Rugged Maniac 2014- “Shark-Tank-ified”

How does an already growing OCR company use an influx of money from a celebrity investor?

In April, the company behind Rugged Maniac was featured on “Shark Tank” — an ABC program where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of potential investors. If the panel is interested, some negotiations may take place and a deal may be struck between a panel member and an investor.

On the show, Rob Dickens and Bradford Scudder — the entrepreneurs behind Rugged Maniac – pitched their 5k obstacle race as a shorter, entry-level obstacle race more challenging than some, but more accessible than longer, more intense events (Tough Mudder was mentioned by name). Panel member Mark Cuban – the high-profile owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures — agreed to invest $1.75 million in exchange for 25% ownership in the company.

During the show, the panel asked Dickens and Scudder how they would spend the capital investment. Their answer was curiously left unanswered (perhaps due to television editing decisions).

Even without hearing the answer, though, ORM decided to use the eye-ball test to guess where some of the money went. When Rugged Maniac came to Conyers, GA on August 16, 2014, we had the opportunity to compare it to the race held in the same location last year. This comparison showed that the 2014 race was noticeably better. The overall presentation was bigger, more professional, and more exciting.

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The differences were obvious right away, even from the road. The “festival” area was surrounded by large distinctive obstacles and featured signs and blow ups colorfully emblazoned with the race’s Rugged Man (and Rugged Woman) logo, whereas the signage last year was much smaller with a lot of black and white printing. As you approached the venue, the new presentation created an exciting atmosphere – A feeling that something special and important was about to happen.

Money definitely went into the large, signature obstacles surrounding the festival area. The first of the obstacles was The Gauntlet.

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Last year The Gauntlet consisted of several tires tied to ropes swinging back and forth at racers as they attempted to cross a balance beam over water. This year the entire structure was replaced. Racers still attempted to cross a balance beam over water, but the old tires were replaced by custom made, brightly colored, gigantic punching-bag looking objects. The bags were light and airy to the touch and were more likely to bounce off you than knock you into the water.

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The unique Antigravity obstacle was new this year. Here, you jump from a platform, bounce off of a small trampoline, and then, if you hit the trampoline correctly, fly in the air to (hopefully) grab on to a cargo net covered wall, sticking to it like Spider-man. Very fun.

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Mt. Maniac overlooked the festival area. This newly designed, multi-part obstacle started with a quarter-pipe type wall climb. Runners took a running start and tried to run up the wall to the platform above. From there, racer climbed up and across a cargo net to the top of an impressive, but ultimately fairly tame water slide which settled gently into shallow water several feet from the finish line.

On the racecourse away from the festival area were other new and improved obstacles as well as several familiar favorites, including:

  • Fulcrum Fun where racers had to run up one side of a huge seesaw while it teetered and then back down the other side as it tottered.
  • Ninja Escape which was similar to American Ninja Warrior’s Quintuple Step, in which competitors must jump across several alternately positioned platforms that are angled 45° degrees toward the center.
  • The Ringer in which racers hung from a series of reasonably spaced dangling rings and used them to cross over a water pit in monkey bars type fashion.
  • Several muddy climbs over steep dirt mounds, up small cliffs, through entrenched tubes, and under barbed wire.
  • Balance beams, cargo nets, tall walls and other common but fun obstacles.

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The course and obstacles were more challenging (and in my mind more fun) than races such as Warrior Dash or Merrell Down and Dirty, but not as intense as the typical Savage Race or Spartan Race. Rugged Maniac has never awarded finisher medals and this was the case at the Georgia race. However we have heard that they plan on awarding medals at races in the near future.

Rugged Maniac did not include a kids’ race, but it did have multiple inflatable bounce house activities and other diversions.

Registration for those who did not want a timing chip was fast and easy. However, for those who did want timing, there was a long wait in line. Using some money to speed up this part of the process would be a useful investment.

Overall, Rugged Maniac seems to have used its cash influx wisely to improve and upgrade an event that was already pretty good to begin with.

Check out our video coverage below!

*Photos By: Rugged Maniac

J.D. Allen

Originally from Detroit, he has spent time in Chicago and Boston and now lives just outside Atlanta. He has raced in many events across North America, including Ironman Wisconsin. J.D. is a director on the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR) leadership committee and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

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  1. […] was already pretty solid and the result is an improved race with bigger and better obstacles.  The fortunate recipient of cash from Shark Tank investor, Mark Cuban, Rugged Maniac stepped up its game, while still remaining within it’s market niche of a notch just […]

  2. […] Cuban thanks to an appearance on Shark Tank in 2014. The changes made from that new partnership have been well received. In 2016, they are going to be in 23 markets, including the West Coast and Canada. So is Rugged […]