Crawling around in the mud is not everyone's idea of a good time, but for Pamela Robinson of Westfield, Continuing Education coordinator at American International College, it's a great way to spend the weekend. Robinson, recently competed in the Rugged Maniac, a 5K (3.1 mile) obstacle course race that combines the most rugged terrain and burly obstacles.

The event took place at the Motocross 338 in Southwick, featuring fifteen obstacles constructed by an experienced crew of licensed contractors. The participants had to climb over walls up to 7' high, crawl through mud under barbed wire, hop from stump to stump over a pit of water, slide down a 60' water slide, navigate a web of pipes, jump over fire and face many other challenges all while running through a combination of forests, fields, motocross tracks and ski slopes.

"Many people ask why I put myself through this and I guess the biggest reason: I can," Robinson said.

"After having breast cancer and several surgeries I thought my 'athletic' days were over. Once the fog of cancer cleared, I started out slowly, walking a few days a week for a mile or two, then more days, more miles. Pretty soon I was walking 5-8 miles every day," she said.

Not for the faint of heart, frail of body, or weak of mind, the Rugged Maniac 5K was designed with the assistance of the Marine Corps to push the competitors' limits and determine how rugged they are.

How did she do? "I shaved nearly four minutes of my time from last year," she said. Her 2012 time was 46.30, compared to 50.01 in 2011.

"Athletics changed my life as a kid; it drew me away from what was becoming a very rebellious lifestyle. I have made the decision to rebel against negative things in my life, by challenging myself in positive ways. The Rugged Maniac Race isn't about the party for me as it is for many; those days are long over. It's about personal achievement and fighting the odds. I train for it and I run it because I can, simple as that," she said.

At AIC, Robinson works with adult learners who face the challenge of coming back to college and earning a degree. "I have a framed card called Courage in my office. It was given to me while I battled cancer. I keep it in my office as a reminder to myself that just about anything is possible. I like the adult students I work with to see the card and quote and hope it inspires them to do the same, challenge themselves. The quote reads: Courage 'In the end, the only people who fail are those who do not try,'" she said.