By Amelia Pak-Harvey
DEVENS -- Pouring rain didn't stop runners in this year's MuckFest.
It made things better.
More than 5,000 people signed up to race in this weekend's 5K obstacle course, where the main point is to get down and dirty. But the other major goal of "MuckFest MS," which is held in major cities across the country, is to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Participants climbed their way over "Mt. Muckimanjaro," jumped off a platform into a pool of muddy water, crawled through a "tunnel of love" and tackled more obstacles to get to the finish line. Last year, the race in Devens raised more than $300,000.
Smeared with mud and soaking wet, teams high-fived one other and hugged at the finish line. Some wore hula skirts or colorful team shirts -- but all wore "muck."
"It's not wet at all," joked a drenched Tony Palleschi, who had mud on his face. "It's pretty dry, not that cold."
Palleschi and his team members came out on the chilly Saturday morning to support the cause because their friend has been fighting multiple sclerosis for years.
After finishing together, team "Muck Yeah, We Have Muck," huddled for five rowdy chants of "quack."
"It was really fun, everyone just kind of came together and helped people climb over everything," said team member Shannon Watterson of Somerville.
The hardest obstacle for her was one that involved a tent with water underneath it.
"You couldn't see what you were going into, it was just really deep water and it was dark, and they had 'Thunderstruck' the song playing," she said.
Their team captain had multiple sclerosis, Watterson said, but is in full recovery and ran the race. The team raised $1,500 to $2,000.
"Don't we look good?" asked Denise Watson of the three-member team "Kickass." Sporting muddy tie-die shirts and muddy faces, the team said they loved the race.
"It's better to do it in the rain anyway," said Roisin Banks.
"So much more fun," added Carol Morse.
The three women of Boston's South Shore came to race for Morse's family members, raising $1,300.
This year's fundraising goal was $450,000, said Liz Strawn of the Greater New England Chapter of the NMS Society. It's only the second year Devens hosted the event, but the race became so popular that planners had to add a second day this year.
"We're really excited we've seen such great growth," Strawn said.
She said the event attracts a whole new demographic.
"It's a whole new wave of people that can help us move forward toward a world free of MS," she said.
The disease, which affects the nervous system, currently has no cure. But Strawn said that right now, research is building a great momentum.
"Over the last 10 years there have been 10 new drugs that have been FDA-approved, so to really fuel that research is going to be a wonderful thing for people living with MS," she said.
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