DADE CITY — More than 12,000 people flooded the plush fields and rolling hills of Little Everglades Ranch on Saturday for Florida's second-ever Savage Race.
Waves of competitors by the hundreds left the starting line every 20 minutes, crashing into a 6-mile course of exhausting obstacles and challenging terrain. The event was a follow up to last fall's Savage Race and was a tremendous success for the organizers, who continue to see the number of participants in their events grow.
"This is even bigger than the last one and that was a huge success," Savage Race chief operating officer Lloyd Parker said. "We just keep getting bigger. I think we've been able to be successful because we've put a lot of the money back into the course. That has allowed us to keep improving what we have to offer, so hopefully the events just continue to grow."
Many of the competitors were repeat performers. Lisa Simon, 34, of Safety Harbor, made it out for a second time, having not taken on any other endurance challenge races since the first Savage Race in Florida.
"I think the event in the fall was maybe a bit tougher, with more water and bit more distance, but it was still a lot of fun," Simon said. "I get bored just running long distances so I enjoy the challenges that this offers. The monkey bars seem like it would be simple, but they're one of the toughest obstacles out here."
Jim Kaale, on the other hand, traveled from Orlando to participate in his first Savage Race. The 43-year-old owner of a personal training gym was looking for a significant challenge. He said he found it as soon as he left the starting gate.
"I had done the Warrior Dash before and thought that was alright, but wanted something more difficult," Kaale said. "This is twice as long and the obstacles are much tougher. Once we hit Mile 5, I was really feeling it, and by the time we hit the mud at the end, I was having a tough time just getting out of it and across the finish line."
Savage Race is one of many endurance challenge events to hit Little Everglades in the last few years, as the ranch has become a target destination for every group that is serious about staging a mud run or obstacle course challenge. Tough Mudder and the Dirty Girl Mud Run have also held events at the ranch.
"Unfortunately we stopped doing the Steeplechase a few years ago because of the economy, so what we're doing now is taking advantage of a world class events facility that the Blanchards have built," Little Everglades events organizer Kevin Campbell said. "We're pretty comfortable with the running events because it's low impact as far as how much damage it does to the ranch, and it brings tens of thousands of people out to the ranch. We want people to come out and see this beautiful piece of property and these have been a real positive thing for us."