Sometimes the flames were low...
But it was always muddy.
Participants came prepared to leap over flames, scale walls, and wade through mud, but several runners in the first-ever Mud Warrior mud race faced an unexpected obstacle: a charging bull.
"Those people got a great experience no other mud run will offer," laughs the event organizer, Joshua Bare, who notes that the bull– used in rodeos held at the Gordonsville farm that hosted the race– had been corraled far from the course before somehow slipping free on Saturday morning.
Fortunately, Bare says, runners-turned-unwitting-matadors were fleet of foot, and the bull was immediately rounded up by event volunteers and re-secured.
"They came across the finish line laughing so hard," he recalls of the runners. "They said, 'We're fine, but this is the greatest thing of our life.'"
As reported in the Hook's April 5 cover story, Bare had spent the past year– and $80,000– organizing the race when the owner of the site on which he'd planned to hold it backed out in late January. With only two months before the April 14 event, Bare says, Gordonsville-area farm owners David and Sally Lamb offered their 250-acre property, also home to miles of horseback riding trails once used by Christopher Reeve, saving Bare the nightmare of cancelling the race.
"I'd never have been able to pull it off without their help," says Bare, noting that other than the rampaging bull, the event was nearly glitch-free as 2,400 people made the trek to the farm about 40 minutes northeast of Charlottesville. The two dozen or so obstacles included balance beams, hurdles, climbing walls, fire, and, of course, mud. Lots of mud.
"It was a blast!" says Terrie Brown, an Albemarle County resident who ran the course with members from her "boot camp" class from the Boar's Head Sports Club. Other than scrapes resulting from a rocky mud slide that finished out the race, Brown says everyone finished unscathed and happy.
"I hope he does it again," says Brown, who does suggest that Bare consider lowering the entry fee, particularly for spectators, who were charged a $15 advance entry ticket, $25 on event day.
Bare says he'll be assessing a variety of elements of the event, and notes that children under 10 were admitted free.
"We were trying to recoup some of our costs," says Bare, who says selling 1,100 of the 2,400 race tickets at a discounted rate through group deal sites Groupon and Living Social helped boost the numbers of participants– a good thing for a new race– but meant that revenue was lower by about $40,000 than with entry fees sold at their full value of roughly $50.
He also points out that the "spectator" portion of the event might have been livelier had alcohol been available– something he had to forgo when the location changed without sufficient time to secure a new state alcohol license. There was, however, plenty of pulled pork thanks to chef Craig Hartman, who left the upscale Fossett's restaurant at Keswick Hall in 2010 to open the Barbecue Exchange in Gordonsville.
Stressing that the event was a fundraiser for the Charlottesville-based Hope Community Center, Bare says this time around, the race didn't generate a profit, although donations from racers topped $1,000, but he's enthused nonetheless.
"The race went off amazing," Bare says two days later as he and volunteers are cleaning up the approximately four-mile course. "I absolutely couldn't have asked for a better day."