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Featured Review: Rugged Maniac, MA 2017

My first Rugged Maniac was 8 years ago, in 2010. I remember complaining really hard, because the advertised 5k distance was completed quicker than I could run a 5k road race. I went back in 2011 and 2012, both events held before the now famous Shark Tank appearance – and I just never went back. Other races, longer distances, bigger challenges.

But this year, I got to interview Kaitlyn Greenleaf, the director of race operations for Rugged Maniac for The NE Spahtens Show, and I realizes it was time I went back, and checked out for myself just how much they have grown and changed since the early days of both Rugged Maniac, and the early days of OCR.

Spoiler: I’m really *really* glad I did.

The Rugged Maniac of 2017 occupies that space in OCR frequently called “Beginner friendly” or “entry level” – but frankly, the terrain at Motorcross 338, the birthplace of Rugged Maniac back in 2010 kicked my ass. Rolling motorcross sand hills, and relentless heat this past weekend wore me down far more than I expected. The obstacles though, firmly in the “fun but challenging” realm – nothing crazy, nothing ridiculous and no penalties.

As a venue, I see why they keep coming back. It’s relatively easy to find, and plenty of onsite parking, thats 1/2 the price of the competition. They run their festival area down the main access road, and keep things easy to find. While the crowds were dense at times, the festival was always hopping – a solid MC on stage, running competitions all day (both fitness and fun – from pull up competitions to pie eating!). Plenty of portapotties, a hose down station, changing rooms – a super smooth checking and registration process too. Rugged HQ were kind enough to let us pitch tents for the rather large number of Spahtens registered over the weekend, and the onsite beer was excellent, with the venue also putting on several different food options. But lets not forget the star attraction for this particular venue – spectator access. You can go almost anywhere on course, or simply hang out in the stadium seating with a fantastic view of the whole motorcross park.

When I look back over my 2010, 2011 and 2012 Rugged Maniac outings – the obstacles are *generally* the same – but in the same way a family compact car is the same as a sports sedan – both are cars, both get the groceries – but one is infinitely more fun. Same here – back in the early days, I have vivid memories of Rugged struggling to keep fire jumps burning all day – this weekend, there were three, blazing high in a row – and another one fed by propane in front of a water pit. The water slide back then was barely little more than a tarp on some boards into hip deep water – this year, there were two, both massive, both fast, both smooth and cleanly depositing you into water traps that slowed you down effectively.

How’s that for a view?

Rugged’s start line MC was awesome – spending a few minutes each wave to ask people with cleats (ie: metal tips on their shoes) to step out of the coral in case they burst or rip the inflatable obstacles – and, kind enough to give the Spahtens in many of the waves over two days a shout out – having an MC who’s aware of who he’s sending out and actually explain safety and rules? Good show.

A solid 3.5 miles, and s is typical, I won’t go into a blow by blow of each obstacle – you can see Nicole’s excellent Community Review here, and she always does an excellent job describing them. But for me, a couple of highlights.

There was a simple wall climb early on. Maybe 5′. But, Rugged added a bar to the top, with a section of PVC pipe – a small addition that made an otherwise boring wall much more tricky. These little touches were through out the course.
The slides! If you listen to the podcast, you know how much I hate slide. Did both of them anyway. No epiphany moment, I still hate slides, but I did them both.
Lots of crawls, most of them with cool water that was appreciated on such an unusually sunny day.

Steve and I were #twinning hard that day …

Ultimately – we finished having completed 25 or so really fun, really well built obstacles. Some tougher than others, some more fun than others – all built well, all you could walk right by if you chose to do so – and all on those damn sandy hills that make up Motorcross 338 and burn your legs and lungs out quickly.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank Rugged Maniac for getting involved with our #racelocal program – we operate this annually, encouraging people to participate in the best of the New England OCR scene – and Rugged Maniac grew up right here in MA, are still headquartered here in MA, and helped us with a unique multi-lap across both days program, were super accommodating when people needed to adjust wave times, or run with their Spahten buddies.

So – if you’re new to OCR, Rugged Maniac is for you. If you’re an OCR veteran, who’s burned out of the long distance competitive stuff – Rugged Maniac is fun, entertaining, and may remind you why you loved OCR to begin with. Huge thumbs up from me – and I plan on being back in 2018!

[P_REVIEW post_id=20759 visual=’yes’] Do you have your own views? Leave a Community Review here!

