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Tackle the Tar shines bright on rainy day

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Jeff Dodrill races through the mud pit obstacle Saturday during the third annual Tackle the Tar 5K Obstacle Course Race at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The rain was tepid enough on Saturday morning to allow the more than 600 participants to run, crawl and climb their way through the third annual Tackle the Tar 5K Obstacle Course Race at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

And besides, as one runner pointed out, a little bit of rain was never going to be a strong enough deterrent for a group of people actively willing to shimmy through a mud pit.

“You’re in the mud so why not keep going like it’s no big deal,” said Donna Haney, who participated in the obstacle for the third time Saturday, the first two times being in hot and sunny weather. “It may stop people from coming out as much, but the thing about it is you’re not getting overheated. Everyone is still having a good time. You’re going to get wet anyway.”

The actual course is a 5K that starts at the football field and ends back there, with arrows guiding participants through Battle Park an the Tar River. Along the way are climbing walls, mud pits and mounds, among other challenges.

Kristen Brabble, the event’s founder, drew inspiration from a similar event in Charlotte that her and her family used to attend. Her own spin has grown from around 300 participants the first year to double that this year, the third. It raised almost $90,000 in the form of scholarships to local colleges for local kids in the first two years. This year, Brabble said, they expect to raise more than $60,000.

New on Saturday was the children’s one-mile obstacle race for ages 8-13, and to end the morning event, the “K9 + Their Human 5K Obstacle Course.”

In the competitive heat, Musa Gwanzura of Roanoke Rapids won the top spot for the men, while Rita Dorry of Raleigh won for the women, each taking home $750 in prize money. Second was awarded $500 and third received $250.

“This year was our biggest year,” Brabble said. “We finally learned how to do the race right. There will always be hiccups, but we learned from some mistakes last year. We’ve marketed better. We haven’t even marketed like we could, and we got 600 people to sign up.”

In the previous two years, a few of the runners got lost along the route. This year, they invested in more signs and directional objects. Last year, race organizers built the mud pit — one of the event’s marquee segments -— right under a sand pocket, which kept sucking up the moisture of the mud. This year, extra planning was done to make sure the mud pit was extra muddy.

“There’s just a lot of little things we try and think of to make it better each year,” Brabble said.

Even with the constant padder of light, and sometimes heavy, rain the football field at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex was lined with people, food trucks, beer stands and giveaways. It was a spectacle with loaded parking lots that three-plus years ago was only an idea.

“I think if it wasn't for the rain, the crowd would be even bigger,” Haney said. “They’ve added different things, added the dogs, added the kid’s race, they’re involving more aspects to get people interested. It’s good — Rocky Mount needs this, they do.”

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