Kansas City doesn’t have many series races that pass through town, so when a national brand makes a stop nearby, you better believe everyone is coming to the party. I recently attended Rugged Maniac Kansas City as part of my annual trip to at least one Rugged event each year. Here is how it went:
Parking was easy as always with the morning waves getting to park onsite and the later waves parking down the street at overflow parking before getting bused to the site. I really like that they still allow for onsite parking for the early waves, especially important for those running competitive waves who need to be at the start line at a certain time.
Rugged Maniac is known for its festival and they continue to stay true to their brand. The festival was free to enter for spectators, athletes, and locals. Vendors were giving away free beef jerky, free Rip Its (energy drinks of which many military veterans have fond memories) and had several other booths. Additionally, the MC was lively and fun while also having contests like pie eating, stein hoisting and pull-up contests. The party has become a staple of the brand and they continue to set the bar high.
Rugged Maniac has been at the Snow Creek Mountain since at least 2015, the first year I attended their event. Even with it being a “mountain course”, the elevation isn’t too bad, allowing for new Obstacle Course Racing athletes to come to the event and run their first race. They do make great use of the terrain by routing the course on lots of shorts ascents and descents through the woods before ultimately ending in the festival area.
Rugged continues to be a great OCR for new athletes while also adding in some fun challenges for the experiences obstacle racer. New in 2019 to their 5k course was Barzan, a set of horizontal poles on chains that athletes had to swing across elevated above water.
Returning from 2018 were two fun obstacles with an upper-body emphasis including Full Tilt (a horizontal monkey bars that tilt when you get past the halfway point) and my personal favorite, Off The Rails (a mini zip line). Add in a mix of strength obstacles like Sled Dog (a sled drag) and Pull Your Weight (a hoist obstacle).
What makes Rugged standout from other OCRs though is their use of inflatables and trampolines. Their warped wall leads directly into Mount Maniac, a massive inflatable that requires climbing several shipping containers to reach the top before the slide. Add in the Accelerator (another massive slide) plus Feed the Beast (an over/under enclosed inflatable) and it makes for a good time. The inflatables work well for Rugged, providing an obstacle that still takes some time to complete while still sticking to their brand of party + race. The Anti-Gravity obstacle has two trampolines making it fun for elites to fly through but still doable for anyone just looking to have a good time.
Like most OCRs you could run in the open waves (non-timed) or elite waves (no timing chips but they record top names for OCR World Championship qualification). While they recorded the names without problem, the only improvement I would like something to denote 100% obstacle completion. I’m pretty sure the top ten men all had 100% completion, but no one ever asked me, it was just assumed. Whether they add in wristbands to denote 100% completion or just simply ask you when you cross the finish line, I think that would help ensure the qualifiers are the athletes who truly qualified.
New in 2018 was the addition of Rugged X, their multi-lap option. While it looked like they had a good number of participants in Rugged X (as identified by their headbands), I couldn’t even tell if Rugged X was still a thing when I signed up. Personally, I would like Rugged X identified a little more clearly defined on the website as an option. It would help draw more athletes into the multi-lap option and give athletes that want it an additional challenge.
When everything goes perfectly at an event, it’s hard to tell what type of company you are supporting. It’s when things start going poorly that an event shows you what kind of people work there. Rugged Maniac’s KC event had a threat of thunderstorms all weekend according to the forecast. They prepared the field ahead of time sending out emails letting them know about the pending weather and what they would do if there was a delay or cancellation.
They still went ahead with the elite wave since no thunderstorms or rain were present. Right after the elites finished the rain and lightning rolled into the venue. They calmly asked people to head back to their cars for safety. About 30 minutes later, communicated via email, announcer and word of mouth the rest of the waves resumed. While I heard some people grumbling about the move “not being very rugged,” they played it smart and safely. Unfortunately, just a week later, a runner would die just outside Kansas City during a 50k when struck by lightning. While I hate to bring this up, it is a good teachable moment that you can't be too safe when it comes to weather and it shows that Rugged Maniac knows what they are doing looking out for their participants.
Rugged Maniac handles uncontrollable circumstances like bad weather with poise and confidence. You can tell they are an experienced company that has pre-planned contingencies for situations like this. It is brands like them that help give OCR a good name and encourages new OCR participants to come back to races in the future (both within their brand and to the sport as a whole).
Rugged Maniac continues to deliver their races true to themselves. They are a fun brand with some challenging obstacles that is a great intro to the sport. With Warrior Dash folding earlier this year, I think as an industry we have found a clear successor. Although, let's be real for a second, Rugged Maniac was always a better series. Rugged Maniac still puts on high-quality races with an amazing atmosphere that is great for everyone from elite to beginner. I look forward to many more years running their series.
All pictures provided by the athletes in the KCOCR Facebook group.
This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.