Big Muddy a family challenge

Adam Spisak had an “ah ha!” moment when most of us would be having an “oy vey!” moment.

“It was last fall and I had run the Tough Mudder in South Carolina earlier in the day,” says Spisak, who lives in Raleigh. “It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m up with my daughter, trying to get her to sleep.” The obstacle race is going through his head, he’s experiencing the joys of fatherhood, he’s reflecting on his active past — he played soccer through his freshman year at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia and has since evolved into a runner — and he’s contemplating the future.

“I realize I want to incorporate an active lifestyle into my daughter’s life, but I don’t want it to be where she’s doing a sport and I’m on the sidelines cheering her on, or I’m doing something and she’s cheering me on,” says Spisak. What he really wants to do with his daughter, he realizes, are events like the Tough Mudder.

Spisak, a Tough Mudder

Problem is, he discovers Googling around over the next few days, there are precious few adventure races that cater to families. “Some have a kid element, but it’s basically a playground for them while you do the race. It’s almost a secondary thought to the main event.”

That realization lead to the creation of the Big Muddy Challenge, which makes its debut at Hill Ridge Farms in Raleigh on Sept. 7.

The Big Muddy Challenge is geared to parents and kids between ages 6 and 12. The race will be a scaled down version of the grown-up-geared obstacle and mud races that have mushroomed in popularity over the past five years. The Tough Mudder series alone has grown from 50,000 participants in 2010, its first year, to a half million last year. Most races are so overwhelmed with participants that racers are sent off in waves every 15 minutes or so. Often, the events take two days or more.

Spisak says the Big Muddy Challenge course will be two miles and have 10 obstacles. Some hay bales to scramble over, water and plenty of mud, assures Spisak, but, “It will not be purely physical. We want to make sure the children have an opportunity to take the lead.”

For instance, there will be something called “Two Eyes, Four Legs.” “The adults will be blindfolded and the child will have to guide them through a maze.”

There will be no fire or electricity.

Participants are welcome to be competitive, but Spisak says the race will not be timed. “We don’t want to target endurance athletes, but we do want to attract them,” says Spisak. “What we really want to do is promote family togetherness and physical activity.”

Spisak, who manages a software development firm by day, is relying on his experience running soccer camps and as an efficiency expert, as well as three dedicated volunteers to pull off a race that he believes could attract as many as 3,500 participants. Already, more than two months out and with little promotion, the Big Muddy Challenge has 150 registered.

Cost to participate is $63 for a parent/child team. You can add another kid for $30, another adult for $33. Proceeds benefit the Rex Healthcare Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle and Playworks of Durham.

Tough the Big Muddy has grown from Spisak’s personal wants, he believes the race will resonate with other parents.

“Right now, the reality for me is that we’re looking for things that are fun do to, that are healthy and safe, and that we can do with friends and families. To me,” he says, “this checks all those boxes.”

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For more information on the Big Muddy Challenge, go here.

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