GRAFENOWHER, Germany -- The temperature dropped and winds picked up as over 600 runners crowded the start line in front of the Grafenwoehr Physical Fitness Center, here, April 13. Shivering in their shorts and T-shirts, runners whooped and hollered, pumping themselves up for what lay ahead.

Others, such as Alicia Ward, who was "totally freaking out," dreaded the 13 kilometers of rough trail and inevitable plunge into an icy stream, log cut and carry, and mud crawl that stood between her and the finish line.

The run, officially U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr's Rugged Terrain Obstacle Run, was inspired by popular Tough Mudder and Spartan Race competitions.

NATO allies from the Netherlands, Great Britain and Romania joined civilians, family members and U.S. Soldiers from throughout Germany and Italy to prove their grit.

Thirteen obstacles like monkey bars, six and a half foot walls, net climb and sandbag carry speckled the grueling trail, forcing already tired muscles to work harder. But, it was this challenge that made the Rugged Terrain Run Grafenwoehr's most popular event to date.

"(The participants) love getting dirty, getting muddy, getting smoked," said Serge Kearse, chief of sports and fitness operations.

Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Joint Multinational Training Command work together on the run to drum up excitement for the Rugged Terrain Trail, a new training course on the Grafenwoehr Training Area.

With the rocky and unpredictable Afghan terrain in mind, Integrated Training Area Management and JMTC created a course that would mimic the type of obstructions Soldiers could encounter while deployed.

Nate Whelan, U.S. Army Europe ITAM project manager, and one of the course creators, said that the terrain and obstacles are realistic ones that Soldiers are "likely to find in a real operation environment."

The training course, designed for units to complete while rucking, emphasizes teamwork and the "macro and micro movements" of each Soldier's body, said Colleen Bergmanis, Grafenwoehr Training Area ITAM coordinator.

"We're really trying to provide our Soldiers the realization of 'how my body works' while in full ruck," she continued.

To make the trail more accessible for the community run, Whelan and Bergmanis altered parts of the course and FMWR opted to promote the run as a team-building event, rather than a race.

Units signed up together and started and finished together. Couples from as far away as Vicenza, Italy, helped and encouraged each other on the trail, and a TotalFit class ran together with "Dirty Girl Squad, Together till the Very End" emblazoned on their shirts.

"We're going to complete every obstacle together and provide assistance if needed," said Maj. Yevgeny Vindman, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, who ran with Soldiers from his unit and their family members.

Though the Rugged Run emphasized camaraderie, the course wasn't for the faint of heart or soft of body, and even the top finishers got beat up by the trail.

Wearing a gas mask for the entire 13 kilometers "for motivation," Sgt. Cory Irwin, Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, came in a close second behind 1st Lt. Justin Lujan, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade.

Irwin cited the first obstacle, a long series of roughly hewn stairs nicknamed "Vertical Rush" as the most difficult part of the course.

"I almost threw up in my mask," he said, grinning.

Any NATO or U.S. Army forces who would like to use the Rugged Terrain Trail for training purposes should contact Colleen Bergmanis at DSN 475-8165, CIV 09641-83-8165.