Tag Archives: Bob Babbitt

Muddy Buddy Scales Back for 2012

By Pete Williams

Fewer mud pits in 2012

Muddy Buddy, the popular bike-and-run mud race series owned by Competitor Group, has scaled back to just eight events for 2012. After hosting two races in Florida in each of the last two years, and considering a third last year, Muddy Buddy will come no closer to Florida than Atlanta in 2012.

A new splash page on the Muddy Buddy Web site posted Tuesday promised a new Web site and 2012 registration for Jan. 30, along with “the biggest news in Muddy Buddy history.” The page also listed the eight cities that will host events in 2012.

“Choosing only eight events for 2012 was difficult,” Competitor Group said in a statement. “We weighed past participation, local support and event sponsor requests in making our decision. Cities that were on the schedule in 2011, but not in 2012 will be the first cities we reconsider as we hope to modestly expand the series in the coming years.”

A Competitor source said the decision was in response to races such as Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, which routinely draw between 10,000 and 20,000 athletes per weekend. Muddy Buddy need attract only 2,000 to 3,000 per event to be successful, but even that became challenging over the last year with greater competition.

Orlando was the second-most popular stop on the Muddy Buddy circuit after Chicago. A return to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for 2012 was not a possibility, however, once Disney decided to no longer allow third-party endurance sports promoters to produce events on Disney property.

Competitor did consider locations elsewhere in Central Florida, including Pasco County just north of Tampa, but “there were no guarantees those venues would be as strong,” the source said. Another strike against Florida is that Columbia Sportswear, the title sponsor of the series, does not have many retail outlets in the Sunshine State.

Muddy Buddy staged races for years in seven or eight cities, including Orlando, before expanding to 13 for 2009 and 18 in 2010 before dialing it back to 16 last year. The circuit included a late November, season-ending stop at Zoo Miami in each of the last two years.

Back to Florida in 2013?

Attendance at the Disney event, held Mother’s Day weekend before moving to early April in 2011, fell to about 2,000 last year after drawing about 3,000 participants in 2009. About 900 athletes showed up for the Zoo Miami event in late November.

This year, Muddy Buddy will return to Richmond, Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Boulder, Portland, and San Jose. In addition to Orlando and Miami, the others not to make the cut were Buffalo, Detroit, New York, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Muddy Buddy, founded by endurance sports publisher and entrepreneur Bob Babbitt in 1999, was the first mud run to go national. As recently as 2008, Muddy Buddy had the national mud run scene virtually to itself. With its entry-level, two-person-team obstacle course, costume contests, and signature mud pit, it attracted thousands of casual athletes looking for an alternative to a pound-the-pavement 5K or a triathlon.

Warrior Dash provided competition in 2009, but the real challenge came in 2010 with the debuts of Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, more difficult races that drew athletes looking for a triathlon-level accomplishment with a bit of CrossFit flavor.

Not only were Tough Mudder and Spartan Race quick success stories – Tough Mudder grossed more than $30 million in 2011 – they inspired countless other events, nowhere more so than in Florida. So crowded did the Sunshine State’s mud run schedule become that Muddy Buddy scrapped plans for a season-ending 2011 championship event in Punta Gorda when Tough Mudder scheduled a Tampa Bay area event the same weekend in December.

Muddy Buddy’s move is the latest sign that the market for obstacle mud runs, which flooded in 2011, could be undergoing a shakeout. The Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp. scrapped plans for a “Primal Challenge” series of mud runs. Warrior Dash will host about 9,000 athletes for this weekend’s season kickoff event in Lake Wales, down from last year’s 13,000. Several Florida-based mud runs have not been rescheduled for 2012.

But Rock on Adventures, which staged a pair of Highlander races in Bartow last year, announced plans this week for six events in 2012, including an inaugural “Monster Bash Dash” on April 14 in Kissimmee. With Muddy Buddy no longer at Lake Buena Vista in mid-April, the Monster Bash Dash could draw some of the usual Muddy Buddy crowd.



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Race of the Week: Muddy Buddy Miami

By Pete Williams

Navigating the mud pit at Muddy Buddy

Just two years ago, Muddy Buddy had a near monopoly on the obstacle mud run category, at least among national tours.

