Getting stuck in the muck while raising money for charity may have been one of the best ways to escape Saturday’s heat.

About 1,000 runners participated in the second Great Divide Mucker held at Great Divide Ski Area, with a portion of the proceeds going to help kids and families at Intermountain in its therapeutic care programs. The 5K course looked a lot different than the average Saturday fun-run with getting filthy being the name of game as runners navigated through plenty of mud pits and obstacles.

“It was tough with some brutal obstacles and pretty short downhills,” said Marc McCauley of Helena.

It was McCauley’s first time running the Great Divide, but he blistered the course, winning the competitive heat in a little over 27 minutes, although the race is not officially timed.

“Some of the up hills and the ladders were pretty tough -- I’m dead tired,” he said.

The mucker’s second year was a stark contrast to the first where about 500 runners braved 50 degree temperatures. The thermometer, which ended up reading a record-breaking 101 degrees, was already over 80 degrees as the first racers took off shortly after 10 a.m.

The race started and finished near the main lodge with music, shower stations and beer on tap. Runners faced a steep hill climb to start, with ladders, hay bales and mud pits. Once runners leveled out, they had to negotiate a swamp. The finish offered no reprieve, with a quicksand-like pit looking deceptively easy but capturing runners sinking past their knees.

“The course was pretty similar to last year, but we tried to make the mud deeper,” said race promoter Matt Gibson. “I like to say that we did plenty of research and development into our mud technology.”

The steep sections and quickly rising temperatures were likely the biggest challenges facing racers, he said. The course was designed to bring runners past aide stations twice to hydrate, he added.

Many of the muckers raced in teams with clever names like “Uptown Muck You Up,” while others ran as couples or families. Races included competitive and fun runs plus a run for kids, with heats taking off every 20 minutes throughout the day.

A team calling themselves the “Mucking Bachelorettes” included Brenda (soon to be) Crawford wearing a white dress and boots, several of her friends wearing dresses and her tie-clad fiance Jason Crawford. The couple will marry in two weeks and the mucker was a perfect way to celebrate her bachelorette party, she said.

Tom Gould from Alabama pulled his Halloween superhero costume out of the closet, making the dash in full red spandex, including a mask.

“There was some seriously sticky mud out there -- I lost my shoe in one of those quicksand pits,” he said.

As wave after wave of runners made the loop, returning caked in mud and full of smiles, race organizers reflected on where the money raised would be going -- namely helping kids and families.

“This is one of those events that everyone can participate in,” said Kaci Gaub of Intermountain.

Gaub praised the race organizers, Big Sky Orogenic Racing and Events, for not only helping raise funds but also raising awareness about Intermountain’s work.

The praise was returned by race director Christie Magill.

“We partner with a nonprofit when we do these, and I have to say that working Intermountain was the best part of this race,” she said. “They were ready to start organizing this race the day after last year’s.”

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 or tom.kuglin@helenair.com

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