The OC Mud Run on Saturday, July 18th was its inaugural race. As such there will be complications to overcome and some mudslinging (all pun intended) after the fact. What’s unfortunate about the experience is the bad taste left in a lot of people’s mouths (again, all pun intended … fellow participants, you know what I’m talking about!). If I were one of the organizers of this event, I would have taken notes from the world-famous Camp Pendleton Mud Runs. Granted these are US Marines who live and breathe planning and order. Nevertheless, using their model is only half the battle… proper and effective EXECUTION is key.
Having a local Orange County location, with decent registration fees, and proper execution would have contributed to a lasting memory … on the positive side. I have shared some of my gripes with fellow OC Mud Runners who are Twitter friends of mine (OakleyOC) as we were excited about putting together all the runs and workouts together in order to get ready for race day.
I’ll list some of my concerns here but from a different angle, one that focuses on corrective suggestions. (You can get the disgruntled version if you Tweet me.)
As with any organization, event, or family setting, it is important to list out these gripes and concerns. What’s even MORE important is the part where we suggest corrective courses of action, lest we repeat our flawed actions. There’s quite a list of observations already noted on the Eco Mud Run Tour's Facebook page, but I’m certain many would agree that proper planning and execution at a FUTURE mud run in Orange County would be welcomed. Let’s not kill the event; let’s just kill the execution style. Here’s my two cents:
STAFFING: I’m all about volunteers, regardless of age, as long as they provide value to their role at the event. Let’s train and prepare the volunteers to guide the participants; let’s have them live and breathe course layout, guidelines, pace, direction, etc. The participant needs to just run, run, run, and look for volunteers to guide them should any confusion arises. In unknown terrain a participant would like to feel relieved that trained/prepared/competent/willing guides are around. There also needs to be “that guy” or “that girl” that is prominently directing the events on race day … to avoid multiple happenings, yet exponentially multiple confused participants.
TIMING: Races need to start on time. Every participant knows the race goes on without them. It’s essential that published start times are adhered to. There’s a difference between being wimpy about the heat in mid-July versus having your warm up and game face countered by prolonged delays. Also, early morning races tend to be better than midday races. Add sun to mud, and you may not have the best mud conditions around anymore, unless those sections are hosed down again. (Again, STAFFING concerns here.)
FLOW: Thousands of bodies stampeding on the trail need to be met with similar/multiple obstacles spread wider. The tendency will be to migrate to the target with less resistance. Two narrow side-by-side obstacles created unnecessary bottlenecks. Participants will appreciate not losing their momentum by having to pause three to five minutes to have a turn at the obstacle. Fighting for position is key, and the hard core participants are out front. Being only about two or three rows in, I didn’t expect the bottle necks I experienced that day.
SAFETY: As an organizer I would have disclosed to participants that the sections with stagnant water were adequately tested for general safety and health concerns. While no one should make it a practice to swim in stagnant water, seeing that there are a couple of sections where it’s just water, it might make sense to slosh through it as quickly as possible. However, if the toxic levels were adequately tested and disclosed some might find it refreshing to swim through. There might be some health concerns brought up if the organizer’s intent was a net sprawled OVER the lagoon, later to be changed to a row of inner tubes, further changed to just open water…and later have cases of infection documented that related to the murky trenches that were not intended for prolonged skin contact.
MUD: I’m not an expert in this field but I would take a guess that “mud” may be inherently different than “topsoil?” The mud pits at military boot camps and at other mud runs may not be as aesthetically looking/feeling as the Glen Ivy mud section for the kids and parents (that section rocked for the kids by the way), however, I would probably refrain from adding anything closely resembling the aroma and texture of “freshly/naturally fertilized earth.” I’m all about communing with nature, but …
SETUP: I’d have a supervisor inspect the setup of various obstacles for general safety and common sense. Yes, in a fight for my life in the jungles of enemy country there’s no question that the path less traveled by inspectors may be the best ones to stay under the radar. However on a mud run course a supervisor’s inspection and sign-off might have documented/corrected the bed of sharp gravel in the sections intended for crawling on hands and knees … as well as the two rebars I knelt/crawled on in the sand crawl towards the tunnel.
DIALOGUE: As with the advertising of the event to the participants and the sponsors, it might be common business sense, even just overall people sense, to respond to these recent concerns brought up through this Facebook fan page. I would probably do it sooner than later, as people would probably like to know that this wasn’t a fly-by-night organization, but rather a group of people with a similar sense of fairness and good intentions.
I appreciate the time and effort to bring the event to Orange County. It is not easy to execute an event like Pendleton does (hoo-ah!). However, with proper planning AND execution, one can plan quite an event that will be worthy to stand in the thick of it all (again, all pun intended) and be judged on its own merits. The best laid plans don’t matter if poor execution is what’s observed. (Again, STAFFING concerns here to direct the flow of the event.)
I look forward to hearing from the organizers, perhaps even through a representative. I have experience in “heated negotiations” and I’m sure there are others on the Eco Mud Run Tour's Facebook page even more experienced than me. However, SOON some sort of communication with the event organizers is needed to address these participants’ concerns. Otherwise, this will become a one-way badgering that will yield no fruitful ending and will most likely propagate ill-feeling and/or medical/legal lawsuits.
Staying silent doesn’t necessarily mean innocence, or guilt for that matter. In some folks’ eyes though, staying silent in a situation like this doesn’t help with goodwill towards fans (or previous fans). PLUS, there are some who just like answers!