PUBLISHED AUG. 18, 2016
By LISA STARK
Water, fire, mud, and tunnels … the Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp promises to be about more than just good, clean fun. In fact, you should expect to be covered in mud and sweat by the time you finish this fun-filled, challenging day.
The Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp is scheduled for Aug. 20 and 21, and will take adventure-minded contestants through five grueling miles of cross-country terrain and Florida habitats, as they seek to conquer the 25-plus obstacles included in the course – some manmade and some natural.
The Swamp Stomp promises to introduce daring contestants to the “real Florida” with swampy conditions usually seen only by the wild animals of the Florida forests. You will “crawl like a crawfish through thick mud, leap like a frog through the half-acre pool, run through the woods like a panther and jump the fire line like a wildland firefighter,” claim the promoters of the event. The five-mile adventure is designed to test contestants’ fears and abilities and give them a true sense of accomplishment as they cross the finish line. All contestants will receive a free beer from Cigar City, a race shirt, bib and a “very cool” finisher’s medal.
“This is our first attempt at a mud run, but with sponsorship from Cigar City Brewing and Creative Loafing, we should see a good local turnout,” said Alex Kinder, organizer for the event. “As it stands right now, we have approximately 300 runners signed up and hope to see 500 as we get closer to the event.”
Kinder said that participants will most likely want to stick around for the after-party sponsored by Cigar City Brewing, or even make a weekend out of it by camping in the campgrounds. “We hope to make this an annual event,” said Kinder. “More and more people these days like extreme challenges, and this will be a great one.”
Today in the United States, mud running and obstacle course racing is a $250 million industry. It’s estimated that over 3 million Americans will participate in mud runs this year, with events that vary in size and complexity.
Most mud runs/obstacle competitions are about 3 miles long, and have 10 to 20 obstacles along the way (ie: slip ’n’ slides, cargo net climbs, and mud pits). The events vary greatly in scope and size, with some being competitive and others “just for fun.” Some, especially those that are part of a national series, attract enormous crowds, while others are organized on a smaller local level.
Many twists on the basic idea of a mud run /obstacle course have emerged in recent years. Some races cater to women only, while others are tailored to benefit various charities. Some races have adopted quirky themes like zombies and superheroes. There are also very extreme events that have participants running through the obstacle course for 24 hours or more. What they all have in common is the goal to test one’s mental grit, physical fitness and to provide a thrilling day where runners bond together in camaraderie.
Properly training for a mud run includes dieting, staying hydrated and building strength while practicing. Appropriate clothing and gear are also important. It’s recommended that you wear a shoe with plenty of traction and a thin upper material, so that it won’t absorb a lot of water. Ankle length acrylic socks are also recommended, since they don’t absorb much water and prevent dirt and rocks from getting inside. Your shirt should be thin and tight-fitting so as not to snag on hazards along the way.
“I’ve been in three mud runs like this,” said one Ruskin local, who plans to participate in the Swamp Stomp this month. “My best advice it to pace yourself and not get frustrated if you hit an obstacle you’re not expecting. The most important thing is to have fun.”
The Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp is expected to draw participants from Tampa, Brandon, Plant City, Ruskin, Riverview and even as far away as Manatee County.
“We get a lot of attendance at our events from all over Hillsborough and neighboring counties,” said Kinder. “For instance, The Haunted Woods, (to be held Oct. 22 and 23) attracts approximately 1,600 people. Our campground sells out a full year in advance.”
The major events held at Hillsborough River State Park benefit the Citizen Support Organization (CSO), which in turn supports the park by purchasing needed equipment, supplies, programming and historical preservation efforts.
Walt Williams, president of the Hillsborough River State Park Preservation Society, says that its mission is to offer visitors the experience of the “real Florida” and to preserve the history of this unique 3,383-acre state park. Pavillions and buildings that describe its history remain in use, including a replica of Fort Foster from Florida’s pioneer days.
Tickets for the Hillsborough River State Park Swamp Stomp start at $35 per person and can be purchased online at eventbrite.com. Camping reservations must be made online in advance. The Swamp Stomp will be held rain or shine Saturday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 21 at Hillsborough River State Park, 15402 U.S. Highway 301 N., Thonotosassa, FL 33592.
For more information about this and other state park events, visit www.floridastateparks.org/park/Hillsborough-River, or call 813-987-6771.