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Playing in the Mud – Take Care of Yourself

We were all saddened when we learned of the death of Heather Foggo last week. Heather was running in the United Kingdom’s Mighty Deerstalker Race, which is a 10-mile off-road race in Scotland. Foggo, a nurse, was seen struggling one mile into the course and collapsed. Medical assistance was on scene within three minutes, as per the Mighty Deerstalker and she later passed away.

Foggo was an experienced obstacle course and mud runner. She was a nurse and therefore knew the human body well and would have known if she was not able to race that day. By getting to the starting line and beginning her race, all have assumed that she felt fine until she showed signs of collapse.

Foggo’s untimely passing reminds us that we are all fragile, no matter what we think and feel. We all go out on these racecourses and attempt to complete insane things. World’s Toughest Mudder had multiple people complete over 100 miles in the Las Vegas desert. Spartan Ultra Beasts have been well over 35 miles, including some of the most insane changes of elevation. There are these types of races all over, and we attempt them. Sometimes we fail, most of the times we succeed and to overcome these events is borderline insane.

Before and after the events, are the hours upon hours of training, running, climbing and preparation that we all do. This all brings stress upon the body. Our participation in the events are the result of hundreds of hours of preparing our bodies and minds. When we stop and sit back and think about what we have accomplished, we are proud and we should be. What some of you do, and I am not including myself here, is truly remarkable.

I am going to remind you here, today to listen to your body. You are a fragile piece of machinery and there are so many things that can happen and go wrong inside of you. You, and only you, are the only person that controls that body. It is up to you to decide when the time is right and the time is wrong to get to that starting line and completing races.

A few years ago, I was in Killington on Mile 10. A friend of mine was sitting on the floor. She was resting, looking out at the majesty of the Vermont Mountains. When we talked for a few minutes, she told me that she made it this far and she knew she had some medical issues and had to stop. She knew that was her time to let the rest of the day go. She was listening to her body inside and felt that if she went on, irreparable damage may have taken place. She may have sat back and thought that it was the wrong decision at some point, but as I see her posting photos of her with her young child, I know it was the right decision to make.

I have talked about breaking ribs at a Rugged Maniac a few years ago and finishing the race. I was near the end, and I was still able to breathe. I am not a doctor and I do not have a degree, but I felt I was okay to finish and that I would have medical attention within minutes. I did as soon I crossed the finish line.

There is nothing like crossing a finish line, whether you are a newbie at an inflatable race or the most elite of elite at a championship. That finish line signifies all of the hard work that you put in to get you there. Make sure you get yourself checked periodically. Do you really know about that supplement or that new exercise? Do you know if that twinge in your knee is just from the changing air pressure or something much worse? Do you really know why you have been short of breath?

In this whole universe, there is only one of you. You are unique and you mean something to yourself, your family and your friends. Listen to yourself. Listen to your body and please make sure that you always come home from every race that you start, no matter how much you have sacrificed to get there.

Take a moment to take a breath because you are epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.



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The NE Spahtens Show – Episode Nineteen

Take a listen as Paul, Josh and Sandy cover the past couple of weeks of New England OCR – talking about Rugged Maniacs return to Southwick, MA for the *7th* year in a row – why O2X is more than “just a trail race” and a special long segment discussing the upcoming OCR World Championships in Canada!

We also take listener questions from Chris, Greg and Rob – thanks guys!

Don’t forget to subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher, and leave us a review so others can find the show later! We also launched a dedicated Facebook page for the show, to track everything in one place – hit Like!

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Featured Review: Rugged Maniac 2016

Big thanks to NES Ambassador Dennis for this review!

New Rugged Maniac Logo_212x124_thumbIt’s no secret that Rugged Maniac is my favorite race series. It has been around awhile for good reason, it’s FUN. I should say right here at the beginning that I skipped a few obstacles due to an injury, but was still able to do many.
The venue for the event is a motocross track in Southwick, Ma. There is plenty of parking, so no bus rides. Parking is $10.00 per car. I did hear about a couple of incidents where the volunteers parked cars in such a way that people were blocked, this really should not happen and I’m sure will be addressed at future events. There is NO FEE for spectators and the layout of the course allows for many great spots for your friends and family to watch.

