Rugged Maniac is known for their fun obstacles and great festival area. After failing to fit one into my schedule the last two years, I finally got a chance to see what was new in 2018 at Rugged Maniac Kansas City.
I ran the elite wave in the morning and parking was very easy and close to the start line. For those running later in the day, they had overflow parking with buses shuttling people to the start line. Overall, no issues and it was good to see them plan for contingencies of having that many participants.
Check in was fast and super easy as the friendly volunteers helped each athlete get ready to race.
The Kansas City course takes place at Snow Creek Ski Mountain, which is pretty small for a ski mountain but it will still test your heart, lungs, and legs as you make your way to the top. Even though the course was just a 5k, the terrain made it feel longer and harder. I thought it was a nice option for those athletes that have moved beyond something like a Warrior Dash on relatively flat land but are not ready for something like a Spartan mountain race.
This is why we race, so regardless of how everything else is if the obstacles are great, I can overlook almost any other issue. Rugged Maniac continues to bring a ton of fun obstacles as expected and after having not raced one since September of 2015, it was nice to see them step up the difficulty a little bit. Included in this lineup of obstacles were strength obstacles (hoist and sled pull/drag), two inflatable obstacles (giant slide and giant tiered tower), a mix of traditional Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) obstacles (walls, low crawls, mud pits, fire jump, warped wall) and my favorite the grip strength obstacles.
In addition to the rings over water, a grip obstacle they’ve had for several years, they added in monkey bars that tilt once you get past the halfway point (which was made challenging due to a water obstacle immediately before it). Plus they also had what was basically a mini-zip line that required you to get a running start, slide on the zip line and hit a bell. It was nice to see a couple of obstacles that make you use your grip instead of making this a pure running race.
The one obstacle that surprised me was a claustrophobic and dark low crawl. Unlike other low crawls, this one felt really long and it was into pitch black darkness. I’ve seen this obstacle at other events but never seen it done this well. I couldn’t believe how long it felt when you were just blindly moving forward on all fours without being able to see anything.
At times I felt like the course could have used more marking flags but it was really clear which way to go due to the cleared trail. As a runner going at near max heart rate when I can’t see someone directly in front of me and I don’t see any flags I get paranoid really quick. However, the trails were obvious and to go off course would have required you to purposely take a 90-degree turn in the wrong direction.
Rugger Maniac continues to deliver on their festival. Included in the festival area were vendors giving out free samples including Quest cookies and Rip It energy drinks. Add in a DJ, a mechanical bull and some beer and the atmosphere was fantastic. They even kept things lively with pull-up contests, stein hoisting contests, and a pie eating contest.
My main improvement is the lack of 100% completion band. The event relies on the honor system instead of simply putting an additional paper wristband around each competitive/elite athlete. The paper wristbands (same ones used to identify you as 21+ or to get your free beer) basically cost nothing and provide an easy way to track honesty. They already had obstacle attendants at each obstacle, all they had to do was give them instructions to remove a band if someone couldn’t get past an obstacle. When I crossed the finish line no one asked me if I had completed all the obstacles and I didn’t hear anyone else get asked. Essentially they were relying on someone admitting they failed something or someone else publicly calling the other athlete out. With a race that attracts so many newer OCR athletes, the bands would help clear up any confusion when determining final placement.
I could also see people not liking the lack of timing chips on each athlete. Instead, they just write down the names of the top 10 athletes in each gender to cross the finish line. While this didn't bother me, I could see some people wanting to be timed. However, if you add in timing chips the cost of the race goes up. I know in the past they've done timing chips if you paid a little extra, but I guess not enough people paid for the timing to warrant the extra cost. The lack of timing chips didn't bother me and if it makes the race cheaper and gets more people involved in OCR, than I have no problem with it for series like Rugged Maniac.
Rugged Maniac continues to show why they are one of the national level OCR series providing a 5k race with 25 fun obstacles and a rocking party. While other brands search to mimic each other and try to grab more of the OCR market, Rugged stays true to brand delivering a great experience from beginner all the way up to the elite athlete looking for a good time.
Overall 4.5/5 stars
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