enthusiastic about the idea, and the teachers worked the Tuff eNuff course construction into their curriculum.

“Last year, the course blew me away,” Kisselback said. “Then, the students took it up a notch for this year. The council had told BOCES to do whatever it wanted, and the course turned out incredible. We’re excited.”
The heavy-equipment teachers had students develop and submit course designs, and they chose the work of juniors Jake Beaudet, Walker Chandler and Jerrid Marshall, who brainstormed together.

“The council wanted the course bigger and better than last year,” Marshall said. “So we designed it bigger, and then multiplied by 10. We want to see people get stuck and lose their shoes in the mud.”

The students rose to the occasion, Hammond said. After applying for the job and being hired, 40 students worked on the course for two weeks. The remaining students have been working on other projects, he said.

Beaudet, Chandler and Marshall agreed that one of the benefits of being in charge of the course was having more time on the class equipment: excavators, backhoes and bulldozers.

“We got a lot of hands-on operating time, which was great,” Beaudet said. “We had fun.”

A couple of brave testers ran the course last Friday, Kisselback said. They found the course harder and the water chillier than expected.

The executive director has 70 volunteers to manage the race, in addition to working the event herself. She has one goal for Tuff eNuff.

“I want to watch more people run this year,” she said.

Lucky spectators will be given super-soaker water toys and directed to spray the runners. That might be as much fun as contending with the course — almost.

For more information on the race and registration, go to www.prevention