By Pete Williams
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – The inaugural Monster Bash Dash seemed a bit out of place here in Central Florida in late May. Zombies and monsters were positioned throughout the woodsy 5K course laid out over the Roper Ranch, giving it a bit of Halloween feel despite the steamy temperatures.
Rock On Adventures, the Clermont-based event promoters who created the successful Highlander Run last year, staged the Monster Bash Dash to give Floridians a taste of what made Run for Your Lives popular. That event attracted more than 10,000 people near Baltimore last year, a week before Halloween. (Run for Your Lives has become a national circuit this year, with a race on Nov. 17 in Clermont at Revolution Off Road, which twice hosted the Savage Race.)
Rock On had professional face painters on hand to take care of the dozens of monsters, who hid in palmetto, behind trees, and whatever other brush they could find. Athletes wore belts with two flags on their hips, which monsters lunged for the athletes attempted to go through obstacles.
My 9-year-old and I ran the daylight 6 p.m. wave, which probably didn’t give us the full monster experience, though we had a great time. Our wave was modest since most people opted for waves at 8 p.m. or later, which took place in the dark — headlamps mandatory. We only made it halfway through with our flags. At that point, we served as blockers for a 12-year-old running alongside us, though he didn’t make it to the end either.
The obstacles were mostly things hanging from trees, along with branches, and that’s where many of the monsters lurked. There also were haunted houses and a few walls, but mostly the obstacles were dodging the monsters themselves. The challenge was to speed up through the obstacles to dodge the monsters, who would pursue.
I like the concept and can see how it would do even better during Halloween season. Race director Jonny Simpkins says he’ll limit the event next time to after-dark waves. Simpkins said he and his staff pre-ran the event at 1 a.m. while setting up the course and “you didn’t even need monsters at that point. It’s pretty spooky out there.”
We were very impressed with the two Highlander obstacle races Simpkins and his better half Wendy Carson put on last year. The third one will be Sept. 22, also at the Roper Ranch. That venue also will host Rock On’s other adventures: the Yakathon (bike-kayak-run) on July 14, the cops-and-robbers themed Hot Pursuit 5K (Aug. 11), and a Halloween-time edition of the Monster Bash Dash (date TBA).
Simpkins has a background in both endurance sports and motocross racing and is the owner of an irrigation company. There are a number of things Rock On does better than anyone. They were the first to issue Tultex T-shirts, those soft, fitted, poly-cotton blend shirts that are a huge upgrade from cotton and even preferable to tech. The Monster Bash T-shirts came in two versions, one for survivors, one for the “walking dead.”
Rock On always takes kids into account, whether it’s staging kids races, having kids games and activities or simply by not making beer a focal point of the event. Rock On also does not charge for parking for participants. Perhaps that charge is reflected in the entry fee, but athletes seem to appreciate not getting nickel and dimed.
Simpkins has encouraged other obstacle race directors to adhere to high standards and a number of them were on hand helping with the Monster Bash. Given a few trainwrecks we’ve seen in this booming field, where it seems everyone is trying to get a piece of the action, some industry standards are welcome.
We’ll be excited to take on the Monster Bash again around Halloween.