I believe that when we look back in a few years, 2012 will be looked back on as the year that obstacle racing and mud running came out of the crib and started to walk. Yes, we are still in our infancy with lots of growing up to do. However, a lot has happened this year that has begun to put us on the map of the collective consciousness. Most of the things on this list reflect that. Some do not, and are just really cool things that happened in our sport.
For now, without further ado…here is the top ten of 2012.
10. Obstacle Racing Magazine Launches. Ok, I am biased. However, you’ll notice, I did make it number ten and not number one. Even if I were not personally involved, this would be big news. If your friends still don’t know what you do most weekends, you can hand them a copy. Stay tuned as this magazine is also behind the Australian Obstacle Course Race League and looks to launch a league in the states as well.
9. Margaret “Dirt in Your Skirt” Schlachter becomes the first professional obstacle course racer. Margaret has been ahead of the curve in terms of content, marketing, and gear in OCR for a little while now. It’s no surprise that she was the first athlete to officially “go pro”. On July 1, she declared to the world that she would quit her day job and focus on “this thing we do” full time.
8. The Cornfed Spartans succeed in bringing a race to their town. A few hardheaded folks in Indiana and Wisconsin thought it was possible to get someone to answer their needs for mud races. They promised over a 1,000 racers and Spartan’s Joe Desena agreed to put on a race in Laurel, Indiana in April. What they did not know was that they have now created a template for other groups in other cities. So far, Gulf Port MS was able to attract nearly 5,000 racers to a town no one had heard of before and Northern California got a race using a similar model.
7. Tough Mudder Traffic Jam (Times Two). “Probably the toughest time you will ever spend in your car” was the lightest of some of the outcries that could be heard on Facebook and all over the obstacle world. Highway delays that went as long as five and six hours caused thousands to miss their waves or the race all-together. Tough Mudder puts on a first class event; they still have a thing or two to learn about first class customer service.
6. The Vermont Ultra Beast. It came. It saw. It conquered. Somewhere around 50% of the entrants that started the event quit or were pulled from the course. Most participants that made even made just one lap of this monster took between 5 and 10 hours. No obstacle race course has come close to this kind of difficulty or terrain before or since.
5. Mudrunfun and The Weeple Army teams show up en mass. Mudrunfun was able to bring the largest group ever to a Hero Rush and got lots of great photos and goodies to prove it. Dave Huckle and his Weeple Army brought hundreds to California Spartan races. With elites and couch potatoes, the old and young, and all races and colors represented. These groups are showing what is possible when this community gets together.
4. You can win money for running in the mud. Spartan gave away tens of thousands all year at various races and through their (highly contested yet very popular) point system. Tough Mudder gave out HUGE checks at World’s Toughest. Superhero Scramble also stepped up to give away a few thousand dollars of their own. In 2013, Superhero is promising over $200k in cash and prizes. We are well on the way to attracting better and better athletes to the sport with these kinds of payouts.
3. The Death Race goes for 2.5 days. Proving that mud runners and obstacle racers don’t need prize money to prove them worthy. Joe and Andy put on an event in a tiny Vermont town with few spectators, hours of hard work, lots of monotony, no aid stations, and completely arbitrary and capricious rules and leader boards. If you finish, you get a plastic skull. The entrant list gets longer every year.
2. Amelia Boone destroys everyone in WTM 2012. With last year’s winner Juliana Sproles, taking this year off. There was one name on everyone’s lips as the female favorite. What we did not know was that Amelia would not only beat every female handily, she would beat all but 1 man too. Shunning the spotlight is going to get more and more difficult for the lawyer from Chicago.
1. JunYong Pak. It would be predictable if the person who won the first World’s Toughest Mudder in 2011 were a fluke. Some guy no one heard of figured out a way to stay awake long enough to survive the event and take home a big check. It would be predictable if he were easily taken over by the field the following year when everyone figured out how to manage the cold better with proper gear and training.
The predictable did not happen. JungYong Pak spent 2012 finishing 1st in a Spartan Sprint which is about speed, 2nd in the Ultra Beast, which is about endurance and then 2nd in the Death Race which is about, who the heck knows.
Then the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder came. JYP showed up with a giant target on his back that said, “Beat Me”. He took on all 1100 participants and beat them, handily. 2 men pushed him harder than he wanted for the first 4-6 laps, that did not stop him from outlasting all men and a late surge by Amelia to retain not only his WTM title but to be crowned “Baddest Obstacle Course Athlete on the Planet”.
You probably have your own ideas about what these should be, or have a much more personal top ten. We here at ORM would love to hear them.