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Chris Murphy, Published June 15 2013

Participants make their way through miles of mud, obstacles at Hard Charge race

West Fargo

Nicole Wanner, a 19-year-old Fargo North graduate, went through over four miles of mud and obstacles at Hard Charge on Saturday at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in the area’s first obstacle running series.

And she did it alongside a person who has been beside her for her entire life: Justin Hellerud, a 24-year-old with Down syndrome. The two have lived next door to each other their entire lives in Fargo, and Hellerud wouldn’t have done the course with obstacles titled such things as “Abusement Park” without her. But, more importantly, she wasn’t going to do it without him.

“I’ve known him since I was 8 years old,” Wanner said, covered head to toe in mud. “We stuck with each other.”

Both families were on hand to watch the two run, jump, crawl and do just about anything humanly possible through the mud Saturday.

“They’re best buddies,” Patty Hellerud, Justin’s mom, said. “I sure couldn’t have done it.”

Justin never really had a choice in the matter, as Wanner made the decision pretty easy on whether or not he’d run the course.

“I signed him up,” Hellerud said when asked how she got him to do the race.

As for running the Hard Charge again, Justin hasn’t quite made a decision. He’s still trying to catch his breath from the first one.

“Not today,” Justin said. “Another day maybe.”

Justin will have a year to decide, as Hard Charge is set to return to West Fargo June 14, 2014. One married couple has already saved the date.

Chris and Stacy Peters had a nice, little Saturday planned for a couple that has been married 13 years. They woke up at 5 a.m. and made a two-and-a-half-hour drive to West Fargo from their Devils Lake (N.D.) home, while eating breakfast on the drive. They got something to eat and headed back home at around 1 p.m. with plans of sitting around a bonfire.

Oh, and during their stay in West Fargo, they, along with their nine teammates that called themselves “The Funkys,” went through the Hard Charge course that required the use of every muscle in one’s body to run, climb, crawl and trudge through over four miles of mud, dirt and anything else requiring an immediate shower.

“I would definitely do it again,” Chris, 35, said. “I never exercise, but this was fun. (Stacy) wanted to do this, so I came with.”

Stacy, 36, runs all the time, but it took some running circles around Chris to get him to come.

“I conned my husband into doing this,” Stacy said. “We would definitely do it again. I think it’s just due to the fact that it’s a challenge and it challenges you as an individual and you go out of your comfort zone. But right now we are going to go to a gas station and pay some money to get cleaned up and we are going to go eat.”

Over 1,500 participants tested the Hard Charge and over 3,000 were in attendance for the day of races that ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. With beer and food served afterwards and people donating their muddy shoes to Barrel Aid – an organization that collects shoes for needy children in Haiti in blue barrels that are then used to filter rain water for drinking, cooking and bathing – it was exactly the kind of day Fargo native and Hard Charge President Greg Lang, 41, envisioned.

“We’ll do seven events around the country,” Lang said. “The participants run the events and we film them for TV, which we show locally four to five weeks after the race. Obstacle courses like these are the hot genre in fitness right now and it’s huge in pop culture. It has mud, mayhem and shows man against man and man against obstacle and we think it’s pretty compelling television.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548