14457342_10154123891429794_1708187393376344319_nRegistration is pretty straightforward, go to any table and you are assigned a bib number. There was a an backup on Saturday but the staff put all hands on deck and cleared the backlog in plenty of time for people to enjoy the rest of the day. Rugged Maniac does charge extra if you want to be timed, if you were one of those you were directed to another table to pick up your timing chip. Honestly, if you do want to be timed, be certain to sign up for the first or second wave. There are sometimes backups at a few obstacles as the day progresses. Most of us what have done more than 1 or 2 of these events don’t even bother with the timing chip. Remember what I said about it being FUN.

Bag check is free and is handled well. Volunteers attach part of your bib to the bag, security checks your bag, and then you put your bag away, so you know right where it is. When you leave, security checks your bib number against your bag. If you lost your bib on the course, they were able to take care of it as well.

14469430_1778652095736717_1824046403171154652_nThe festival itself, well let’s just say that Rugged Maniac knows how to throw a party. The other thing is that after you do the course, you are not so beat up so you can have FUN at the party. The vendors were either pertinent to the event and were providing enough samples to make it worthwhile or were charities worth supporting. The Marines were there with their pullup challenge once again, and as an old Army vet I was compelled to talk smack. Lucky for them I was nursing an injury. Harpoon Beer was there again this year and this year had a cider offering for those people who prefer that option. There is a bouncy house for the kids that was busy all day long with happy faces. Pie eating and beer-stein holding contests. Food court included some pretty good food, served hot and fresh by the VFW. The “showers”, (cold) were available as well as a changing area.

Now let’s talk about the course itself, I’m including the course map so I’m not going to list them all but just say they are well built and some are fun and some are challenging enough to make you feel like you have accomplished something. The only backup I saw this year was the Warped Wall and that was maybe 5 minutes. There was one obstacle that more than one person felt was placed wrong. The Ninja wall were so close to a water obstacle that they were very slippery with mud. I saw more than one person wipe out.

This year’s finisher’s medal was definitely a step up. The T-shirts had both a men’s and women’s cut. Race pictures were a little disappointing this year. There didn’t seem to be as many photographer’s on the course as in previous years.
Overall, this is an event to be on your calendar. I have already signed up.


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Featured Review: Rugged Maniac MA 2015

Rugged Maniac is one of the staples in New England – ever since their first appearance, all the way back in 2010. With investment and high profile attention from Shark Tank, they stepped their game up massively in the last couple of years. Josh reports back on what they are like these days …”







Southwick, MA isn’t exactly a hotbed for the OCR community. The only time I’ve heard the name before was in reference to the Southwick Zoo. (editors note: they aren’t even slightly close to each other – nearly made that mistake once!) After this past weekend though, I’m thinking an annual trip to Southwick, MA may be in order as Rugged Maniac, the brainchild of Boston’s Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder, bankrolled by Shark Tank entrepreneur, Mark Cuban uses Southwick as the location for it’s flagship event. If you caught the episode of Shark Tank where the owners were pitching Rugged Maniac, they struggled to differentiate their product from the likes of Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. I shared the same mindset but the old adage stands tall — “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.”

vlcsnap-2015-09-28-22h47m41s023Rugged Maniac was held at Motocross 338, an outdoor motocross/ATV track and terrain course. Seemingly a perfect fit for an obstacle course event as you’ve already got a pre-carved out track, built in obstacles, and a spectator seating. Arrival was easy, as parking was right nearby, organized neatly across the nearby baseball fields (sorry for driving over your pitchers mound!) The standard $10 parking fee was.. well.. standard.

The festival area surrounded you quickly as you walked under the cargo net bridge to enter it. Crowds were gathered at the starting corral, as well as the warped wall where spectators and racers alike cheered on runners to get up that slanted beast – the mark of a good festival area is one where everyone feels like they’re part of the event, not just occupying space while they try and keep their eardrums from bursting from some local DJ’s desire to pump techno at 8am. No, Rugged had their festival area well organized, and packed in well enough to be convenient. The layout made perfect sense. Registration table and check in were well done, and here’s why. You show up and sign in, they give you the next bib number in line. No worrying about getting your bib numbers before the event or bugging your friends on Facebook about why they aren’t posted on the website yet. Timing chips on some pesky little bracelet that you need to bug Mama Hen to trim for you? Nope. A disposable timing tab that you can attach to your shoe, or slip inside your sock. Once I put it there, I immediately forgot about it, that’s the sign of a perfect piece of race gear. Once I was ready to go, I needed to stow my gear – guess what? Bag check was FREE. Self service too. Pop in to drop stuff off. Forget to put sunscreen on, white boy? That’s fine, pop back in and apply! And the best part? Rugged even gives you a clear plastic bag to store all your dirty gear in, so as not to ruin your car on the ride home. Small simple logistical choices by Rugged continued to impress, and I hadn’t even run yet.

