Link: UCOP's e-newsletter

Stay Informed. Stay Connected.

UCOP women slog through the mud for breast cancer research

One woman’s mother and two older sisters are all breast cancer survivors; another’s mother died of the disease. A few have their own medical and physical challenges.

But the seven UCOP women who joined 5,000 other participants to tackle the Feb. 2 Dirty Girl Mud Run all had lots of muddy fun wading through waist-deep mud pits and other obstacles to raise money for a serious cause.

“I was surfing the Web for a breast cancer walk,” said Melissa Amescua of UCOP’s Business Resource Center (BRC), whose aunt is a breast cancer survivor. “The mud run looked like so much fun because it’s for women of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities. It’s meant to be motivational and empowering, not competitive.”

The event is a 5K “run,” a zany but challenging mud-filled obstacle course (designed by an ex-Army ranger, by the way) that moves to a different U.S. city every week to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). Last year’s national tour raised $250,000, and the goal for this year is $500,000.

Amescua rustled up a team of UCOP women to take part when the mud run came to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Joining her on the “UCOP Mudrunners” team were Hannah Frankel and Andrea Helfer of Student Affairs, Angela Hom of Information Technology Services, Gina Mortenson of Education Partnerships, Sherry Perocier of Human Resources and Gemma Rieser, also of BRC.

The best part of the experience, they said, was the camaraderie they generated helping one another crawl through the mud and scale obstacles like the 20-foot-high climbing net to reach the finish line.

Adding to the fun was the goodwill of their husbands and other observers who came to cheer them on. There was an emcee, a DJ playing music to pump everyone up, and lots of team costumes à la San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers.

“This event was perfect for me because I could contribute to the cause without having to solicit money myself,” said Rieser, whose mother died of breast cancer at age 56. In 2011 Rieser and her sister completed the grueling two-day Avon Walk, which requires each participant to raise a minimum of $1,200.

The mud run, by contrast, requires only a $65 registration fee and takes about two hours. It is not a timed course, and participants are welcome to detour around obstacles beyond their comfort zone.

Not that the challenge is easy to resist. Mortenson completed the course despite having overcome knee surgery, a broken left foot and broken right ankle that put her in double casts last year. The event even inspired Amescua to improve her fitness, with the goal of reversing her diabetes.

“I didn’t think my body could climb over a wall, but I completed all 11 obstacles,” Amescua said. “It really motivated me to do more.”

The Mudrunners say they will all participate next year and in similar events coming up this year in Napa and San Jose. Join the team by contacting Amescua at

Leave your comment here