Rugged Maniac


The entire race sucked A LOT. But it was bloody awesome.
I’ll be back next year. –Michael C Young

Mud races have become big business. An event that pretty much didn’t exist five years ago has developed a cult following that attracts a million participants a year.

Google “what is the best mud race” and you’ll find yourself confronted with 87 million search results and counting.

So what is it that sets a mud-themed obstacle race apart? What makes people want to follow a race around to other locations rather than wait ‘til same time, next year?

In the case of the Rugged Maniac, it’s a total package that starts with a course that evokes memories of all the swamp people movies and ends with a rocking and rolling, beer-drinking festival that would be worth the price of admission by itself.


So first let’s talk about the race itself.

fitness2xtreme-images-challenges-rugged-maniacs-motorcross-courseMost Rugged Maniacs are run on Motocross courses, and for those of you who’ve never been to a Motocross event, which means rugged terrain that has steep hills, deep valleys with sharp curves, and it’s almost all dirt.

Add the amount of water that seems like a prerequisite for a Rugged Maniac event and you’re talking about slogging through areas where you’ll feel like the mud is up to your shoulders and you’re thinking that maybe you should have brought a straw to breathe through, just in case you sink a few inches deeper.

Word of Advice

One of the most commonly-heard recommendations that runners exchange before the race is to wear Vibrum Five Fingers or tie their shoes ultra-tightly; that’s because so many people have lost at least one shoe in the first few minutes of the race, sucked down by mud that reminds you of the quicksand scenes in Gilligan’s Island.

Another good piece of advice has been not to wear anything that’s too loose or hangs down too much, because otherwise the mud is going to get it, and you’re either going to be running the race naked or with one hand holding your pants up.

My best description of Rugged Maniac would be: A “5k” where you run with 20 pounds of mud in your shoes, and get trampled by teams jockeying for position… but I loved it…

I loved getting pushed down a muddy hill by some jerk only to have to climb back up it, brush it off, and find out where he lives later (joking, meh).

I loved coming together with people you’ve never met to help complete different obstacles.

I even loved looking death (and divorce) in the eye and saying not today sir, not today (only joking William).

Most of all, I loved sliding down that mondo slide, completing a few more tasks with an audience, trough-ing off, and having a cold beer to celebrate… and then getting a bottle of purell and showering in it when I got home. –Steph at Lohisport

Rugged Maniac has all the obstacles that the other races have, including having to leap over fire pits repeatedly, clamber through mud under a field of barbed wire, and plenty of high, slippery walls that need to be conquered, but there are lots of things that set this course apart.

fitness2xtreme-images-challenges-rugged-maniacs-scaling-a-wallFirst, it was designed with the help of Navy SEALs, so the walls are extra steep, the tunnels aren’t just slimy and dark but also set at a slant that you have to pull yourself up with a sodden, slippery rope, and you’re going to be running through a gauntlet of huge filthy truck tires suspended by ropes, which will give you a whole new perspective on what a bowling pin feels like as the ball is barreling down the alley.

fitness2xtreme-images-challenges-rugged-maniacs-superhero-jumpsAnother favorite is the series of vertical stumps set a fair distance apart from each other; you need to leap from one to the next to make your way across, a task that requires intense concentration and yoga balance, and generally ends with lots of cursing, skinned calves and bruised egos.

The course engineers generally try to take advantage of the specific geography where the race is being held, which can sometimes yield an event that’s more challenging than originally intended.

The “superhero jump” required participants to run down a steep hill and jump 7-10 feet across a steep drop and water hazard, to the other side. Most racers were not able to complete the jump fully, landing instead on a foam crash pad and then scrambling up a rope net to reach the top. This obstacle came fairly late in the race, once fatigue had set in and many runners hit the crash pad and rocketed back into the water. At one point in the day, an athlete was so badly hurt on this that the race had to be re-routed around the obstacle. –Mary


Running the course with 350 other people per timed wave, you’ll find that there is plenty of help if you can’t get over a wall or through a tunnel.

fitness2xtreme-images-challenges-rugged-maniacs-helping-othersAs is the case with so many of these uber-challenging obstacle races, there is a profound sense of community among the runners, and somebody will always lend a muddy hand.

For those who just cannot face or conquer an obstacle, there’s no shame to going around, and no punishing burpees either – but you do lose your eligibility to win a prize for time.

Every Rugged Maniac ends with a climb up a 60-foot slope that leads to a wild water slide into icy cold water – the rumor is that the water starts the race clear and gains its slop consistency as runners plunge in and shed much of the coating they’ve accumulated over 3.2 miles.

A quick wade through and duck under obstacles leads to the end, where you’ll find a cleaning station equipped with hoses of cold water, changing booths, and a raucous party complete with banging tunes, water, fresh fruit and food, and plenty of beer.


Complaints about the event are minimal – people object to the fact that spectators have to pay to get in, but the Maniac organizers argue that they’re getting a fantastic event to watch with a concert at the end.

fitness2xtreme-images-challenges-rugged-maniac-kid-jumping-over-obstacleIt is true that the set-up of Rugged Maniac lends itself to far more viewing opportunities then most of the other mud runs, plus runners can opt to rent a head-cam to record their run, a truly cool add-on.

At many of the races they offer a “Mini-Ac” course for kids 3-8 who want to participate in the muddy mess, which leads to another complaint the event has received: that participants are encouraged to bring their kids (and dogs too for that matter), but the music and revelry at the after-party is often far from PG-13, and there is a strong sense that the organizers need to determine whether this is a family event or not.

Having said that, Rugged Maniac offers legitimately tough course. It is is held all over the world (in US, between February and November), with about 18 events planned per year.

The course veterans say that you need to have put in hours of strength and endurance training, and Crossfit is good preparation, but without putting in the running miles, you’re going to find yourself sunk, literally and figuratively.

Even with adequate training, athletes find themselves laughing at the sense of helplessness that can only come when you’re racing against the clock and find yourself hip deep in muck, or trying to establish a grip on a rope that is coated in slime.

It’s 3.2 miles of serious workout that can’t help but feel like play, and after it’s done you get to hose off and have recess.


Rugged Maniac Info

Name: Rugged Maniac
Location(s): US, International
Owner(s): NA



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