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Week of May 7, 2012

Friends find fitness together, compete in extreme race

When Shawna McManus and Pam Quinlivan signed up for the Tough Mudder — a 12-mile, 27-obstacle race — they didn’t anticipate what they would go through to reach the finish line.

The obstacles were challenging: a 30-foot jump into cold, muddy water; a network of live electric wires (charged to 10,000 volts) to run through; a run up and over a half-pipe; a 40-foot balance beam precariously balanced over water. But Quinlivan and McManus set their minds to finish the race, and they did just that.

Pam Quinlivan (left), a human resources generalist for the Department of Internal Medicine at the U-M Health System, and Shawna McManus, director of human resources at the Law School, get dirty during the Tough Mudder competition. Photo by Dan McManus.

Quinlivan, who works as one of the human resources generalists for the Department of Internal Medicine at the U-M Health System, first met McManus, who is the director of human resources at the Law School, when she came to U-M in 2002. When the administrative offices for internal medicine moved to Domino’s Farms in 2007, Quinlivan started working out at the fitness center there. McManus was working from Domino’s Farms, too, and Quinlivan says that from there, “the rest is history. We had that shared bond, we wanted to get healthy.”

McManus explains that the MHealthy campaign — named MFit at the time they started working out — helped to motivate them. “We kept getting these emails, and the gym was right across from my office … so we went over there and did it.” Both women hired trainers to up their workouts, and began competing in races.

“I got the crazy idea in my head that I could do triathlons, though I didn’t know how to swim, hadn’t ridden a bike in years and couldn’t run,” McManus says. After training for and participating in several triathlons, she wanted a new challenge.

“I thought the Tough Mudder was something completely impossible to do, and that’s why I signed up for it — to give me something to work for,” McManus says. Goals are important to both women; Quinlivan’s next race will be the Ann Arbor half-marathon in June. “I sign up for races so I don’t fall off my fitness goals,” she says. McManus is most excited to do the Down & Dirty race in August with her children, who were inspired by seeing her in the Tough Mudder.

It was a long road to the race. Both women worked out with their personal trainers and on their own, focusing on circuit and interval training to increase upper body strength and stamina.

The day of the race was rainy, and Quinlivan explains that the course, which they expected to be muddy, was “a combination of pudding and milkshake consistency.” The weather surprised them, but Quinlivan says that she was surprised by the camaraderie more.

“You have to take this pledge — this is not a race, it is a challenge. … You can’t do that by yourself, you need the help of others,” she says.

Both women faced their fears with each obstacle. Quinlivan explains Twinkle Toes, the balance-beam-over-water obstacle: “The beams were muddy and wet and people were running on either side of you. I absolutely refused to be in the water again, I had a belief that I could do it, and I did. It really taught me something in regards to my ability.”

They learned how to crawl through pipes and over 12-foot walls, but both women took away more than just that.

“I will always remember how much fun it was. We just laughed the entire time,” McManus says. “What a blast it was — we had trained so hard and it ended up being a challenge but really fun. Now we’re addicted to adventure.”



Marc Stephens, instructional multimedia developer, Medical School, on what it takes to get in shape: "Both feet, in the water, go … because there is no other way to do it."


Nichols Arboretum Peony Festival, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
 May 15-June 5.

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