MULBERRY — Calling the Rugged Race rugged is evidently a huge understatement.
“It was one of the hardest events I’ve ever done,” said Brent Higgins, who gutted it out to win the contest’s 35-and-Over Division title. “I’ve never done a competition like that before. I just wanted to finish.”
The event was held April 27 at Kirksey Park in Mulberry as part of the city’s Edamame Festival. All the proceeds from the event went to the city of Mulberry.
This was the third year of the Rugged Race at the Edamame Festival, but second under the supervision of Ron Hudson, owner of Hudson’s Gym in Dyer.
“I feel like it gives the people of the community a chance to get in there and compete with one another and have some good competition. And get muddy,” said Hudson. “It’s a good way to have some fun.”
Spectators enjoyed watching the participants navigate the course, which was laid out inside the park’s rodeo arena. The timed competition started with competitors jogging a lap around the inside of the arena. From there they turned into the course, diving into a rope covered ditch filled with muddy water. Then came running through tires, pushing — and then pulling — a 65-pound sled that had a 45-pound plate on it, carrying a beer keg a short distance, navigating a balance beam, carrying kettle bells that weighed approximately 70 pounds each, flipping a 220-pound tire end over end and scaling a wooden wall.
Competitors were then given a choice in the last obstacle. They could either climb a rope up to a bucket on a cherry picker or do 30 burpees (one burpee consists of jumping up in the air with arms raised, dropping to the ground into a pushup position, kicking feet out backwards and then hopping back up into a standing position).
Higgins, who owns Brent Higgins Trucking in Mulberry, said pushing and then pulling the sled was the hardest part. As he closed out his run he decided on doing the burpees instead of climbing the rope.
“I probably could have shaved off a bunch of time if I’d just climbed the rope,” he said. “And I probably could have climbed the rope but I thought it was kind of risky. I’m a 42-year-old businessman and I’ve got 40 employees, so I think about my employees before I do risky things. I didn’t think it would be very smart of me to try to climb the rope when there are all those people who depend on me to try to make a living.”
Higgins edged out Mulberry’s Matt Raleigh for the title while his son, Dillan Higgins, won the younger division.
Hudson said he wanted the course to be challenging “with the mindset that not everyone is an athlete.”
In the end, though, he said, “It turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. I was trying to make it like an intermediate challenge for the general public to compete in it. We also had lighter weights and things like that for ladies if we had any ladies compete.”
Brent Higgins, who graduated from Mulberry High School in 1995, said even though it was a tough experience, it was fun competing at his hometown Kirksey Park.
“I played baseball on those fields down there and have great memories of Kirksey Park, riding rides at the Crawford County Fair,” he said. “I raised a grand champion market hog in 1992 or ’93, I can’t remember which. But it was a grand champion.”
Mulberry’s Trevor Marvin also competed in the event. Alma’s Dalton and Shannon Hubler competed but were unable to finish the course.