Read the story and watch the video: In a race for a $45,000 wedding, a local Vermonter outpaces some of the top Spartan contestants from around the country.
Killington, Oct. 19— Rachel Corvington, 34, was on her way to the Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe in August when she heard about The Spartan Fittest Bride contest, which took place this past Sunday in Pittsfield. First prize (a fully-catered wedding at Spartan founder Joe De Sena’s Riverside Farm) had a value of more than $45,000. That’s more than third-place finisher in the Boston Marathon gets and over three times what first place earned in cash and prizes at the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe earlier this summer.
The 2.5-mile course would have contestants running 878 flights of stairs up a mountain to Shrek’s Cabin—a 1,000-foot elevation gain—before descending on a rocky trail. There would be no prize for second or third.
Corvington, an elite racer who finished in the top 35 at the Worlds, canceled her plans to compete in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships this past weekend in Ohio. Instead, she booked a flight from her home in St. Petersburg, Fla., to Vermont, arriving four days early so she could train. Around the country, Spartan racers were getting blips on their phones informing them of the event. The only requirement for entry: you had to be engaged and the field would be limited to 100.
The first 15 brides accepted to compete received two nights of lodging at Amee Farm Lodge ahead of the competition.
Tara Pendergraft heard about it as well. She and her fiancé own Urban Fit Inc., an obstacle course racing training facility in Haleyville, Pa. A veteran of the Killington Spartan Ultra Beast and multiple other obstacle races, she signed up as well. “But then I saw who else signed up. I knew with women like Laura Fasciano competing I’d have a tough chance winning,” Pendergraft said. Fasciano won the Tri-State New Jersey Super Spartan Race in September. “But I’m in pretty good shape,” Pendergraft continued, “So I figured, what the heck.”
In fact, the race background of some of the top contenders looked like a bucket list of endurance events: triathlons, sprints, obstacle course races, Spartan races.
Killington’s sole entrant, Polly Lynn, 32, editor of The Mountain Times, was the exception. Except for running one leg of this summer’s 100 on 100 relay and participating with her sisters in the Dirty Girl, Lynn had not raced this year.
But she had one advantage: She and her fiancé began training on the course in late August. “I think I must have run those steps 24 times,” Lynn said. And in doing so, she was able to drop her personal best time from 14:10 to 12:58 up the steps.
Though 98 contestants signed up, only 35 showed up at the starting line at Riverside Farm for Sunday’s race. They stood at the starting line jumping up and down to stay warm in the sub-freezing temperatures. One girl wore a wedding gown, another a tutu; but most were dressed in running garb. Then the gun sounded and they headed off in three waves of 10 each.
It began as a sprint across a wide field to the stairs. The first wave stuck together until midway up when three broke away, with Rachel Corvington, the favorite, in the lead. Corvington has run a 1:31 half marathon and has a personal best 10K time of 41:07 was flying up the hill. “I kept Rachel within 20 feet all the way up to Shrek’s Cabin at the top of the mountain,” recalls Lynn who was in second place.
Though Lynn has only done one Spartan race, (she was on a team that did the Spartan Beast in Killington in 2014,) and doesn’t often run races, she’s a natural athlete. A former Vermont high school ski champion, in 2015 she won the Killington Ski Bum races. She also has grown up in the mountains. “Every year since she was born, we’ve headed out to our family cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park and I made all the girls hike with me,” recalls her father, Angelo Lynn. “She first climbed Long’s Peak, elevation 14,259 feet, at age 8.
As the race downhill began to steepen, Lynn’s mountain training took hold and she passed Corvington. “Every time the trail flattened out a bit, she would catch up to me,” Lynn said. “But I knew I had to put enough distance so she would not be able to outsprint me in the last flat 200 yards to the finish.”
Gasping for breath, pumping her arms, Lynn came into the last open stretch looking strong and crossed the finish line at 23:03, beating her own personal best time. Just 12.5 seconds behind, Corvington finished second and Georgina Norton, a former New York University runner who has competed in the USATC XC Club Nationals, finished third. Fasciano was fourth.
Killington’s Polly Lynn had just won herself a wedding.
“I’ve never wanted a win this badly, I trained as much as was reasonable without quitting my day job or giving up other obligations,” Lynn said after. She and Mikula had gotten engaged in June and had been saving up and dreaming about Riverside Farm for the reception but the costs were high. Now, they would have a catered dinner for 100, accommodations for six guests, and full use of the property. As Lynn’s sister Elsie Parini said: “You can now afford a pretty amazing wedding dress.”
Race organizer Peter Borden was grinning at the finish. “I knew Polly was strong and probably a top five contender but I didn’t think she would actually win it,” he says. “There are a lot of women out here with some impressive Spartan and other race credentials.”
“Many of the other girls were shocked that I was even a contender because they haven’t seen me on other race circuits —I’m not on any,” admitted Lynn. “ And, to be fair, I probably had no business winning this race. But the fact that I did just goes to show that if you put your mind to something and give it your all, you can accomplish even the most challenging of goals.”
Riverside Farm owner and Spartan race founder Joe De Sena had this to say: “With so many phenomenal women competitors who come out to each of our races, we thought this would be a perfect way to help celebrate those who will be tying the knot. Polly showed true grit and determination and as a result was able to come out on top. “
Mikula was grinning at the end as well. “Honestly, in the end I wasn’t even thinking about the wedding. I just wanted Polly to win because she’d worked so hard for this,” he said.
Sometime this spring Lynn, Mikula and 100 of their closest friends and family will return to Riverside Farm with its six beautifully restored barns and 700 acres of sprawling fields and forest.
It will be a wedding well worth running for.
The event will air on RUNNING National on November 7. Watch the preview here