Runners tackle obstacle course race

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Jessie Britt uses a rope to climb up a slick tarp on a hill Saturday at the fourth annual Tackle the Tar race at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.


Staff Writer

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ralph Willey is proof one is not too old to run a cross-country course full of challenges.

Willey, 69, of Rocky Mount and a retired attorney, said he has been a regular since the first Tackle the Tar 5K Obstacle Course Race and Family Fun Day.

Willey on Saturday morning was one of approximately 850 participants, which was a record number for the fourth annual event.

The event raised a bit more than $100,000, which also was a record, so local students can attend Edgecombe Community College, Nash Community College or N.C. Wesleyan College.

"I'm a runner — and I just love doing this," Willey said after completing a heat on Saturday morning. "I love the obstacles out there."

The course begins at the football field at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex, goes under U.S. 64 into Battle Park and onto the sands of the Tar River before ending back at the football field.

"You crawl under things. You crawl over things,” Willey said. “The tires are always fun because you never know what they're going to do.

"You get dirty — and then you run through something that's clean. You get clean and then you get dirty, but it's great," he said.

Also completing a heat on Saturday morning was Jessie Britt, 45, who owns a Mexican restaurant in Kinston. This marked the third time Britt participated in Tackle the Tar.

"Usually I'm a runner," she said. "So this is the only obstacle course race I do every year."

A group of Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant employees participated, including Brian Breiholz, 46, of Wilson. Saturday morning marked the first Tackle the Tar for Breiholz.

"It's a great obstacle course. Very scenic,” he said. “A lot more rocks and rivers and climbs than I expected. So it was just a great time — and I beat my target time."

He had set his target time at 30 minutes — and he came in at 29 minutes, 30 seconds.

Breiholz is an engineering manager at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant.

The scene at the football stadium was full of participants ready for the Tackle the Tar, which started at 9 a.m.

One of them was Dustin Holland, 50, a postal inspector in Raleigh and an alumnus of N.C. Wesleyan. Holland was wearing a T-shirt showing he was part of the N.C. Wesleyan team.

Saturday morning was going to mark Holland's second year of participating in Tackle the Tar, with a friend having dared him to do so last year.

"We had a blast," Holland said. "It just felt good to get out and run, jumping through the mud and the water — almost like being a child again."

Saturday morning marked the first time Anthony Stevenson participated in Tackle the Tar. Stevenson, 28, is a police officer in Greenville.

As for why he signed up for Tackle the Tar, he said, "It's something different" and, "It was close by." He also said he wanted to support a charitable effort.

Even though he had worked his beat until 3 a.m., he appeared relaxed for Tackle the Tar.

"I think there's going to be some struggles on some things, but I think overall I'm going to overcome everything," he said with a smile.

Christie Manning also participated in Tackle the Tar for the first time.

Manning, 43, of Williamston, was part of a group of participants from the Martin County seat who go to the same gymnasium. She is a program director of behavioral health at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.

She was looking forward to participating in Tackle the Tar, saying, "I'm glad to be with my friends. It's a great day — and I'm just blessed to do it and be healthy."

As for whether she was in shape for the event, she replied, "Oh yeah. I'm the woman. I got this."

Tackle the Tar is organized by Kristen Brabble, 28, chief administrative officer at First Carolina Bank. The Rocky Mount Rotary Club had asked her to come up with a signature project.

Brabble was upbeat on Saturday morning and noted the fifth annual Tackle the Tar is set for May 16, 2020. 

"And we plan to have a lot more mud and a lot more fun," she said.