Local shares ‘Mudder’ experience

Spence Tough Mudder photo

What do you get when you take a 12 mile run, add elevation, mud, about 20 obstacles and thousands of  people? The infamous Tough Mudder challenge, which is set to come to Santa Rosa County March 7, 2015. The race will take place at the Ates Ranch in Milton.

Members of the Ates family came together to provide more than 500 acres to be used in the race, which includes forest land and grazing pastures. According to Kyle Holley, TDC appointee and local Tough Mudder recruiter, the area also presents some dramatic elevation changes.

The event was long in the planning stages. Site inspectors came to the area more than a year ago. Other areas under consideration included Atmore and Foley, Alabama. In the end, Holley said the cooperative attitude of the landowners and “what God gave Santa Rosa County” was what sold the location to Tough Mudder officials.

“For years we have been marketing Santa Rosa County as a leading Florida outdoor recreation county. Tough Mudder’s decision to bring an event to the area is evidence our tourist development council’s performance is working,” said Kyle Holley, TDC appointee and local Tough Mudder recruiter.

Another reason Santa Rosa County was chosen has to do with the tourism infrastructure the area has. Tough Mudder races have lured up to 12,000 participants at a time, with additional volunteers and vendors adding to the staggering number. Because “Florida’s Playground,” which is Santa Rosa County’s tourism brand, has supporting cast members like Pensacola, Crestview and possibly even Mobile, the large numbers should be able to be accommodated.

“We expect this event to sell out all our Santa Rosa accommodations, the hotels in Crestview, our condos at Navarre Beach and some hotels near the Pensacola International Airport.” said tourism representative Kate Wilkes. Kate Fitzpatrick, Director of Community Relations for Tough Mudder said that demand for hotels is high and that Tough Mudder participants travel great distances for each event and prefer to stay with fellow participants.

Derived from British special forces training regiments, Tough Mudder events have become wildly popular in the United States and have raised $6.5 million for Wounded Warrior Project. Tough Mudder bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.”

“It looks like a race, but it’s not a race. It’s an individual and team challenge thing,” Holley said.

The challenge includes obstacles like a pyramid that requires a team to work together to get over, over and under log climbing and a barbed wire low crawl through mud. Event organizers have more than 30 obstacles to choose from and an operations team will be visiting the site in September to begin planning exactly which obstacles the Gulf Coast will see.

“We are excited to bring the Tough Mudder event to the Gulf Coast area for the first time next year,” said Paul Gillmon, Tough Mudder general manager, “We look forward to designing our course around the interesting and challenging terrain at Ates Ranch.”

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