vlcsnap-2015-09-28-22h44m38s851Rugged does both timed and untimed versions of their races. For a small fee, you can run in one of the first waves of the day, and pit yourself against the other racers who paid a very easy to swallow $10, timing fee. I opted for a timed race, as I was interested to see what the competition was like at an event that wasn’t dominated by sponsored athletes and women who could curl my bodyweight. We filtered into the starting corral and were greeted with the typical hype-man intro, motivation music (props to the techno Imperial March track choice), and countdown to race time. I will also add, that your wave started EXACTLY as advertised. They had a clock right at the starting line, and they stuck to it. Punctuality is a trait lacking in this industry. Rugged nailed it.
vlcsnap-2015-09-28-22h45m21s398The clock struck 10:30a and we were off. Rugged boasts a 5K course, with 25 creative and fun obstacles. The course they have in Southwick is perfect for this. It’s a re-purposed motocross dirt track (it appears to be closed for those events according to their website) so you’re snaking back and forth past earlier and later runners, all while navigating some seriously fun obstacles. Rugged isn’t claiming to be Spartan Race. No huge gimmicky rigs, no giant inflatable mammoths. “Natural” obstacles like rolling hills, dirt mounds, tunnels to run and crawl under, and trails carving through the woods between open areas. Every race has one or two obstacles that others don’t. Spartan has the rope climb, Tough Mudder shocks you, but Rugged had TONS of obstacles that I loved and had never done before – obstacles that were more about having fun, than breaking you physically. Could it be that this could be a FUN OCR? Inconceivable! Or not – hold on while I jump off a ladder onto a trampoline, up to another ladder! Trampolines are fun! Or, let me run at full speed across these floating platforms! vlcsnap-2015-09-28-22h53m48s362As one woman who was struggling to maintain her balance put it, “He’s like Jesus!” After that, it was jumping over a fire into a huge pool of water, then a giant slide, some barbed wire crawls, a balance beam with huge red balls to dodge, again, all super fun yet not overly taxing obstacles. There was a Wreck Bag carry that was more about proving that you could finish it, rather than questioning whether you should try or not. The hardest obstacle of the day had to be either the swinging rings over water, which claimed a few laughing bodies into the cold water below, or the slick wall, which was part of the final obstacle. Thankfully, with the good natured crowd that was at Rugged, there was always a willing helper, hoisting folks up that struggled. Myself, NES Ginger Ninja – Kevin Grant, and a few others staked out there, pulling folks up over the wall, just enjoying the atmosphere of people succeeding where they had previously had failed.

vlcsnap-2015-09-28-22h48m10s636After crossing the finish line at Rugged, I found myself smiling, and compartmentalizing how truly fun the event actually was. I was ready to go again! But first – that age old tradition – post race beers! Rugged brings Harpoon beer into their festival, always a solid choice. They also compliment their festival area with great audience participation events such as, jousting, mechanical bullrides, a stein-hoisting competition (Yup – I definitely attempted that one), and all kinds of other things to keep you busy.

All in all – Rugged Maniac puts on a FUN obstacle course race. After a season of intense races, and a week removed from Killington, it was great to be reminded as to why we run these events – to have FUN. Rugged was a great time, managed by Staff who makes great racer-friendly decisions, and an atmosphere of folks who just want to have the same fun. Props to them – this Spahten will be back again. In fact, I already registered for 2016. Did I mention it only costs $39? Yup. See you there.

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Featured Review: Rugged Maniac NE 2014

Editors Note: I ran Rugged Maniac in 2010, 2011 and 2012, skipping their 2013 and 2014 New England events as they hadn’t improved much in that time. Old Dog, Dennis tells us how they have changed in 2014, mostly due to big money from their Shark Tank influence – and now, I think they may be a great option on your calendar.

