NYC “Tough Mudder’ organizers visit Navarre

A team of organizers from “Tough Mudder,” the hardcore obstacle course, traveled to Santa Rosa County from New York City Jan. 12 to plan their 2015 season which kicks off March 7 in East Milton, marking the first time the roughly 12-mile endurance event will be held on the Gulf Coast.

“We’re thrilled. We’re really excited,” Kate Fitzpatrick, Tough Mudder community relations director, said Jan. 13 during an informal meeting held at the Navarre Visitor Information Center. “We’re expecting 5,000 participants,” she said.

Fitzpatrick and other crew members have been in Santa Rosa County this week, meeting with Kyle Holley and other members of the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC).

Holley, who has been praised by fellow TDC members for the instrumental role he played in attracting the event to the area, is a personal friend of the Ates Family, who will play host to the race on large tracts of acreage they own in East Milton.

For Holley, the focus is helping boost Santa Rosa County’s branding as “Florida’s Playground,” setting it apart from other coastal communities by promoting of hundreds of thousands of woodlands in the north end of the county which are perfectly suited for outdoors activities.

“I think this is a really natural fit, being Florida’s Playground,” Fitzpatrick said. She also said the Ates’ property is conducive to an obstacle course because despite Florida’s naturally low terrain it offers a seepage slope, providing significant elevation drops.

Tina Feckula, operations manager for Tough Mudder, pointed out the event started in 2010 with a race in Pennsylvania. She said more than 1 million people have participated in the events since then, raising more than $6.5 million for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Fitzpatrick said the events have a huge military fan base, so organizers plan to work with Holley and others to reach out to the large local military population.

Holley also offered to help the crew recruit around 200 volunteers needed on the day of the event. Fitzpatrick specified that help will be needed during registration and to assist at water stations and roughly 20 planned obstacles, many of which have been newly designed for 2015.

“It’s very much a hope we can make it an annual tradition,” Fitzpatrick said of holding the race in Santa Rosa County.

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