Rugged Maniac – What You Don’t Know, Won’t Hurt You – NJ Review

With many two day events there will usually be several differences from Saturday to Sunday. If you’re not running both days, then you won’t miss or appreciate what you do or don’t have on the day you run. This is a good thing and bad thing depending on your expectations entering the event. Variances can range from parking locations, altered obstacles, even different medals or shirts (if they run out of one from Saturday to Sunday).

Often times if Saturday is shuttle parking, Sunday may be on site with attendance numbers differing by several thousand between the two days. With less people registered on Sunday’s it also means less backups for obstacles. Only drawback is most races go all out in terms of vendors, on course volunteers and even photographers for day 1 of 2. It’s really a pick your poison scenario and I’ll always opt for Sunday.

For event day, it never changes for parking at the always popular OCR venue of Englishtown NJ. Events such as Rugged Maniac, Tough Mudder, Battlefrog, Warrior Dash, Muderella and the upcoming Terrain Race series have chosen this venue for their races. So it’s always fun to see how each brand utilizes the space. One thing is for sure, be ready to get muddy regardless of the name on the swag.

Parking is on site, a short walk from the event area. Englishtown is a motor cross track and paved raceway. The event area for Rugged Maniac was utilized well with several food vendors, different local sponsors giving out product samples and family fun in the center of it all in the form of electronic bull riding, bean bag toss and even inflatable, full-body sumo outfits.

The start was the same as in years past for RM with a short paved jog leading you to the mud hills of the dirt bike track.  Since it had rained on Saturday and early morning Sunday the dirt was soft and the mud was wet. All races I’ve done there have followed the wooded path off the dirt course into a wooded area. It’s always nice and muddy, usually ankle deep and had several waist to shoulder high trenches filled with thick mud and water. I always forget to use my gaiters on this venue and always regret it with the massive amounts of mud.


After coming out of the wooded area that’s outside the race track, you come up on several fun obstacles spaced throughout the course. The hanging inflated bags to run through while avoiding a fall into water, a series of floating crates (frog hop) that many chose to not sprint across and had difficulties balancing. Last year this obstacle was under construction throughout the day with lanes being closed for repair. Through three laps on Sunday all lanes were smooth sailing.


The placement of several obstacles added a bit of a challenge to otherwise easy obstacles making things more interesting. The rings over water, for example, were at the bottom of a slippery, mound of mud that required the use of your hands to navigate. So when you’re ready to grip the rings, you couldn’t get a grip with wet, muddy hands. Balance beams over water was just after a walk through thick mud. The beams were wide enough not to cause issue for the standard OCR athlete, but for the average Joe this posed a challenge. The seesaw traverse was nice and slick making for a fun obstacle to observe people having a great time even while failing to complete it.


Now for the Saturday to Sunday variances I was aware of. People voiced frustration from a slide malfunction on Saturday causing it to be shut down for a period of time with cited safety concerns. The slide is easily one of the event highlights for participants of all athletic abilities. Fortunately I chose the best day for a giant water slide. Throughout the day Sunday the slide was fully functional. One of Rugged Maniac’s newest obstacles, named “Bang the Gong,” was altered from what I had expected and looked forward too. From videos of previous 2016 events a participant would jump from a mini trampoline outwards over water while attempting to hit a hanging frying pan or gong. When I approached the much anticipated obstacle I noticed the trampolines were nowhere to be found. I didn’t hear any complaining from participants on approach. Those that didn’t expect the trampolines had no reason to be disappointed and while I was looking forward to it, the obstacle was still a blast(I circled back in line for multiple jumps) running downhill to jump out into water.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Rugged Maniac still using barbed wire in their crawls as opposed to other open heat targeting races that use ropes or plastic course tape. One mud crawl was on very slick,clay like mud that required an uphill ascent under low barbed wire. This would pose a challenge to any skill level and was an excellent opportunity to help other participants who appreciated a hand. The last obstacle leading to the slide, the warped wall, is always a spectator friendly obstacle providing an encouraging view of teamwork and camaraderie.


Many people complained that they wished more photographers were on course. I personally ended up with 30+ pics for 3 laps of running. While there was many photo opportunities missed on key obstacles such as the warped wall and “Bang the Gong”, it was nice having a photographer on each side of the ring swing, assuring your photo op wasn’t blocked by another participant. I’m certainly a fan of Rugged Maniac for their emphasis on fun, yet challenging obstacles that provide a great day of racing for all skill levels. If you run competitively or just want a good time, you’ll find it at a Rugged Maniac.

Mike Natale

Mike Natale is an OCR addict who loves life, family & medals!
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