2,000 take part in Waldo's Rugged Maniac 5K

Published: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.

"I have mud on my teeth," exclaimed Mat Melendez — one of 2,000 people to run the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race in Waldo on Saturday.

The Rugged Maniac race was run over a 3.1-mile course with more than 20 obstacles designed to put the human body to the test. Climbing a 20-foot wall, hurdling over rows of fire and army-crawling through tunnels of mud were just a few of the course's challenges.

The race was broken down in heats, which started every 15 minutes. The waves of people leaving were limited to 350 people each to prevent back-ups at the obstacles.

The Rugged Maniac Race travels to 20 different locations around the country to give people the opportunity to challenge themselves and have a blast outdoors, said Rob Dickens, chief operating officer for Rugged Races.

The race this weekend was one of Rugged Races' smaller events, with 2,000 runners and over 500 spectators. The largest race is held in Massachusetts with 12,000 runners, Dickens said.

Runners can sign up as a team or run alone and look forward to an outdoor festival waiting at the finish line. The registration cost includes a T-shirt, professional race photos and a beer, according to Rugged Races' website.

"It's pretty much a big outdoor party," Dickens said. "People dress up and goof off."

Prizes are awarded to the top overall finisher, top three female finishers, top three male finishers, top racer over 55-years-old, top racer under 18-years-old and the most rugged team, according to the race website.

The day-long festival after the race features a mechanical bull, live bands, beer pong and food and beverage, Dickens said.

This is the third time the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race has come to North Florida, Dickens said.

The soaked and muddy runners in Waldo celebrated their moment of victory as they charged across the finish line but quickly retreated to the changing areas because the cold air was finally sinking in.

The high was 57 degrees in Waldo on Saturday, probably not the weather that the North Florida participants anticipated when they registered.

"The hard part was all the really cold mud," Chris Rokicki said. "You'd run, warm up and then have to go back through all the cold mud."

Dickens said the founder of the Rugged Maniac Race, Brad Scudder, came up with the idea after he participated in a Tough Mudder — a 10- to 12-mile race said by some to be the toughest event on the planet.

Scudder had trouble rallying a team to run with him in the Mudder and wanted to make an event more open to the public and focused on the obstacles, Dickens said.

"I would do it again right now, right this second" said a muddy and freezing Melinda O'Rourke.

Everyone runs for a different reason, but most take on this hard-core obstacle course simply to have fun, Dickens said.

"They're not in it to win it; they're in it to get muddy, tackle the obstacles and say they did it," Dickens said.

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