These days, it seems a new mud series launches every week, which has stolen some of the thunder from Muddy Buddy’s all-inclusive, entry-level, bike-and-run, obstacle barnstorming tour, which finishes the 2012 campaign Sunday at Zoo Miami.

Bob Babbitt, who created the series 12 years ago, says there’s a place for all of the races.

“It’s like running where you have races from 5K to marathon and even further,” he says. “Now you have Muddy Buddy, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder. There’s plenty of variety and athletes have no shortage of options.”

There’s a lot to like about Muddy Buddy that other events haven’t duplicated. The two-person, leapfrog format is unique. One competitor starts out on the bike, rides to the first obstacle, completes the first challenge and takes off running. Meanwhile the second athlete runs to the bike. After about six miles of changing off, the athletes meet up at the mudpit for a 50-yard crawl.

Athletes compete in male/male, female/female, or mixed divisions and numerous marriage proposals have been made in the mud pit. A frequent refrain is that a Muddy Buddy race might be the perfect third date.

For all the talk about entering other mud runs as teams, that’s usually irrelevant once the race starts. At Muddy Buddy, you must compete as a team since you’re sharing a bike.

Plus, only at Muddy Buddy can you roll back your age. That’s because most scoring divisions are by combined age. In April, I teamed with a 58-year-old triathlete training partner for Muddy Buddy Orlando  and we finished 12th out of 70 teams in the new “competitive” age category, which Muddy Buddy added this year for those who take their mud runs seriously. (The competitive division goes first, thus avoiding the inevitable backup of traffic on the course.)

On Sunday, I’ll team with a 20-year-old pal, also from my tri group, who goes to college in South Florida. Not surprisingly, there’s been plenty of trash talk between my two buddies over which team will post the better 2011 time. (That’s assuming I haven’t gotten any faster or slower in seven months.)

Old shoes and black socks recommended

We recently spoke with Babbitt, the unofficial historian of the endurance sports world who dresses in a frog suit for each Muddy Buddy event, on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Columbia Muddy Buddy

When: Sunday, November 20, 2011, Zoo Miami, 8 a.m.

History: This is a second-annual event at Zoo Miami, though the Muddy Buddy series is 12 years old.

Format: Two-person teams with one bike between them leapfrog over a roughly six-mile course, dealing with obstacles and a mud pit at the end of the course.

Amenities: T-shirts, post-race food

Noteworthy: This is the Muddy Buddy season finale. A proposed season championship for the Dec. 3-4 weekend in Punta Gorda was scrapped once Tough Mudder scheduled a race in Pasco County the same weekend.

Projected Turnout: 900 two-person teams

Registration: Online through Nov. 16 at $150/team. Day-of-race registration available space permitting.

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Muddy Buddy 2.0 a Success

By Pete Williams

Navigating the Muddy Buddy mud pit

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.

To hear our recent Fitness Buff Show radio interview with Muddy Buddy founder Bob Babbitt, click HERE.

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Muddy Buddy Season Preview

By Pete Williams

Williams, Babbitt

Bob Babbitt wasn’t the first to come up with an adventure mud run, though his 12-year-old Muddy Buddy series is largely responsible for inspiring so many mud-themed races that they’re now considered a separate category in the world of endurance sports.

Muddy Buddy might be one of the easier races to complete and that’s just the point. It takes two-athlete teams only an hour or so to navigate a six-mile course via bike and foot, often in costume.

The race has expanded from its origins in 1999 and now includes 18 events in 2011, three of which will take place in Florida. Like NASCAR, Muddy Buddy will begin and end its season in the Sunshine State, moving its ESPN Wide World of Sports event in Lake Buena Vista from Mother’s Day weekend to the season-opening April 9 date. Muddy Buddy returns to Zoo Miami on Nov. 20 for the second straight year, only this time it won’t be the season finale. That’s because there’s a new championship race at the Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda on Dec. 4.

Babbitt (right) is one of the good guys in the endurance sports world, co-founder of Competitor magazine and the Challenged Athlete Foundation. He’s an Ironman Hall of Famer, host of the terrific Competitors radio show and creator of the Muddy Buddy. These days, he’s perhaps best known for donning a frog suit and emceeing the Muddy Buddy events. He spoke with us Monday on The Fitness Buff Radio Show.

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