As I arrived at the Rockingham Dragway for my first ever Rugged Maniac, I had no clue what to expect. I was mentally on the fence about the race the entire drive and the wait before the starting line. On one hand, I was excited to see a new course that I had never run before, with new obstacles that I had never seen and a new race to challenge myself with. On the other hand, this was a race series that I had never done before and facing the unknown obstacles invoked a mental challenge.
As I walked up to the registration tents, I noticed something that I’ve never seen before: long lines. This registration process was different than any that I had ever experienced. The registration tables didn’t open until one hour before the race. You were not restricted to one tent you could register, and could use any tent you wished. After picking up my race packet, I made my way over to grab my timing chip. Their concept of this was also new to me. I had to pay an extra $10 to be officially timed. Even though I got to keep the timing chip, I think they should move away from this policy. The bag check was also not very well-run, as it was seemingly an unpoliced tent with tables where you placed your bag wherever you want to.
Load in time! As the 10 o’clock racers jumped the initial wall to get into the corral, my adrenaline begins to pump. I’m ready to make my way onto the course to see what this day has in store for me. The emcee gets us pumped for the race as usual, then sends us off with the blast of an air horn. After a good 300 yard run, we come up on the first obstacle: the barricades. These five foot walls have become standard for almost every obstacle race I run, which makes it fairly easy to get over them.
Around the corner and onto obstacle number two, I see trenches dug in the ground. As I race up and jump over the first, I made the mistake of looking down into the trench and noticed that it was about 4 feet deep. I immediately put on the brakes as my fear of falling into them took over. It only took a few seconds to get my mentality back into check and cautiously proceed over them with broad leaping strides.
Next up after a short run was a pretty standard obstacle as well an A-frame ladder followed by an obstacle named the “Speed Trap.” I didn’t think anything of this obstacle as it just seemed to be a shallow water crossing where I tend to excel because of my sure footing. This one however had a five foot drop off about 15 feet from the end that was highly unexpected but pleasantly welcomed. Following the speed trap, I came up on three very large dirt mounds that I had to climb.
Following this obstacle, we went into the woods for what I thought would be some nice trail running, but faced what turned out to be practically running on the beach. This slowed me down quite a bit, seeing as that I had never ran on such soft terrain. After “Beam Me Up,” a standard plank ladder obstacle, came some new ones – “Tipping Point,” where you had to balance yourself up across a see-saw, then the “Pipe Dream” which involves going down a pipe into a barbed wire topped army crawl through water then back up a pipe on the other side.
A good bit of running both through the beach-like trails and beside the track separated the next seven obstacles. The first obstacle on this long stretch was the leap of faith, where I noticed a lot of people just dropping in right at the beginning. But I did what it said and took my long leap about halfway across the pool of water, propelling me past a few racers. Down the hill and around the corner was an obstacle that I feel like you don’t see enough – the balance beam, where slow and cautious will leave you in the pool below. The next four obstacles are OCR favorites of every race: the cargo net followed by barbed wire, walls, and carries, oh my (a barbed wire crawl with an eight foot wall topped off with a Wreck Bag carry.)
After the Wreck Bag, the course snaked its way up to the dragway as we hopped the safety walls and ran across it and headed into the grandstands. Having never been to the Rockingham Dragway, I expected this to be a normal stair obstacle here. But when I reached the top of the hill, I looked down at the stands and noticed there were no real stairs, only the bare concrete seating, which reminded me of giant stairs like you would see at the Greek Parthenon.
After the stairs of the gods as I called them, it was back across the dragstrip and up to two obstacles I have only seen advertised on the Rugged Maniac, as well as the homestretch where they had grouped the rest of the obstacles pretty closely together. The “Frog Hop” where racers had to traverse a pool of water by hopping from one floating platform to another was followed by the “Gauntlet” where racers crossed a pool of water on a scaffold and could get a little nasty by using the inflatable hanging pillars to knock other racers off their feet and into the pool below. Completing the rings was fairly simple and was followed by another giant mound of dirt to climb over.
The next obstacle I would have to say was one of my favorite obstacle I had ever done – “Antigravity.” Starting on a platform, I jumped onto a trampoline and grabbed the wall, which was laced with a cargo net. From the other side of that wall, I jumped four feet down onto the next trampoline and could have almost cleared the next wall, but decided to cling to the next wall also laced with a cargo net, which made me feel a bit like Spiderman.
“Pyromaniac” was three fire jumps that led to the last obstacle group, “Warped Wall,” which I would compare to the “Tsunami” and “Everest” respectively but a great deal easier. “Mt. Maniac,” an angled cargo net, led to the top of the “Accelerator,” a great water slide to finish the race off with. I took advantage of my momentum coming off of the slide to pass three racers who I was neck and neck with at the end and finished strong, officially as a Rugged Maniac!
Until next time, STAY RUGGED!
*Photos By: Michael Arrowood and Rugged Maniac