logoRugged Maniac New England 2014

The event itself is held at a motocross track in Southwick, Massachusetts. This is a little off the beaten path, but easy to find with GPS or Google Maps. Parking is 10 dollars and this is one of the few events that I ALMOST don’t mind the parking fee. Plenty of volunteers directing traffic, plenty of porta-potties in the parking area, and there is an area they set aside for as close to “accessible” parking at event I’ve been at. Registration was handled quickly; you got your bib and a nice t-shirt; a separate table was set up to get your timing chip, if you chose to do so. Timing is an option at Rugged Maniac and if being timed is important to you, you will need to run in the first or second wave of the day. A FREE bag check which was right behind the registration area. Easy in and out, but they allow people access there area which is nice, but a word to the wise, it’s not secure, so don’t leave valuables in your bag. There is NO fee for spectators, everyone is welcome to come and watch and take part in the festival. The venue is very spectator friendly, the start/finish area of course, but there are multiple locations around the motocross track itself. The festival area itself is spacious and had a few vendors, at least one charity was setup, the military was represented, and a play area for the kids. Changing area is well set up, “showers” might be stretching the description, but hey, you can get clean enough to go drink your free Harpoon beer. Yes, Harpoon brought their IPA, Octoberfest, and White for our drinking pleasure. Food court is available, typical race food, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Merchandise tent for those folks who need more schwag and a tent where you could purchase your entry to the 2015 Rugged Maniac for less than 40 bucks. There was a beer stein holding contest at different times of the day. A mechanical bull was setup for those who cared to try their luck. I think there might be a video of someone who did so, somewhere.

This is an obstacle rich course. I’m not going to list or describe all of the obstacles. Look at the map and descriptions. It’s pretty accurate as to the layout and descriptions of the obstacles. The obstacles were solidly built, with enough challenge for all but not so difficult that your average weekend warrior felt outmatched at every turn. Rugged Maniac changed the course layout somewhat this year and added some new and creative obstacles as well. The Gauntlet, Anti-Gravity, Frog Hop, Ninja Escape and the Ringer were all added this year. They also added a Warped Wall to their signature Mount Maniac finishing obstacle. The Rugged Maniac’s Particle Accelerator is one of the best slides in any of the obstacle courses I’ve done. New England’s own Wreck Bag made an appearance at the Pack Mule, 25lb or 50lb, pick your poison, or grab 2 of the 50’s if you are feeling beastly. Not much mud, but plenty of muddy water. An obstacle rich course is a two-headed sword, there were minor delays and slowdowns at about half of the obstacles, 30 seconds to a minute was the most, except for a 5 minute or so wait at the Warped Wall. You also get a simple, yet strangely elegant finisher’s medal.

If you enjoy OCR, this is one of the events that you need to put on your calendar. I signed up for next year already, and the company appears stable enough that I feel comfortable in giving them my money a year in advance. In case you aren’t aware, this is the series that Mark Cuban of Shark Tank fame, as well as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, among other entertainment holdings has invested in. Rugged Maniac definitely stepped up their game this year and I for one cannot wait until next season. I might just have to travel to one of their events outside of New England next year.

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The Great Bull Run






The minds behind Rugged Maniac ( announced a new event series – and it’s causing quite the stir.

The Great Bull Run


The Great Bull Run ( is modeled after the famous run in Pamplona, Spain – the one where thousands of people line the streets, and angry, aggressive bulls stampede and run through them – participants have to run, climb, hide or otherwise avoid being gored and stamped to the dirt.

The bulls are then put into a bull fight to their death, and participants throw tomatoes at each other.

The Great Bull Run wants to emulate this, but with a decidedly “American” flavor.

  • The 12 bulls they plan on using are actually fairly gentled, non – aggressive animals.
  • The course is planned, lined with fences to go under or over, and little alcoves to hide in, and participants are walked the length of the course first.
  • The bulls are not put to the death afterwards (phew).
  • You’ll be killing a small rainforest with the wavers you’ll have to sign.

As you can imagine (and as is the original series) this has already proven controversial. On my little slice of Facebook alone, I’ve seen people sign up for this, and I’ve seen people pull out of all Rugged Maniac events entirely. Quite the polarizing reaction to something I’m sure Rugged Maniac thought would be a fun, niche event.

On a personal level, I equate this with the deplorable act of dancing circus animals, and don’t plan on supporting it beyond this simple blog post.

But how does this sit with you? Do you think Rugged Maniac has dropped the ball on this, or will they find an undeveloped niche event, and tap into a new market? Drop us a comment.


— update 3/28/13

Rugged Maniac have since updated their status to say they are not associated with or owned by (or own) the company putting on The Great Bull Run – they were simply trying to get work out about a new race series put on by “some good people”