I recently participated in my third Hog Wild Mud Run event, hosted in Plant City, Florida. I’m a big fan of the Hog Wild series, and I know many local OCR enthusiasts feel the same. I tend to see a lot of familiar faces at these events, and being an event that works closely with the MudRunFun group, its become more than just any race, but a day spent competing, and then celebrating with, good friends and likeminded people. So it comes as no surprise to me that many participants approached this specific race with high expectations.
The last two Hog Wild events were stellar, ranking as a couple of my favorite events thus far in my ever growing mud run repertoire. Hog Wild 3 featured an awesome 80s themed mud race that was lighthearted and fun, yet still very challenging, and 18 Holes Of Hell was hosted at a golf course and country club, a first of its kind. Each event boasted a challenging race followed by an awesome after party complete with catered food, drinks, and tons of fun! Hog Wild 4 promised to deliver just as much, if not more, than its preceding races, and I eagerly awaited its arrival, knowing that a quality event was in store.
Now I want to start by saying that I personally really enjoyed Hog Wild 4. I ran the elite wave, encountered fierce competition, pushed myself through the entire course, conquered each obstacle in stride, and finished strong. I had a great time with friends and family afterwards while Mason joined several other children and played tirelessly for hours in the mud. As with most of their events, a DJ mixed great tunes while unlimited free food and beverages were served, and it was a race day I am so glad to have been a part of.
With that said, this event was not without its flaws, and unfortunately the day left both the race director and staff, as well as many participants, feeling disheartened, and a bit let down.
Unfortunately no race is safe from any number of elements that can instantly change the entire event’s fate just days, or hours, before the first wave is scheduled to be sent on their way. The staff at Hog Wild realized this all too well when Mother Nature decided to dump several inches of rain in a torrential downpour the night before the race. And instead of being able to utilize those last precious hours to complete the pre-planned final touches of the course, they instead found themselves forced to completely alter their focus and begin damage-control on an event that they began to fear may need to be cancelled.
Just hours before eager runners would begin to arrive, Hog Wild staffers were faced with a slew of increasing challenges, and they continued to be bombarded with issues stemming from the flooded grounds throughout the day.
The fields that had been mowed for parking right next to the festival area and start line were flooded, making vehicle access impossible. A new parking area much further away had to be arranged so as to avoid vehicles becoming entrenched in the mud, and participants would now need to be towed in on a flat trailer pulled by a slow-moving tractor. Many waited anxiously for their turn aboard the loaded tractor, while many more sloshed through ankle deep standing water approximately half mile to the race site. Areas of the course were flooded as well, causing some obstacles to become unusable or unfinished due to the lack of time to complete vital parts of the course. Had the weather cooperated, these item would have been completed as planned, but the scramble to reconfigure parking as well as free vehicles from the suction of thick mud had made this impossible. Volunteers began quickly dropping out, or leaving mid-schedule due to the excessively wet conditions of the festival area and course (participants didn’t mind the ankle deep water and muck so much since we arrived planning to get dirty, but the volunteers were apparently not so impressed). The elite wave began 30 minutes late while final touches were frantically completed out on the course, causing immediate back-ups on the course from an unintentionally overcrowded first wave. Water stations began to run dry as the morning progressed since the multiple golf carts that were present to deliver aid were not able to access most parts of the course due to the deep water and mud. The kids course was not completely set up when a parent decided to take it upon themselves to start the kids race, causing confusion for volunteers and parents alike. We watched on in confusion at the scramble to set up the final kids slide and retrieve medals, all the while coaxing our children to remain patient as they lined up to finish their race.
When I spoke with Adam, event director of the Hog Wild Mud Run series, he sounded defeated. “Hog Wild 4 was supposed to be the race to put us on the map” he explained, but instead it seems he walked away feeling as though this particular race may now have set him back as many participants became critical, impatient, and at times downright mean as the day dragged on. They did not understand the struggle that had occurred to put on that day’s event, and anger and frustration was hurled at volunteers and staff alike.
I’ll be honest and say that I do not at all understand everything that goes into being a race director for an obstacle race. But I can tell you that, from what little view into their world I have, it is no easy task. Some races fail due to improper planning and poor leadership, and I’ve experienced some of these events first hand. Hog Wild 4 was not a failure, nor were the issues it experienced due to a lack of passionate and knowledgeable leaders. It was, unfortunately, affected by environmental factors that would have brought even the most organized race to its knees.
I believe Hog Wild 4 was a great race. Did it have its issues? Yes. Was it bumpy and in some spots disorganized? Yes. But I’m convinced that any other race placed against the same struggles brought on by Mother Nature would not have been near as good. The Hog Wild staff put their heart and souls into this race. They were frustrated and discouraged, but this will not break them. I’m confident that they will learn from the challenges presented, and their upcoming events will be just that much better.
Obstacle racers are a very passionate group. When we love a race, we love that race, and when we hate it, we really really hate it and like to make it known. The reason I write this today is because I hope to shed some light on what can so easily happen behind-the-scenes to drastically change an event. We as obstacle racers need to also adapt, and except that not all events will be provided the optimum environment to run perfectly.
I’ll happily join in on future Hog Wild events (did you hear they are having an Ugly Christmas Sweater 5k followed by Egg Nog flip cup on December 7th?!?! Ummmm, sold!!), and if you are one of the recent participants that left the event feeling underwhelmed, I urge you to give another Hog Wild race a try. I’m sure you’ll come away a fan.
Here’s me and a few of my fellow MudRunFun Hog Wild fans! Interested in trying out an obstacle race but don’t know who to run with? Join us!! We’d love you to run with us at any race!