Airmen, sheriff deputies and firefighters to host mud run

  • Published
  • By Megan Just
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs
Climbing, jumping, crawling, trudging, running!  These are the verbs Capt. Al Knapp used to describe the actions participants will be taking in order to make it though the muddy course of next weekend's 3.4-mile Defenders Dash.

The event is a result of a challenge Col. Karl McGregor, 452nd Air Mobility Wing commander, issued this spring to the March Company Grade Officers' Council: develop a social event for the wing that helps Airmen extend their level of fitness.

"Mud runs have become very popular across the country," said Knapp, the maintenance operations officer for the 752nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the vice president of March's Company Grade Officer's Association. "A lot of organizations sponsor 5Ks and 10Ks, but we wanted to do something a little different that would attract a lot of participation."

Early in the planning process, the Company Grade Officers Association teamed with the Riverside County Sheriffs, and later, the Riverside County Fire Department. The Defenders Dash will be held Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Ben Clark Joint Training Center, which is across Interstate 215 from March Air Reserve Base, on former March Air Force Base property.

The Dash will include obstacles of all types, including one wild obstacle Knapp insists must be kept secret until participants gain a knoll on the course and see it for themselves. Knapp said the mud pit they've designed for the Dash will rival the pits of all other mud runs in the region.

"It's going to be 'ginormous,' bigger than what anybody else has in Southern California," Knapp said. "We know it's going to be good."

Knapp expects a crowd of about 1,000 for the first of what he hopes will become an annual event.

"We encourage runners to wear crazy costumes and to form teams for the race," said Knapp, who recalled a mud run he once participated in, where a team of women dressed as "The Real Housewives of Hemet."

November 19 will be a busy day for the base with the military ball, a Yellow Ribbon program and an employer's orientation happening on the same day, but Knapp assures supervisors that the race will have "minimum impact on reservists' duty day." He estimates reservists can travel to the Ben Clark Joint Training Center, run the race and clean-up in less than two hours.

The cost of the Dash is $35. Although the event is free for service members, Knapp hopes military participants will give a donation to help cover costs. Paying participants and service members who donate $35 will receive a T-shirt.

The support footprint needed to execute a mud run is huge. The joint sheriff-firefighter-military team is operating on a shoestring budget and are deeply dependent on event volunteers and donations.

Volunteers from the originating organizations will join volunteers from the California Highway Patrol, Civil Air Patrol, Sheriff's Explorers, CSU San Bernardino ROTC and the Riverside County Sheriff's Mounted Posse to assist with water stations, parking, registration, safety spotting and managing the finish line. Local companies have donated food, trash pickup services, outhouses and a stage.

Building the course itself is a large and expensive undertaking. CAL FIRE used their own large equipment to dig the course's largest mud pit and the rest of the construction was made possible by the use of the excavator and backhoe RDO Equipment Company of Riverside donated to the event. The company delivered the equipment last Friday and Air Force reservists from the 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron spent the weekend turning the course's design into a reality.

The creation of the Defenders Dash course and mud pit is not without environmental concerns and event organizers dedicated three months of planning to mitigate the impacts of the mud run and to gain environmental clearances from the Riverside County Environmental Protection Agency and the March Joint Powers Authority.

"The environment was one of our top priories in planning this event," said Sgt. Tim Elwell of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. "We wanted to make sure we wouldn't be affecting the environment, terrain or any plant or animal species around the course."

Elwell said the county EPA and the JPA concur that the course will not affect sensitive habitats of the area's two species of concern: burrowing owls and fairy shrimp. The course is designed to use already established trails and roads and event coordinators will keep participants' feet on the trails by using a staggered start system and clever "mystery challenges" designed to thin packs of runners.

Even the obstacles themselves were designed with environmental impact in mind.

"All obstacles are environmentally friendly because they can be placed on the course and removed afterward," said Elwell. "The mud pits will only be built in areas without vegetation and we will fill them back in when we're done. There will be no permanent impact to the land."

Elwell said the course will pass through rugged, open terrain that most community members have never had a chance to see because it was formerly part of March Air Force Base and is now part of the Ben Clark Joint Training Center. In this way, the mud run doubles as an open house.

"We want the community members we serve to be able to see our personnel, equipment and the places we train," he said. "Many obstacles on the course are the same ones our recruits go through at the academy."

For Elwell, who has been participating in mud runs since 1992, teaming with March was the key to realizing a decade-long dream for the Ben Clark Joint Training Center.

"I've wanted to put a mud run on at the facility for about ten years, but for various reasons, it never worked out," he said. "When the (March ARB) Company Grade Officers approached us with the same idea, it put more impetus on the event. We needed that partnership to get this off the ground."

Elwell explained that the partnership between the Riverside County Fire Department, the March Company Grade Officers Council and the Riverside Sheriff's Department enables the group to overcome the limitations of the individual agencies.

"We've always had a great working relationship between the agencies, but this will make it even better," he said. "We've had to pull together resources from each agency in a joint effort to get this done. It was a huge task, but teamwork has made it a reality."

More information about the event is available on the event website. Pre-registered participants will know their wave start time in advance and can pick-up their race packets on Friday, Nov. 18 from 3-7 p.m.

Service members can RSVP by sending an email to Capt. Al Knapp at Registration will also be available on the morning of the event, starting at 6 a.m.

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