What an interesting interview I had with Rob Dickens, the Chief Operating Officer of Rugged Races LLC, creators of Rugged Maniac Obstacle Race. I have looked at the website and watched videos and I imagined that I would be talking to someone very enthusiastic and passionate, and I was right!! Here is my interview:
When did Rugged Maniac start?
It started in 2010 in Massachusetts with one event. We expanded to 9 events in 2011, 14 in 2012, 20 in 2013 and 2014, and 23 in 2015, including three new events in Canada.
You are mostly in the US and you have events in three cities in Canada: Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. How did you choose these cities? Do you think you will be expending in Canada? Any chances you come to Quebec?
We wanted to bring Rugged Maniac to some of Canada’s biggest cities to ensure we had a large population of active lifestyle enthusiasts to support our events. Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto all have plenty of people who are excited to get outdoors and have some fun!
We’d certainly love to come to Quebec as well, but it may take a year or two for us to find the right venue and date. Even though Rugged Maniac is one of the best obstacle races in North America, the large number of lower quality events in Quebec will make it difficult for us to attract 7,000 or more people to an event. Our plan is to build a strong fanbase in other Canadian cities and then enter Quebec.
I watch you promo video and your race seems to advertise fun and party, who do you target?
We target everyone. Our events are physically challenging AND fun. It’s the best of both worlds. Other obstacle races take themselves a little too seriously with their military themes and obstacles that cause pain (like electricity), and that alienates a lot of potential runners, especially women.
That’s why Rugged Maniac has the most diversity of any obstacle race, including 50% women runners. We attract people who are in great shape, like Crossfit enthusiasts, but we also get a lot of people who are just normal or even in poor physical shape. We want EVERYONE to participate. Our mission is to get as many people as possible off their couches and outdoors doing something active! Of course, the people who are in the best shape will win the race, but everyone will have fun, and that’s the most important thing.
Your races are 5 kilometers, is it always the case or do you vary sometimes?
It is always 5km. We want the race to be accessible to anybody, regardless of their physical condition, and a 5km course is short enough for people to walk if they have to.
You have 25 obstacles, are they the same at all your races or do they vary?
We use the same obstacles at all of our events, but we usually supplement with any natural obstacles that the venue may have, like creeks, boulders, or hills. Sometimes it’s impossible for us to use a certain obstacle, like Pyromaniac if the area is too dry, so we’ll replace it with a different obstacle.
Are your events mostly on flat terrain or hills?
If the venue has hills on site, we’ll certainly use them! Some regions are simply flat, like Florida, so we have no choice in that situation. But some regions are quite hilly, like Vancouver, so that course will have more hills. It just depends on the geography of the venue.
What is the most popular obstacle of your race? I think that the accelerator would be mine!!
Yes, the accelerator is very popular and well appreciated! It is always the last obstacle, so it’s a refreshing way to finish the race when you’re hot and tired! But it can also be very challenging for those who are afraid of heights.
Our new Anti-gravity obstacle is also very popular. No other obstacle race uses trampolines, and this obstacle features two rows of them. It’s a lot of fun and more challenging than it looks.
Most people find The Ringer and The Warped Wall to be the most challenging because they require a lot of upper body strength. However, we design many of our obstacles so that they require skills besides strength, like balancing, jumping, and crawling.
What are the penalties when an obstacle is missed?
Any runner who skips an obstacle is disqualified from winning the race. However, most of our runners don’t care about winning. For them, there’s no penalty for skipping an obstacle, or for not being able to successfully complete an obstacle – there are no burpees, push-ups, or other punishment. In fact, timing is optional at our events and only 10% of our runners choose to be timed. The other 90% are doing the race simply because they enjoy it.
Those people who are trying to win the race must run in one of the first four waves and choose the timing chip option. Volunteers are stationed at every obstacle and will write down the bib numbers of the people who skip obstacles during the first four waves. If one of the winners skipped an obstacle, they’ll be disqualified and the next fastest person will be declared the winner.
We award prizes to the top three overall men and women, the top man and woman 50 and over, and the top man and woman 20 and under. Winners get a $40 voucher for the merchandise tent, a free entry to a future race, and a special edition winner’s medal.
Do you have an elite wave?
Most elite runners register for the very first wave, but everyone who wants to win the race must register for one of the first four waves.
Are you an OCR World Championships qualifying race?
Yes we are. However, I feel that I have to point out that it’s not actually the world championships of obstacle course racing. It’s simply a challenging event that calls itself the championship. There will be no true world championship until all of the major obstacle races agree to host one.
Why should we go to your race? I watched the video and definitely want to go!
Rugged Maniac strikes the perfect balance between fun and physicality. Make no mistake: our courses are very challenging. But we don’t punish you for not being strong enough to complete every obstacle, and we don’t create obstacles that cause pain. Our goal is to encourage people to get outside and do something fun and active. It doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest or the strongest. What matters is that you’re pushing yourself to be healthy and having fun at the same time.
Of course, it also helps that our festival is the best of any obstacle race. We have mechanical bulls, foam dance pits, DJs, pie-eating contests, pull-up contests, huge inflatable slides, and plenty of food and beer! IT’s a great way to spend your Saturday.
I would like to thank Rob for his time.
by: Isabelle Tanguay CPA, CA
Photo Credit: Rugged Maniac