By Kevin Spradlin
The population of Richmond County is set to grow by 13 percent or more between now and May 16, 2015.
And about all of that will come the night of May 15, when some 6,000-plus participants are expected for the next day’s inaugural Rugged Maniac obstacle races at Rockingham Dragway. The event puts runners on a 3-mile course who must overcome more than two dozen obstacles before reaching the finish line and post-run party.
It’ll be the fifth year in North Carolina for Rugged Races but organizers’ first in Richmond County. The series offers 20 events across the country, from Los Angeles to New York City.
Rob Dickens, chief operations officer and co-owner of the nationwide series — and a North Carolina native — explained that the event has been staged in Asheboro the past four years but the number of participants simply overwhelmed the Zoo City Motor Sports Park.
Dickens said the site was “very, very small” and lacked on-site parking, something the Rockingham Dragway offers in abundance.
“We just got too big,” Dickens said. “We wanted to find a bigger … better” venue. Enter event participant and Fayetteville Observer journalist Thomas Pope, whom Dickens credited with mentioning the Dragway. Dickens said about 40 registrations are pouring in per day — nearly 12 full months in advance — at the low entry rate of $39.
“If that pace keeps up, we’ll have a pretty big event,” Dickens said.
Dickens noted that because many Asheboro racers this year had a negative experience due to shuttle bus issues — something that won’t be a part of the experience in Rockingham — those individuals can register for only $25 for a limited time.
The $25 fee is “for those who attended this year’s event and had a problem with shuttles,” Dickens said. We wanted to give them a very low price … as a way to say we recognize things didn’t go as well as we would have liked.”
Dickens said that at the Dragway, runners will “never have to deal with shuttles again.”
Entry for new runners goes up to $49 after Aug. 1, $59 through Jan. 23, 2015, $69 through Feb. 27 and all the way up to $100 for event-day registration. In other words, enter early but note there are no refunds for any reason, according to the event website.
The event series has partnered with the USO, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the morale, welfare and recreation for troops overseas. Dickens said runners are encouraged to make a donation when registering online for the event. In addition, proceeds of certain merchandising benefits the USO, he said.
Dickens said the Rugged Maniac series is different than the wildly popular Tough Mudder, which offers 12 obstacles over a 12-mile course. The Rugged Maniac event, he said, doesn’t require participants to be a “serious athlete.”
With roughly eight obstacles per mile, Rugged Maniac is “a lot more about the obstacles and less about the running.”
Some participants, he said, “want to be challenged in more than just their legs. They want the total body experience.”
Dickens said the post-race party, beer and mechanical bull also are popular staples of his series.
In addition, females comprise roughly 10 percent of each Tough Mudder field. It’s closer to 50 percent for the Rugged Maniac, Dickens said.
“As you can imagine, when you have a more balanced gender distribution, your festival atmosphere tends to be a heck of a lot better,” Dickens said.
Dickens was enthusiastic about the newest stakeholder in the series. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, recently purchased a 25 percent stake in the company for $1.75 million. The investment, Dickens said, will “help us to compete with the big names” and add “huge, crazy obstacles” that could include trampolines and “a lot of cool new things.”
“We’re always working kind of like a mad scientist to create fun, challenging obstacles,” Dickens said.