OLD BRIDGE, NJ – Several thousand women, and some men as well, got down and dirty Saturday while raising money to fight domestic violence during the annual Mudderella season kick off.

Participants took part in a 5-to-7-mile obstacle course, with plenty of opportunities to be covered in mud, at Raceway Park in Old Bridge to raise money for Futures Without Violence, a non-profit organization battling domestic abuse.

 It was the first of seven such events scheduled throughout the country, taking place the day before Mother’s Day.

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The others will take place between May 30 and Oct. 3 in Chicago, northern California, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Washington D.C. area and New England.

The participants form teams, train and raise money before taking part in the event, according to the organization.

“We are running in honor of my father, Giovanni Floridia,” South Brunswick resident Giancarla Pozzo, 39, of Monmouth Junction said, standing with her team of about eight people wearing shirts with her late father’s photo. “Today is the 15-year anniversary of his death (from prostate cancer).”

In addition to having a memorial for him at her home later in the day, Pozzo said he was “one of the biggest celebrators of life” she has ever known, and that doing the event would truly honor his memory.

“Friends were like family to him,” she said, briefly choking up with tears. “I know that he did not just want people to cry for him, so I thought what better way to celebrate life than to do something that celebrates women and life than to run a Mudderella with my friends and family.”

Pozzo’s team included members of her family and friends; Azra Baig, of Monmouth Junction, Tracey Crowley, 54, from Kendall park, Meredith Maggiacomo, 44, of Plainsboro, Sharon Vogel, 43, of Princeton Junction and Kim Suez, 43, from Monmouth Junction.

As they stood in a line waiting to start the race around noon, the group admitted to being a bit nervous after seeing runners finishing the course, covered head-to-toe in mud.

“It is the first time together doing this sort of run,” Baig said, “We work out in the gym together.”

Another team of around 10, clad in red shirts with “Maxinistas” written across the front in white letters, included a group of friends from the Max Fitness gym in East Brunswick.

That group said they were looking to challenge themselves by running the course and use the event to “get out of our comfort zones.”

“That’s when the magic happens,” one of the group members said.

The participant in a third team, Kelley Leo, 33, came all the way from Santa Cruz, California to run with two cousins and a friend, Mary Giamartino, 33, of Astoria, Queens, Lisa Russo, 34, from Long Island and Elisha Weitz, from Morristown.

“I think it is a great cause, running against domestic violence,” Russo said.

The Mudderella course challenges runners with obstacles including crawling on their bellies in mud, climbing a rope over a wooden wall, sliding down a pipe into a muddy water pit, climbing hills, balancing on a beam and many other stations.

Organizers said Monday that more than 10,000 people ran the course Saturday raising some $35,000 for Futures Without Violence.

According to the Futures Without Violence website, the organization works to prevent domestic violence by developing innovative programs and policies that support victims, survivors, helping them get to safety and by educating individuals about the issues and the critical roles everyone has in preventing abuse.

According to the group, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends and nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current, or former, spouse or boyfriend during the relationship.

The group also estimates that one in three women, internationally, will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during their lifetimes.

In most cases, by a member of their own family, the group found.

It also estimates the cost of intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking being more than $8 billion, in 2003 dollars, in the United States alone.