The Secret World of MuckFest MS Obstacle Design
Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: The Secret World of MuckFest® MS Obstacle Design
As muckers laugh, hoot and holler while taking on the MuckFest MS obstacles, little do they realize that these muck-tacular fun machines were born out of the mysterious underworld known as Obstacle Research and Development, which is also called OBSRESDEV by OCR design veterans who are, interestingly enough, not very good at coming up with acronyms. Now, for the first time in nearly a fiftieth of a century, the MuckFest MS Blog will take you head-first into the semi-dark and profoundly silly world of Obstacle R&D.
Due to secrecy concerns or a faulty GPS, we cannot tell you the exact location of the MuckFest MS Obstacle R&D facility, but we can tell you that it is in Southern California, and it is definitely not in Will Smith’s backyard. In the nerve center of this obstacle incubator/warehouse, we sit down at a work table across from one of the foremost obstacle course designers, a man who calls himself “Mike,” a very clever cover name to hide his real identity, no doubt.
Tell us about Big Balls.
Well, I don’t mean to brag, but…
We mean the obstacle Big Balls. The huge balls suspended by cranes, swinging over muddy pits. It’s described on the website as “One big swinging pair is never enough.”
Ah yes, Big Balls is one of the best for spectators and it’s a runner favorite, but it took a while to perfect.
Tell us about it.
In the early tests, the Big Balls were too light, like annoying, gigantic beach balls. But you can’t make them too heavy either or else you’ll be launching runners into the stratosphere. After a few tries, we got it right. I guess you could say we have the Goldilocks of Big Balls, not too heavy, not too light, but just right to knock you into the muddy pit.
How do you come up with the ideas for your obstacles?
You start from something very basic and universal: What was fun for you as a kid? From there you ramp it up to make it appealing and challenging for adults. Our standing Swing Set is a good example of that. So you start from what would be fun, and then you design with safety in mind. The trick is to make it feel fun and adventurous and be safe for the runner. We have about 100 ideas up on the big board right now. So, you don’t have an obstacle muse?
There are no beautiful people lying around reciting poetry in togas, if that’s what you mean. But there’s this fella named Dewar who is kind of like a liquid muse. But seriously, when you’re coming up with this stuff, you have to be creative and see possibilities.
How do you build the obstacles or is that classified?
It is classified, and unfortunately for you, I’m going to have to hypnotize you after I reveal this. For the large-scale obstacles that we specialize in, there’s no Obstacles-R-Us to order from, so you build it from scratch and assemble it from repurposed components. The rope that we use for the Tight Rope is used to tie up aircraft carriers and the arms for The Spinner came from a huge stage rigging that we used for an AC/DC tour.
Speaking of classified secrets, is there a lot of obstacle espionage going on between the obstacle course events?
You mean like James Bond-type stuff? Aston Martins, super-villians, exploding chewing gum, that kind of thing? No, not as much today as you might think. It is flattering when someone tries to replicate our signature obstacles. What many people are finding out is that you can’t build an event experience around a few obstacles. It’s really about the total event experience and how all of the obstacles work in succession and in concert with the unique course features—hills, streams, forests, things like that.
What type of athlete are the obstacles geared toward?
I think the beauty of MuckFest MS is that the obstacle course is designed for everyone. We call it “athletic slapstick.” Think of it this way. You’ll work your abs as much from laughing as you will from doing the obstacles. So, you’ve got people who are new to exercise and just want something fun, but you’ve also got serious runners, triathletes and marathoners and everything in between.
Mike [using air-quotes when we say it], thanks for talking with us.
You’re welcome. Would you like to test our new human catapult before you go?