CUMBERLAND --- Ever since organizations such as Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash burst onto the scene in 2010, obstacle racing has become the rage and the ‘to-do’ activity for runners and non-athletes alike in this country and overseas.
Runners would try to complete a race – from your average 5K to a marathon – on a trail course that has its share of mud, ponds, and rocks and is littered with obstacles, ranging from climbing over walls to crossing balance beams, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping over fire pits.
But while obstacle racing’s popularity is currently at an all-time high, it does have some folks in the local sports community, such as Mike Crawley, the director of the Cumberland Parks & Recreation Department, scratching their heads.
“I’m not sure why this took off,” said Crawley. “It’s just one of those things that’s a challenge, and I think people want to complete a challenge like this. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why so many people took to it.”
Crawley may have his questions about the sport, but on Saturday, Oct. 19, he and his hard-working staff will answer the call for a local obstacle race when the inaugural Diamond Hill Challenge Obstacle Run invades Diamond Hill Park.
The 3.1-mile race, which proceeds will benefit the town’s youth programs, will take place in the middle of the Haunted Hill schedule that started this past weekend and will run every Friday and Saturday night until Halloween, as well as two Sunday nights, Oct. 13 and 27.
The Haunted Hill trail walk, complete with its outdoor attractions, from its killer scarecrows to famous movie killers on the route, has been a popular fall venue for children and adults alike for more than a decade, but this year, Crawley and his staff are adding an extra event with their obstacle race.
Crawley tabbed it “a piece of cake” race, that unlike the universally popular Spartan Dash or Tough Mudder, won’t feature barbed wire or dangling live electrical wires to dodge, but a tough hill on the first mile, and some walls, tunnels, and mud among the 13 obstacles to overcome.
It also won’t feature the pricey fees that the larger organizations force their participants to shell out, which sometimes can exceed $100. For $45 until Oct. 13 (and $50 after that until race day), anyone can try their hand at this race, and even get a race t-shirt if they sign up early.
“And we’re doing our race with a Halloween twist to it, make it something a little bit different,” added Crawley, who plans to have a “blood-filled pond” and “psychos” along the Haunted Hill course that include Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Michael Myers from Halloween.
There will be nine different waves of runners going off every half hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and runners will be required to check in a half hour before their scheduled starts. The top male and finisher in each wave will receive an award, as will those who sport the best individual and group costumes.
“Right now, we have about 100 (registrants), and I just got a call from a lady who has a group of 15 that’s going to be signing up,” offered Crawley. “I’m hoping within the next couple of weeks we get a little bit of a push here.”
And what if this first-time race turns into a huge success?
“If it is a success, we’ll definitely look to do another one in the spring, and maybe even another one in the summer,” said Crawley. “I still can’t put my finger on why this is the fad that’s out there, but if we do a good job, people will come back.”
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24