By Jennafer Mayfield
When the Republic Parks & Recreation Department in Republic, Mo., purchased 40 acres of land located in an agricultural area in 2009, ideas began flowing as to what types of programming could be hosted on the property. The tract—now known as Brookline Park—was partially wooded with a wet-weather creek flowing through it, along with open green space. The park soon became known as the department’s first “nature park.” Within the first two years, brush was cleared to create trails throughout the woods, and playground equipment, picnic tables, and a pavilion were added. In the fall of 2014, after reading an article about a youth mud run in the central part of Missouri, staff members borrowed the idea. This new park was the perfect venue for a mud-run event that would cater exclusively to youth in the Southwest Missouri area.
Plotting And Planning
Planning began almost immediately. The first step was selecting a date on which to hold the event, fitting it into a packed program and event calendar. After much discussion, the date for the first annual “got Mud? Run” was set for August 29, 2015. Staff began researchingall areas of the event, including the registration process and fees, start times, age brackets, course layout, website development, marketing plan, logo design, participant swag, parking, construction of obstacles, and much more. Three “Mud Rush” times and age brackets were offered:
- 9 a.m. (5- to 7-year-olds, one-mile course)
- 10 a.m. (8- to 10-year-olds, one-and-a-half-mile course)
- 11 a.m. (11- to 15-year-olds, two-mile course).
Each rush varied in the number of obstacles and difficulty, based on the age group. Determining the types of obstacles and course layout for each rush was the next step in the process, taking participant safety and physical demand into consideration every step of the way. The cost was set at $25 per participant in advance, $30 one month prior. Registration fees provided for a T-shirt, dog-tag finisher medal, temporary tattoos, one-day admission to the Republic Aquatic Center, and post-race food and beverage.
It took cooperation from all staff and several city departments to pull off the event. In the 30 days leading up to it, staff members spent nearly every day at the site, building obstacles like Wall Crawl and The Up & Over, and digging mud pits and ponds for the Rolling Hills, Pipe Pit, and The Trencher. Site work also included removing limbs, stumps, and rocks from the course; mowing, measuring, and striping to turn a field into a parking lot; and installing posts and rope for wayfinding, etc. The Public Works Department provided heavy equipment, saving the cost of renting these pieces. The Republic Fire Department brought in numerous tanker trucks of water for the obstacles, as there was no access to water at the site. Fire department staff members were present on event day as well, adding water to obstacles as needed, providing a rinse station after each rush, and being ready with first aid. Local businesses donated dirt, lumber, and other materials, and the donations were recognized with sponsorship signs on the respective obstacles on the day of the event, in addition to event website and publication exposure.
A large number of volunteers were needed in order to adequately staff the event to ensure participant safety and to help with all of the other logistics. Approximately 70 individuals from local non-profit organizations, the Republic School District, and members of the community donated about 460 hours of their time to ensure the event was one of which the city would be proud.
The Muddier, The Better
While the department was confident that this new youth mud run would be a hit, attendance in the first year was even better than expected. A total of 330 adventure-seeking youth from 27 cities and three states took part. A thorough analysis of the demographics yielded some insightful data. Of the 330 participants, 219 were male and 111 were female. Of more importance, however, was the number among 10- to 15-year-olds. This age group had been targeted as one that was underserved by the parks and recreation department, so we were hopeful the mud run would appeal to children of this age. The final numbers revealed that a robust 156 children in this age group participated in the inaugural event.
We in the department learned a lot from the event in year one, and sent out a survey to gather feedback. Results were overwhelmingly positive; however, there’s always room to get better. In year two, many of the suggestions, along with our firsthand knowledge of having gone through the event once, allowed us to make improvements. Staff made extensive lists and notes to plan for year two, which began almost immediately, as registration opened on January 1, 2016. One of the more significant changes was to add more mud! Many of the pits ended up with more water than mud; the last mud pit before the finish line essentially “rinsed off” the mud from the earlier obstacles. To solve this, obstacles in the second year had more dirt and less water.
Streamlining For Success
Another necessary change involved finding a way to streamline packet pick-up and the race-day check-in process. In the first year, we held packet pick-up on the Thursday and Friday before the event, but required all participants to check-in on the morning of the race to receive a wristband (color coordinated by rush) and turn in a signed waiver. This led to extremely long lines that morning. To improve, wristbands were added to the packets, and the waiver was included on the registration form. These two changes enabled the participants to just show up on event day. (Side note: For safety reasons, participant wristbands included their name, age, and an emergency contact name/number in case of injury.)
After seeing which age groups were the most popular, changes were also made for the second year. We extended the first rush to include 4-year-olds, and an additional rush time was added for ages 7 to 10, the largest age group. Obstacles were changed and improved, and new obstacles were created, according to survey suggestions of the most popular and the least popular. New obstacles included Mud Mountain, Tight Rope, and the Muddy Mounds. The obstacle difficulty for the 11- to 15-year-old group was also increased. Each rush was capped at 150 participants due to parking availability at the site.
At the second event, participation grew to 510! Our third event is scheduled for August 26, 2017, with the number of participants yet to be determined! To learn more, visit the event website: republicmudrun.com.
Jennafer Mayfield is the Community Outreach Superintendent for Republic Parks & Recreation in Republic, Mo. The City of Republic, located 15 miles southwest of Springfield, has a current population of over 16,000. The city is committed to being aggressively progressive through processes, relationships, and trust. Reach her at email@example.com.