Hundreds of people are expected to converge on rural Talladega County Saturday for the second Survive This Mud Race. It’s a 5k-plus run and mud-filled obstacle course that’s sure to test the mettle of even the strongest competitor.
Mud runs have been gaining in popularity in recent years, since the nationally known Tough Mudder came to the United States in 2010. Organizer Alexander Jones and a few of his friends had participated in the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash events, traveling out of state each time.
“It has exploded in popularity, but there hadn’t been as much emphasis in the south,” Jones said.
This year’s international Tough Mudder schedule includes events in Pensacola, Nashville, Atlanta and Charlotte, but Jones and his friends – all Birmingham residents – had decided to host a run closer to home.
The setting is the 6,000-acre farm in Plantersville where Jones’ grandfather, A.W. Jones, once lived. Now a hunting club with a 19th century cabin that was moved from elsewhere in Alabama, the site offers runners a scenic route of rolling hills through pastureland and woods and around a rustic lake. And there’s plenty of room for more than 20 military-style obstacles such as monkey bars, trenches, wall climbs, a steep slide into a mud pit, and one where the runner has to carry a sandbag a certain distance, put it down, climb a rope, descend, then take the sandbag back to the starting point.
And there’s mud. Lots of mud.
The organizers who helped design and build the course include a banker, a couple of office managers and a USMC Force Reconnaissance Marine who has seen more than a few obstacle courses in his day.
The first Survive This Mud Race was initially planned for last fall, but the plans got moved to March. Some 500 people from all over Alabama plus Florida, Georgia and Mississippi showed up on that 37 degree day to brave the elements and test their will.
Jones said almost 1,000 people are expected this time, with registrations coming from as far way as Illinois and Louisiana.
Early registration was $40, but online registration is still available for $90. On-site registration on Saturday will be $100, and there’s a $10 per car parking fee.
Participants will run in heats of 150 people each, starting every half hour. The fastest participants may finish in an hour or so, but some may take two hours or longer, Jones said.
Finishers will receive a medal and a Survive This T-shirt, and adult finishers will get a free beer. There will also be a DJ and live music, and plenty of people sharing their stories from the course.
Sylacauga resident John Parrish said he and his friend and co-worker Kevin Mayo were at the first Survive This Mud Race, and will be at this one, too.
“We went to Kentucky a few weeks ago to do the Warrior Dash,” he said. “Survive This was in March and it was 37 degrees. We’re looking forward to doing it a little warmer this time.”
Parrish and Mayo, human resources executives at Nemak Alabama, became mud run enthusiasts after both lost weight and started running, working out and trudging on treadmills.
Losing weight meant having more energy, and Parrish said mud runs turn a run into an overall physical challenge with their trenches, barbed wire, walls and stacks of hay bales to climb.
“It wouldn’t be as much fun alone. It’s more fun with a partner in crime or as part of a group,” he said. Parrish and Mayo have done mud runs in Auburn and Clanton, and are planning a road trip next year to participate in one in New Jersey.
Parrish said he would recommend the activity for anyone looking for a physical challenge. “You use the buddy system to boost each other over walls. Strangers even help each other. It’s kind of like life – you find ways to conquer those obstacles. And it’s neat to be able to say, ‘I finished it.’”
Parrish said he and Mayo choose the runs they participate in based largely on the charities they support. “That means something to us,” Parrish said.
Survive This supports Ronald McDonald House, and is sponsored by JCB of Alabama, Wright Exercise, Café Firenze, Ruckpack Energy, Supreme Beverage and others.
Registration is available at www.survivethisrace.com