The Rugged Maniac does not pitch itself as an unusual OCR…but it is. It doesn’t pitch itself as a tough course…but it is. It pitches itself as a fun, diverse OCR with an excellent after party…and it’s definitely that. It’s name implies that it’s for crazy, hardcore OCR people who strive for the toughest challenges…it’s not really.
The Rugged Maniac (for those of you questioning it, the pronunciation is rug-ged, two syllables) has it’s birthplace in the lovely little town of Southwick, MA at the Motocross course there and has spawned into events across the country. It has a corporate backer (Men’s Health) but seems to have a quieter reputation than the Spartan races but most definitely has a faithful following.
I stumbled across the RM in 2015 while looking for OCRs in the New England area. I came across it late in the game, so the ticket prices were rather high, but one of the perks of the RM is that you can volunteer in the morning of a race and run for free that afternoon (or run in the morning and get reimbursed when you volunteer in the afternoon). Myself, bestie C, and her daugher J all signed up to volunteer in the morning and then run for free in the afternoon. It seemed the easiest way to run a rather expensive OCR for free and still have a great day. Plus, bonus points for happening over my birthday weekend. We wanted to make a trip out of it.
We headed down 495 South the day before the race with the mood high. We managed to hit my old stomping grounds of Milford, MA around dinner time – I lived and worked in the Blackstone Valley area for nearly ten years – and stopped at one of my very favorite restaurants, The Alamo. I was introduced to The Alamo when I started working as an EMT for (now defunct) Pathways Ambulance, who had a base up the street from the restaurant. Do you remember the cute youngest kid from Malcolm in the Middle, the brainy one with the big ears? His parents run the Alamo, and the entrance – back when I first frequented the place – used to be carpeted with pictures of the kid with various stars in various famous places. Since he’s grown up, I think he told them to take the pics down, so now it just looks like a Mexican restaurant. But his father seriously looks just like him.
The Alamo has excellent fresh food, great drinks, huge portions, and very reasonably priced. They also have (usually terrible) karaoke and other special nights at the bar upstairs. You’ll be hard pressed to get into the place on a summertime Friday night. We managed to hit it right on a crisp fall night, however, and had a great meal with no waiting before hitting the road towards southeastern MA.
We ended up staying at a pretty bootleg motel off the interstate that C had booked for us (same story in 2016, come to think of it…guess I shouldn’t leave accomodation planning to her anymore) and woke up early the next morning to get to the race by the volunteer’s allotted time.
Note for future OCR volunteers: early morning in late September in New England can get pretty frikkin cold. I was thoroughly grateful for my multiple layers while we were volunteering and equally happy to strip them off while we ran.
Volunteering was…well, kind of useless. It was obvious that they didn’t really need us and had nowhere to really put us, and so stuck us on the first water obstacle and told us to watch and help anyone who might get stuck or hurt. They also handed us a hose and told us to fill up the water obstacle while we waited for the race to start.
Mind you, this is at a dirt motocross track. The ground is entirely made of sand. We could have drained all the local reservoirs and still not had the Shoe Catcher (the name of hte obstacle) more full than perhaps knee height at its deepest. And once the race started, we were completely superfluous. We kept ourselves busy by cheering on the racers and directing those that looped around the course near our obstacle. By the end of the morning my voice was gone, but overall it was a fun time.
Once our volunteer shift was done, we just sort of…wandered off and checked in with the volunteer coordinator to let them know we were done. We pretty much got a nod and a check off on a list. We promptly went to dump our spare clothes and got race ready!
One of the reasons that the Rugged Maniac is so awesome is because it has many obstacles, many of which I’ve never encountered at any of the other local races. The Shoe Catcher is one. The Accelerator, an enormous waterslide you go down so fast that you skip on the surface of the landing pool several times before sinking, is another.
They have long barbed wire slogs through mud, rolling walls to go over, and lots of rope nets and other climbing obstacles. They also have the only Warped Wall that I’ve ever encountered outside of American Ninja Warrior. I’ve made it up there two years in a row now thanks to the help of multiple burly men who offered helping arms. I’m not complaining!
For those of you who enjoy a great after party, RM has DJ, music, food, vendors, lots of beer (including a free one for finishing!), contests, and great swag. We never stay long at the after party – usually one or more of us (read: me) is tired and filthy and just wants to get cleaned up. Except for 2015, when C stuck her car key in her sports bra instead of trusting the bag check and managed to lose it while going down the Accelerator. I sat down and enjoyed a nice hard cider while the very nice policemen opened up her car for her. Fortunately J kept the spare. She did not repeat that mistake in 2016!!
After cleaning up at the hotel, I asked the girls on a whim if they’d like to go to the Big E, which always runs through the weekend of my birthday but closes up soon afterwards. It was always a special trip every year to go to the Big E, and I absolutely love the annual trip to wander through the crowds, eat deliciously bad for you fried foods, see the animals, and spend money on silly stuff. My MA besties and I used to deliberately plan a mid-week trip to go (necessitating a day off from teaching, not a hardship for me, cough-cough) when the crowds were less and the parking cheap. After moving to NH it became the matter of a 4 hour drive rather than a 1.5 hour one, and I didn’t go for a few years. After hearing my enthusiastic spiel on the World’s Largest Fair, the girls agreed to make the short trip to Springfield and have their first Big E experience.
It did not disappoint. It was dark and cold again by the time we got there, and there were an equal number of people streaming in and out of the fair. We walked a couple blocks from parking to the nearest entrance and managed to arrive at the fair near my very favorite part – the State buildings! We wound in and out of each building, grabbing pamphlets and snacks (kettle corn – the best) and seeing the sites, and also grabbed a not-t0-be-missed Big E eclair and cream puff, consumed while wandering through the exhibits. It was the first time I’ve ever stayed at the Big E until the buildings started to shut down. It was a wonderful time.
2016’s trip to RM was very similar to 2015 except we decided not to volunteer, we just bought tickets to an afternoon run and drove down there the morning of to save a night at a hotel. We ran the race and cleaned up, and enjoyed a night of R&R (shopping and eating fattening food). The next morning we arrived at the Big E just as the gates were opening and had a great time wandering through the barns before the crowds descended. We took up a majority of the day just soaking in the sights before heading home.
I look very much forward to repeating the experience in 2017. Rugged Maniac remains high on my list of best OCRs that you can run in the New England area.