After a forced hiatus in 2020 (due to COVID-19 race restrictions), obstacle course racing enthusiasts are eager to get back in the mud and make some memories this year! So on June 19, 2021, in Oak Harbor, Ohio those of us yearning to get our feet muddy stormed the swamp to take on the Black Swamp Dash.

A “mom-and-pop” obstacle course with world-championship level obstacles, the Black Swamp Dash is an Ohio local event that is built and managed by husband and wife duo, Troy and Sandy Anthony. An impressive event, and birthplace to the OCR World Championships obstacle “Little Foot”, the Black Swamp Dash truly brings big-OCR-feelings to a small town. As a loyal Black Swamp Dash participant myself, I can vouch for this event as being one that never disappoints!

The 2021 Black Swamp Dash handmade finisher medal

The Course:

The race, which takes place at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds, was supported by both competitive racers and “fun-runners” alike. On race day, temperatures in the 70s and an overcast sky made for near-perfect race conditions. With easy and well-organized parking, registration, and bag check, the morning was off to a fantastic start!

At the start line, Tory himself sent racers off with words of encouragement as well as a restatement of course rules and protocols. The course included 37 obstacles (27 manmade and 10 natural), offered two water stations, and zig-zagged through 3+ miles of single-track wooded trails, wide paths cut through open fields, and deep, thick swampland.

In regard to the obstacles, competitive runners were required to attempt every single obstacle or forfeit their obstacle completion wristband. What’s more, is that the Black Swamp Dash adds an extra challenge, with some obstacles featuring a “basic” and an “extreme” level of difficulty. Those in the competitive heats were expected to attempt the “extreme” side of these obstacles, and if unable to complete that level, they were allowed to move on to the “basic” level for completion. Competitors were able to attempt each obstacle as many times as desired, or else forfeit their wristband. One obstacle offered an exception to this rule – “Big Foot”. Big Foot is a 60-foot rig comprised of poles, ropes, walls, and various grips that changes from year to year. If a racer is unable to complete this obstacle, they were given the opportunity to complete a penalty loop (including low crawls and hurdles) in lieu of forfeiting their wrist band.

Competitors make their way through the ‘Big Foot' obstacle at the Black Swamp Dash

Open wave participants were encouraged to attempt every obstacle, (with the choice of completing the extreme or basic levels); however, there was no penalty for skipping or failing an obstacle for these racers. This choice in obstacle completion and difficulty level sets Black Swamp Dash apart as an achievable event for racers of all levels!

An obstacle featuring an “extreme” and a “basic” difficulty level. Racers on the left seen completing the “extreme” side.

Obstacles were distributed evenly throughout the 3+ mile course, built with strong craftsmanship, and offered multiple lanes to avoid any course back-ups. Traditional obstacles such as a rope climb, hurdles, and heavy carries were familiar, while innovative Black Swamp-specific obstacles were also scattered throughout the course. Notably, “Big Foot” and “Little Foot” are obstacles specially crafted by Troy and Sandy and unique to the Black Swamp Dash.

After navigating the swamps, fields, and challenges of the course, the finish line was set up beyond one final wall and one final mud pit. Racers crossed the finish line through knee-deep mud before being handed their handmade finisher medal.

Participants trek through a mud pit before crossing the Black Swamp Dash finish line

Awards & Swag:

Finishers of the Black Swamp Dash earned a t-shirt, hand-made wooden finisher medal, and beer voucher. Those who had 100% obstacle completion success also earned a rubber wristband. The top three men and women in each age group, as well as the top overall male and female and largest team, were awarded handmade plaques.

First place male, Cameron James, and first place female, Amy Pajcic, earn one-of-a-kind Black Swamp Dash plaques

Additional Information:

In regards to the competitive division, the Black Swamp Dash is recognized as a qualifying event for the OCR World Championships; however, due to the limitations of COVID-19, OCR World Championships is not requiring qualification for their 2021 event. This, however, did not seem to deter the competitive nature of the event!

All attendees were given the opportunity to run unlimited laps of the course for an additional $10 cash fee on site. To which, many competitive runners took on this challenge for a “fun-lap” following their competitive run. For completing multiple laps, participants were awarded a pin for each additional lap completed.

Smiling faces on the Black Swamp Dash course

The Black Swamp Dash also featured festival area music, a food truck, small-scale obstacles for practice and/or play, wash and changing stations, and a photo station featuring a custom Black Swamp Dash banner for photos and awards.

If you missed the event in 2021, it’s not too late to get dirty at the Black Swamp! In addition to the Black Swamp Dash event in June, Troy and Sandy frequently offer the course up for training days on Saturdays throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Those interested in training for OCR World Championships or those simply looking for a fun weekend activity for the whole family can find training dates, details, and waivers on the Black Swap Runner Facebook page.

Overall Opinion:

Race recap author, Julie Abbott, alongside husband, Austin Abbott, after completing the Black Swamp Dash.

Overall, the event meets expectations of a quality obstacle course racing event and I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5. The Black Swamp Dash is affordable, accessible, and the perfect event for beginners, families, and experienced competitors alike. Additionally, the passion of the race founders, Troy and Sandy, is heartwarming and evident to all who attend and support the Black Swamp Dash.

Until next time, happy racing!

*Official photos from the event were provided by Captured Moments Photography

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Rating: 5/5


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