A 5K obstacle course that will get your endorphins pumping

Get down and dirty in the mud


(Maxwell Zaleski/Daily Collegian)

By Patrick St Martin

A few months ago, my friends and I saw a half-price deal on Groupon and impulsively signed up for a 5K obstacle course. I knew nothing about Rugged Maniac Races; I assumed it would just be like any other 5K but with a little mud and some hurdles. I was ignorant. It was when I received a warning email several days before the event that I realized it would be a lot more than a simple muddy road race. They explained that we should bring clothes and sneakers that we were prepared to throw away after the event because we would be covered in mud from head to toe. I then started reading the safety waiver and saw that I should be ready to take on 25 unique obstacles, featuring barbed wire, pools of mud, mudslides and even hurdles of fire. I found myself grinning at the fact that this would be a lot more fun than I had originally thought.

Our team, “The House of Salmon,” was made up of the most in-shape people I know. We lined up at the starting line, under the big, red, inflatable gate. The gate displayed the name of the race, “Rugged Maniac,” looming over our heads. We were ready to rock-n-roll. When the announcer finally blew the whistle, for the 12:45 bout, we each flew off the line. Immediately, we started to stride our way through the crowd of those who began just ahead of us, until our six-man squad was leading the whole pack. We followed the dirt path through patches of woods and thin clearings until we came to a huge puddle that immediately soaked our sneakers, socks and feet all the way through. Normally, this would have bothered me, but at this moment, my endorphins started pumping and I began focusing on the path just in front of my cycling feet and nothing else.

The first intense obstacle was “Claustrophobia,” a 50-foot crawl down an underground trench in the darkness and in the mud with only a pinprick of faint light guiding your way out from ahead of you. Next, was “The Gauntlet,” a passage on a thin floating bridge surrounded by deep pools of mud. Weighted pendulums swung while you placed one foot directly in front of the other, balancing your way across; many careful runners became victims to the muck. After that was the “Head Scratcher,” which was a crawl on all fours in another pool of mud under rows of barbed wire fences that would scrape your back as you advanced. “The Accelerator” came next, where we scaled a steep ladder, them found ourselves looking down a long water slide going directly in to a dark, murky water that would fully submerge your body. “Pyromaniac” was where the fire came in to play. It was a jump over three lines of wood fires with thick smoke that would fry your leg hair and sting your eyes to the point of watering. “The Ringer” was the most physically taxing. We had to grab hold of rings high overhead and move from ring to ring above a 25-foot pool of muck, while your hands and arms are already slippery with sweat and mud and exhausted from the usage during the previous obstacles. On comes the final test, an inclined ramp 17-feet tall that you have to run and jump over. Once you reach the top, there is an even taller waterslide that marks the photo finish.

After the race, for those who are 21 or over, Rugged Maniac provides an included congratulatory beer/hard cider, a fun afterparty that includes mechanical bull rides, a pie-eating competition, free energy drinks and food trucks. The volunteers and staff at the competition were extremely friendly and helpful. Throughout the entire competition they would snap photos of the runners and later provide them for each of the racers online. The photos that our team received were amazing. I saw us crawling through the mud, jumping through hurdles, doing the kinds of things you think stunt-doubles do. Evident from our facial expressions, all the photos accurately display the intensity that we were experiencing on the course.

Rugged Maniac is a challenging race and the proceeds go to a good cause. The program has already raised over $80,000 for cancer research in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. These obstacle races happen all over the country, but the next one in New England happens next year on Sept. 28 and 29. If you are looking for a little crazy challenge to do for the weekend that will give you a great workout for a good cause, Rugged Maniac is something to try.


Patrick St Martin can be reached at [email protected]