By Pete Williams
LAKE BUENA VISTA – It wasn’t that long ago when Muddy Buddy had a virtual monopoly on the mud/adventure run market. Now, with more than a dozen similar races emerging in Florida alone, such events “are a category,” says Muddy Buddy founder Bob Babbitt.
That’s good for the endurance sports industry and for athletes looking for wacky new races. But is it good for Muddy Buddy? By the end of last season, it seemed like perhaps the 11-year-old series might fade into the background.
I’m not sure attendance at Saturday’s season-opening Muddy Buddy event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports was as high as it was in 2008, but clearly Muddy Buddy has made a strong push to relaunch, improve, upgrade, and otherwise address the competition.
A new competitive wave has been added for those who wish to start out front and that was most appreciated. Several obstacles were added on the course, as well as a pretty tough challenge right before the mud pit. There’s a separate mud run for those who wish to run the six-mile course instead of competing in the leapfrog ride-and-run format. Finishers received medals and even the T-shirts (white the last two years) were upgraded to a sharp navy blue. I don’t recall there being post-race bands at previous Muddy Buddy events, but if there were they were not as good as the group playing Saturday.
The nature of Muddy Buddy, like any adventure/mud run, is that it has a check-it-off, bucket-list vibe to it, but Saturday’s event seems to indicate that the folks at parent company Competitor Group are looking to stay on top in the face of the challengers from Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, et al.
Floridians will have two more cracks at the Muddy Buddy this year, with the second-annual event at Zoo Miami on Nov. 20 and the new, season-ending championship at the Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda on Dec. 4.