Mud runners lace up for 5K Ho-Chunk Hustle at House of Wellness

By Tim Wohlers

The House of Wellness held the third annual Ho-Chunk Hustle at its outdoor course in Baraboo last month, to promote physical activity among the many members of its community. 

“We’re encouraging people to be active,” said the facility’s fitness supervisor Lance Tallmadge.  “It’s one of our ways, in trying to come up with events that’ll attract more of our tribal members, to encourage them to be active and live a healthy lifestyle.” 

The competition took place on Aug. 27, and was open to the public.  Though anyone could participate in the event, coordinators chose to name it after the Nation so that it’d attract more of its members. 

“The main goal is to get our tribal members moving,” said Fitness Specialist Paul Roberts.  “Diabetes and obesity are tearing our people apart, and I think the majority of that comes from being inactive.” 

The race was free for Ho-Chunk tribal members, and cost only $25 for members of other tribes.  The remaining competitors paid an entrance fee of $35.  To take part in the competition, runners had to be at least 16 years old or have a waiver signed by their parents. 

“If they’re fully capable of participating,” Roberts said, “then we let them.” 

The three-mile course consisted of 17 obstacles that ranged from a series of mud pits participants had to crawl through to an eight-foot, wooden wall they needed to climb.  New to the course this year were an obstacle or two specifically designed to level the playing field. 

“We tried to incorporate a couple things that would slow some of the faster competitors down,” Tallmadge said, “like the log carry.  That was placed at a point where we felt it would slow those fast guys down and burn their legs out a little bit…about a third of the way into the race.” 

The log for the men weighed 30 to 40 pounds, while the women’s weighed 15 to 25 pounds.  Upon reaching it, racers had to pick up the piece of wood and carry it on their shoulders for a set distance. 

“Carrying that on your shoulders while running is pretty taxing on your body,” Roberts said.  “So your body has to be ready for that.” 

Another new obstacle was what many call a spider web, which consists of several ropes tied together in such fashion that it forms a wall.  The trainers thought the obstacle was a good way to make for a closer race. 
“The feedback from years past was that the lead guys were too far out in front of everybody,” Tallmadge said.  “So we tried to come up with things to slow them down.  Their strength was running, so we made them do some strength activities.” 

The day’s runners were divided among three different divisions:  tribal members, nontribal members, and everyone under 18 years of age.  Coming in first out of the Ho-Chunk tribal men was Jake Johnson, who won last year’s event.  First for the nontribal men was Billy Leonard, who ran the course in record time.  

“He’s fast,” Roberts said.  “He’s really fast.” 

The fastest female tribal member was Alycia Bear.  Nontribal women’s winner was Kari Heyn, whose children won the under-18 division.  Her daughter Ansley took first for under-18 females, and her son Adrian took first for the under-18 males. 

“He’s ten years old,” Roberts said.  “The guys that were spotting out there on the wall said that he didn’t even need help with that eight-foot wall, that he climbed over it himself.  He’s a wrestler, and just a tremendous athlete.” 

The winners were each awarded an embroidered jacket, in addition to the free t-shirts everyone received.  Snacks and refreshments were also made available to the competitors, before and after the race.  According to Roberts, they were provided by the Health and Wellness Division. 

“Health and Wellness has been backing up a lot of these different activities and programs,” Roberts said.  “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.” 

After the race came tug-of-war and a tire-flipping competition.  Winners of the tug-of-war were The Barbarians – consisting of members Kevin Funmaker, Nelson Funmaker, and Gabe Falcon.  Each took home a $20-Walmart gift card. 

“Everybody was cheering these people on,” Roberts said, “encouraging each other.  And that’s why I really wanted to bring this type of event to the House of Wellness.” 

The winners of the tire-flip competition were husband-and-wife duo James and Kari Heyn, who was the top 5K finisher among nontribal women.  They too took home $20 gift cards. 

“The tire-flip event was really awesome because the community was getting behind every single contestant,” Roberts said.  “It didn’t matter who it was.  They were cheering them on.  They were rooting for each other.  It was awesome.” 

By the end of the day, 62 people had participated in either the adult or the children’s run.  Another 25 had taken part in the tire-flipping competition.  Although the number was less than previous years’, the trainers said they were still pleased with the turnout. 

“I thought it went really well,” Tallmadge said.  “The turnout was decent.  And I was glad to see more kids this year.” 

He said that the date of next year’s event could be announced as soon as February.