Middlebury native wins rugged race and a $50,000 wedding

KILLINGTON — 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 Challenge. First prize (a fully-catered wedding at Spartan founder Joe De Sena’s Riverside Farm) had a value of approximately $50,000.
That’s over three times what first place earned in cash and prizes ($15,000) at the Spartan World Championships.
Corvington, an elite racer who finished in the top 35 at the Worlds, thought she’d have a good shot at winning the race.
She hadn’t counted on one Middlebury native who also had her eyes on prize and would prove to be a potent threat.
The Fittest Bride Challenge, which took place this past Sunday, Oct. 18, in Pittsfield, was run on a 2.5-mile course that had contestants running 878 stone stairs up a mountain to Shrek’s Cabin — a 1,000-foot elevation gain — before descending on a rocky trail. It was a winner-takes-all event; there would be no prize for second place.
As it turned out, the race background of some of the top contenders looked like a bucket list of endurance events: triathlons, sprints, obstacle course races, Spartan races.
“When I saw who else had signed up, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to win,” said Tara Pendergraft, a veteran of the Killington Spartan Ultra Beast and multiple other obstacle races, after the race. “There were women who have won other Spartan elite races. Even though I’m in pretty good shape, I wasn’t sure I could win but I figured, what the heck.”
She placed 12th.
An exception in the field was Polly Lynn, 32, a 2001 graduate of Middlebury Union High School and currently a Killington resident. Except for running one leg of this summer’s 100 on 100 relay, Lynn had not raced this year.
But she had one advantage: She and her fiancé, Jason Mikula, began training on the course in late August.
“I must have run those steps at least 24 times,” Lynn said.
The 35 stood at the starting line jumping up and down to stay warm in the sub-freezing temperatures. It had snowed earlier that morning (in fact, on the same day, just four miles south Killington Resort was the first ski area in the nation to open for skiing.) One woman 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 about 10 each.
The race began as a sprint across a wide field to the stone steps. The first wave stuck together until midway up when three broke away, Polly Lynn initially took the lead but Rachel Corvington, one of the elites favored to win, passed her early on. Corvington has run a 1:31 half marathon and has a personal best 10K time of 41:07; she 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,” recalled Lynn, who was in second place at the top.
“Number 222 and 250 are neck-and-neck,” fans heard officials radio from the top.
Though Lynn has only done one Spartan race (and she wasn’t competing, she was on a team with fellow Middlebury College alumni who set out to simply finish the Spartan Beast at Killington Mountain together in 2014) and doesn’t often run races, she’s a natural athlete and has often jumped into physical challenges on a whim.
“Every year since she was born, we’ve headed out to our family cabin in Rocky Mountain National Park and all three girls hike with me since they could walk,” recalls her father, Angelo Lynn, the publisher of this newspaper. “She first climbed Long’s Peak, elevation 14,256 feet, at age 8 and she’s been running and hiking mountain trails ever since … She also helped me guide a father-daughter team up Gannett Peak, the highest mountain in Wyoming, in 2010. We did what the guide books call a five- or six-day trip in three days — 25-mile hike in to camp on day one with 40-pound packs, a 20-hour summit day, and the hike back out the following day. She’s no stranger to pain and pushing herself.”
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, I could hear her footsteps catching up to me,” Lynn recalls. “I knew I had to put enough distance during the steeper downhills so she would not be able to out-sprint me in the last flat 200 yards to the finish.”
Gasping for breath and 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 USA Track and Field Cross Country Club Nationals, finished third.
Polly Lynn had just won herself a wedding.
“I’ve never wanted to win anything this badly, I trained as much as was reasonable without quitting my day job or giving up other obligations,” said Lynn, who is editor and co-publisher of The Mountain Times newspaper in Killington. She and Mikula were engaged in June and had been saving up and dreaming about Riverside Farm for the reception, but the price tag was high. Now, they will 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 said. “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.”
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.

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