One of the newest crazy trends in fitness and running today are Mud Runs. These runs seem like a good time, but after you read one of the disclaimers that I uncovered on an entry form, it’s almost as scary as pharmaceutical disclaimer on a recent erectile dysfunction TV commercial.
“I understand that participating in this Mud Run is a hazardous activity that may cause harm including, but not limited to: bodily injury; illness or infection, physical and/or mental effects of exposure to extreme conditions and circumstances, temporary or permanent disability; paralysis; death; and property damage or loss. I understand and acknowledge that these risks include, but are not limited to: falls; illness; infection; contact or collision with spectators, personnel, fire, and other pedestrians; contact or collision with motor vehicles or machinery; contact or collision with other participants of varying skill levels; contact and the effects of contact with natural and man-made fixed objects; natural and man-made water, road and surface hazards including fire….”
(left to right) Macy Baker, Amanda Moore & Serena Fister-Mesch. (Photo by Keven Moore.)
Yep, where do I sign up, right? As it turns out WUKY and the University of Kentucky ROTC just recently hosted the first ever Bluegrass Mud Run race which featured a military-style obstacle course race that featured lots of mud. The funny thing about this is that my middle school daughter and two of her neighbors and classmates Macy Baker (daughter of Bethany & Dave Baker) and Serena Fister (daughter of Kimerly Fister-Mesch & Darryl Mesch) just recently successfully completed a military- style obstacle course that was held at Commonwealth Stadium the weekend before, all while I sat contentedly in the comforts of my very own home resting from a late night out for my wife’s class reunion.
So, being the safety and loss control consultant that I am, I had to determine just how bad a father I really was by letting her attend this with very little thought or concern, and had to look into it from a risk management prospective.
Obviously running is no longer fun enough as there is now an ever growing need to require runners to not only race for miles, but also to navigate through, over and under obstacle courses with mud, water, fire, foam and sometimes paint. I must admit, this sounds like a whole lot of fun and a way to spice up your workouts while bonding with your significant other, close friends or even co-workers. But with all these mud runs popping up all over the U.S., the volume and severity of injuries sustained during these races is somewhat concerning, especially for insurance carriers that underwrite them.
As with many new fitness crazes, people of all walks of life, ages, and varying degrees of experience are signing up to participate. This may all seem like a blast, but the dangers aren’t limited just to the unseasoned runners pushing themselves past their limits. Among the injuries — a recent drowning death and a broken neck from an unregistered athlete who dove into a mud pit.
In Dallas, a 30-year-old man racing in the competitive division was found in the Trinity River the next day after being reported missing when he didn’t materialize at the end of the Mud Run race, which involved swimming across the river as one of its obstacles.
The competitive participants were required to wear pants and boots which made it very difficult to stay afloat as they attempted to swim across this very crowded waterway. News reports indicated that there were guide ropes in place and available, but as the swimmers became exhausted and frightened, many panicked as they were grasping at each other just to stay afloat and pulling others under. There were a total of four certified lifeguards stationed throughout the event and there was even a floating platform to swim to, but this was of very little use.
According to event coordinators, this death was the first participant death in the race’s 14 years, and even though there was significant rain that weekend, they maintained that there was nothing in particular about the conditions that differed from previous years.
In another race in a different part of the country another man is suing race organizers for $30 million after being injured and partially paralyzed after landing in a man-made mud pit in a race in 2010.
From my research, many participants are becoming injured from rocks, tree stumps and roots hidden from view in the mud, thus causing multiple injuries. Participants are also sometimes exposed to severe hypothermia and heat exhaustion, as many of these events are held year round through every season.
Then with all that mud, dirt, and bacteria, I can just read the minds of you germ-phobic readers, fearing the greatest risk of them all –becoming sick after crawling and swimming through all that communal water and mud. As I suspect there is an elevated risk of infection from all that bacteria, so many people could end up becoming sick from Staph infection, Flu, MRSA and other infectious diseases.
What I find interesting is how participants want blame the race coordinators when something goes wrong, but then again that is what keeps people like me in the insurance industry employed. Every physical competition has its own inherent risks, and there will be injuries as it is an innate to the event. If you play with fire you eventually get burned, right? People die in the Marathon races all the time. With sports come broken bones, torn muscles, sprained knees, lacerations, contusions and even the risk of cardiac events. Risk is what makes an athlete competitive; if there was no risk, there would be no reward. People actually find risk part of the fun.
Yes, race coordinators are partially responsible for runner safety but if you participate in a race then you are assuming some of the responsibility as well. As there is something called “contributory negligence” that the courts use in these cases that basically says “You knew the risks going in, you signed a waiver, no one held a gun to your head and forced you to participate, therefore you contributed to your very own injury or fatality.”
With these types of races, safety has to be the number one priority for both the participants and the race coordinators. Extreme care should be taken when constructing and designing each of these obstacles. The more sophisticated an obstacle, the higher degree of professional review should occur and you should solicit the insurance loss control professionals that are underwriting this risk as well.
Obstacles involving water should include plenty of alternate routes, swim assist devices, guide ropes, floating platforms and plenty of certified life guards. Announcements should be made prior to the race, during the registration process and prior to the start, encouraging all participants to either skip or choose the alternate route should they feel unsure or feel that they cannot complete an obstacle. Race coordinators should work closely with the local authorities and there should be plenty of medical and rescue staff on hand, and all volunteers should be trained in first aid.
(Photo By Keven Moore.)
As for my daughter’s newfound love for this sport and eagerness to enroll in the next upcoming event that that she and her friends found online, I am going to be cautiously more attentive, but will not squash her desire as she has a very driven & competitive spirit that happens to also love to play in the mud. From looking at the pictures of my daughter, you can tell that there was a lot of fun being had playing in the mud but I will say that my bath tub got the worst of this event, even though they were each hosed down by the fire department after the event.
Be Safe My Friends.
Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.