DADE CITY — Next weekend the scenic hillsides of Little Everglades Ranch will host one of the most grueling obstacle course and endurance runs in the country.
Tough Mudder Florida will be held Dec. 3 and 4 with events challenging participants' strength, stamina and mental grit. Eric Keaton, the county's tourism manager who helped bring together Tough Mudder and Little Everglades folks, said he is looking forward to what promises to be a "huge event."
"Little Everglades Ranch is an outstanding destination for this event," Keaton said. "If I'm looking for an area to do this in Florida, that facility is perfect for an 11-mile adventure. They've sold out day one and are close to selling out day two. Ten thousand people will be registered for each race day, so it's a huge event for Dade City. It's been described as an invasion of adventure runners."
Tough Mudder races were developed by British Special Forces to challenge athletes with natural and man-made obstacles. Participants can compete individually or as part of a team on a roughly 12-mile course, which is expected to take the toughest participants 2 1/2 hours to complete.
Athletes will be challenged with more than 20 military-style obstacles. Venues around the world offer Tough Mudders a slightly different challenge and incorporate varying features depending on the local terrain. The Little Everglades Ranch course will lend its own unique flavor with its rolling hills, water hazards and a steeplechase hurdle.
Organizers say the competitions emphasize camaraderie: "To get over 12-foot walls and through underground mud tunnels, you'll need teammates to give you a boost and a push," the Tough Mudder website says. The events also have a festival-like atmosphere.
"As hardcore as our courses are, we meet you at the finish line with a beer, a laugh and a rockin' live band," the website says. The post-party includes awards for best costumes, free head-shaving for anyone who wants a Mohawk or mullet, and tattoo vouchers for runners willing to get the Tough Mudder logo inked into their flesh.
The event raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports the needs of severely injured service men and women. Tough Mudder participants raised $650,000 last year for the organization.
Runners pay anywhere from $80 to $150 to participate, depending on when they signed up. Spectators are also welcome to attend; tickets are $20 in advance or $40 at the event.
For information or tickets, visit toughmudder.com or call the Pasco County Office of Tourism at (727) 847-8129.