big balls

Muckfest MS has consistently produced quality events for the past three years. Billed as a fun run, it appeals mainly to OCR-newbies but also to anyone looking to have a very good time. The racing series is primarily a fundraising event for Multiple Sclerosis with 100% of the fundraising dollars supporting the worthy cause. While the obstacles may not be considered overly challenging to the seasoned athlete, they are well-built and some of the most fun and unique ones around. (How many other races have successfully figured out how to incorporate a zip-line?) I would rank Muckfest MS favorably against any of the other national beginner-friendly races. It never gets mentioned when it comes time to vote for the year-end awards. Why is that?

If I were asked which race I would recommend for any first-timer interested in giving this OCR thing a shot, Muckfest MS would be high on my list.  

start lineWhile we’ve been fortunate to be the first stop on the Muckfest calendar annually, the unpredictable New England climate hasn’t always cooperated. The cold, rainy and raw weather the past couple years has dampened otherwise enjoyable events. Thankfully, the people at Muckfest MS made the wise decision to push back the run a few weeks from April to mid-May. Smart move with race day temps hovering around 80 and clear skies all day! As a testament to the quality of the event, it remains one of the few around that can successfully support both a Saturday and Sunday race.

MUCKFEST MS BOSTON 2016

Muckfest MS was once again held at the Fort Devens fairgrounds. The expansive venue offered tons of space for runners and spectators and plenty of room for the various vendor and event tents without it feeling cramped. Unlike almost every other race series, both parking and spectator access for Muckfest was free! Many of the obstacles were positioned on and around the festival area, offering great vantage points for photos. Registration was handled electronically and moved swiftly.

crash landingThe course route hasn’t varied much from previous years. Many of the trails are relatively flat with only a few hills. However, it’s challenging enough for a race primarily focused on fun and laughs. The course was well marked, and there were plenty of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers ready to lend a helping hand or encouraging word.

What distinguishes Muckfest from most other fun runs lies in the quality of the obstacles. All of them are well designed and solidly constructed. They offer some of the most creative and unique obstacles around. Many of the ones from previous years were brought back with slight variations to keep them fresh including Big Balls, Swing Set, The Spinner, Skid Mark and a giant A-frame cargo net climb appropriately named Mt. Muck-imanjaro.

Muckfest MS Boston 2016Last year’s new editions also returned including the popular Flying Muckers, the only zip-line obstacle around. Crash Landing allowed runners to channel their inner stunt man with a leap onto an inflatable air bag from a high platform. Unfortunately, the popularity of the event combined with the large volume of first-time runners creates a perfect storm when it comes to bottlenecks. At a few of the more technical or intimidating obstacles, the backups were extensive with many of them lasting over 15-20 minutes. (The picture below is an example of the line for Crash Landing. I wasn’t able to capture the entire length of the line in the frame.) This problem has plagued the race for the past few years and other than doubling up on the obstacles; I’m not sure how it can be alleviated. Muckfest is an untimed event and although no one cares about how quickly they finish, the wait times can get annoying.

The energy at Muckfest is always great. The event has a fun, festival atmosphere and judging by all the smiles and laughs; everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The camaraderie at this race is awesome with tons of teams participating. Everywhere you looked, there was another group of people with their team shirts. Who knew there were so many clever ways to use “muck” in a phase? This is an event that everyone in the family can enjoy.

finish lineThere is even a kid-friendly L’il Muckers playground area where the little ones can join in on all the muddy fun. A few different food and drink options were available along with other festival games and music to keep people entertained throughout the day. The changing area consisted of a bunch of personal-sized pop-up tents instead of the typical his/her community tents which were a nice touch. Muckfest continues to chug happily along year after year, producing quality events and remaining the most underrated fun run out there.

While the other more competitive series garner all the headlines, Muckfest MS appeals to what is arguably the most important demographic for the growth of the sport – the beginners, the first-timers and the weekend warriors.

muckfest logoThe race is obviously more geared towards fun than competition. They’re not trying to be like any other event. They know what they do, and they do it very well. While the backups at a few of the obstacles can get tiresome, you’d be hard pressed to find an introductory level mud run that offers more. They have a lively festival area, fun and unique obstacles, free parking, free spectator access, free lunch voucher, free bag check and free event photos, all to support a great cause. If you’re looking to grab the family or a group of friends and spend the day laughing and getting muddy, Muckfest is an excellent option!

Rating: 4 out of 5

 


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