SARASOTA, FL - It's described as one of the toughest events on the planet, and this past weekend, over 13,000 people participated in the Tough Mudder challenge at the Hi Hat Ranch in Sarasota. And with an estimated economic impact of nearly $1 million, the Sarasota Sports Commission is already working to bring it back next year.
Tough Mudder participants subject themselves to twelve miles of what some may describe as pure torture. But they loved every second of it. “We're a new start up, so this is a great team bonding experience. We had 17 people on our team, and everyone started and finished the race together,” said participant Christian Zeigler.
He and his coworkers at Dealers United completed the challenge on Saturday, and after training for the last two months, it all came down to the big event. “There were some really, really high walls and we had to work together as a team, as a group, never would've gotten over them individually. But we worked together as a team and we were able to get everyone over and keep going.”
Zeigler was one of 11,000 participants on Saturday, and an additional 2,000 Sunday. And with those kinds of crowds, officials with the Sarasota County Sports Commission say they consider the weekend a huge success for the area. “For single day events we have large events, where we have team sports and a lot of people coming and going to the venue. But this is one of the largest individual sports things we've hosted here in a long time,” says Nicole Rissler, Director of Sports for Sarasota County Sports Commission.
Amy Thomas also completed the Tough Mudder on Saturday. And while some of the obstacles did present a challenge, she says it was the traffic that proved to be the hardest obstacle for many competitors to overcome. Some competitors waited for hours in backups on I-75, missing the race all together. “I hope it's in Sarasota again, I just really hope they figure it out. I know that might have scared them away with the traffic, but if there's something they can do to prevent that, I think to have it in Sarasota again is good for business and I figure that has a positive impact.”
And Rissler agrees, saying the sports commission is already looking ahead to next year. “It's a great event, and we would love to see them come back we just obviously need to work on some of the logistical things to make sure it's a good experience for the participants, it's a good experience for the event and certainly our community.”
On Tough Mudder's Facebook page, there were numerous complaints from people who said they weren't able to participate because of the traffic, or that their teams were split up because they weren't all able to make it there at the same time. Tough Mudder organizers have not returned our calls to see if they plan on holding the Tough Mudder Florida in Sarasota again.