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It's all obstacles in Ruckus Pittsburgh Challenge

| Friday, July 8, 2011

It's not a marathon. It's not a triathlon. It's a run, jump, climb and fall-on-your-athalon.

The Ruckus Pittsburgh Challenge, which debuts July 16 at the Washington County Fairgrounds, is a 4-mile obstacle course that requires runners and walkers to scale rigging, plunge through muddy trenches and clamber over wooden barricades.

Runners need not have the conditioning of a Navy SEAL to do this race, organizers say. The Ruckus welcomes all types into its over-under-sideways world. Race organizers say the event will have the feel of a family festival, with a post-race party, music and food.

"What we try to do is build a course that is demanding for the most athletic, but also is achievable for your average person," says Liam Brenner, co-founder of Ruckus Sports in Boston. "If you go to the gym occasionally and you run a little bit, you can absolutely do our course."

Pittsburgh is among the first cities to host the national race series. Ruckus Sports staged its first event in June 2010 in Maine. Other Ruckus races are set for St. Louis, Mo., and Columbus, Ohio.

Bridget Horne of Boston completed two Ruckus Races in New England.

"It certainly looks intimidating, but it's as hard or easy as you want it to be," she says. "It depends on how hard you want to push yourself. ... They sort of describe it as an adult playground, and it really is. It makes you feel like a kid."

Ruckus organizers arrange the course in each city so friends and family can watch competitors brave obstacles such as the Mud Garden, Barricade Boulevard and Commando Crawl.

"We want it to be very spectator friendly," Brenner says. "We really try to have a lot of the bigger builds in an area where a lot of your friends and family can watch."

For next weekend's race, Ruckus Sports will truck in obstacles, while local companies have been hired to build others.

"There was lots of things to figure out," Brenner says. "How do you build a 15-foot cargo net• How many tons of clay does it take to make a great mud pit?"

Ruckus races have a party atmosphere, with participants often helping each other over walls or up dirt ramps. Competitors can skip an obstacle that proves too tough, but need to make an honest attempt at tackling it.

Adventure-style races like the Warrior Dash and Muddy Buddy series have gained popularity during the past several years, says Bart Yasso, chief running officer at Runner's World magazine. The novelty element attracts folks who might not run a regular 5K or 10K.

"I think you get a lot of the guys who are gym rats," Yasso says. "They have upper-body strength. They're intrigued by this, because it involves more than just running."

The Ruckus should appeal to those who are looking for entertainment and a workout, says Kevin Smith, owner of Elite Runners & Walkers. The Robinson running store will sponsor the race day Expo.

"If you're driving 45 minutes each direction to get there, there's got to be something more than just a race," Smith says. "What you're seeing with races overall is they're becoming events."

Racers must be 16 or older for the adult challenge. The heats will start every 30 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The top 10 percent of each heat can compete in the Championship Heat, which begins at 3:15 p.m.. Prizes will be awarded to the top male and female finisher and the top male and female masters (45 and older).

The Mini-Ruckus Challenge, two mini-obstacle courses adjacent to the Ruckus Course, is designed for kids, 3 to 10, although older kids can try it, too. Each participant in the Mini-Ruckus receives a medal, T-shirt and race bib, and can run the course as many times as they'd like.

Additional Information:

Ruckus Pittsburgh Challenge

When: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. July 16. The Mini-Ruckus Challenge, suited for kids ages 3-10, runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Registration: $100; $85 until Wednesday, $20 for Mini-Ruckus

Where: Washington County Fairgrounds, 2151 N. Main St., Washington


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