Locally organized mud run faces colorful competition

Beth Bragg

Here's more mud in your eye.

Three weeks after the Mud Factor provided messy fun for thousands at Kincaid Park, the third annual Race for Recovery mud run will return to Bicentennial Park next week.

Unfortunately for organizers, who hope to raise enough money to build a playground for children who are recovering from trauma or have behavioral disorders, their mud run faces considerable competition.

It's happening on the same day as the Color Run, which is returning to Anchorage after a wildly successful debut last year that attracted 15,000 participants. Both events are scheduled for next Saturday.

The Race for Recovery is a 5-kilometer race that begins and ends at Albrecht softball fields in south Anchorage. The course is primarily on sled-dog race trails and will challenge runners with 18 obstacles and about 18 gazillion mosquitoes. Eight of the 18 obstacles will involve mud, six of them in naturally occuring features.

"We run in two swamps, so we're really not joking about mosquitoes," race director Jennifer Smerud said.

The Race for Recovery is a fundraiser for Anchorage Community Mental Health Services. The Color Run and the Mud Factor are organized by for-profit national organizations that parachute into town for a week, make a ton of money and then move on to the next stop.

The Race for Recovery made its debut in 2012, a year before the Color Run came to Anchorage and two years before the Mud Factor made its Alaska debut earlier this month.

Smerud doesn't begrudge the Outside organizations their popularity -- the more the merrier, she believes. But she was disappointed the Color Run changed the date of its event after the Race for Recovery had already locked into June 28.

"The Outside races bring a lot of joy to the community," Smerud said. "They're for-profit runs, and it's tough for local runs to compete with them because our advertising budgets aren't as big.

"The Mud Factor is a great race, they're great people, and they're helping advertise our event. But they're also so much bigger than us that a lot of people don't even know we're here this year."

The Race for Recovery drew about 1,200 people last year for the 5-K adult race and 2-K race for kids 7-13 years old. The numbers are lower this year, Smerud said, largely because of the Color Run conflict.

The race is trying to compete by offering lower entry fees and more perks than the Outside-organized runs.

The Race for Recovery costs $35 until Monday, when entry fees go up to $45. According to its Facebook page, the Color Run costs $55.

And unlike the Mud Factor, which charged $10 for parking and $10 for spectators, the Race for Recovery won't charge for either of those things, and it will provide free hot dogs and a DJ at the finish line. It's also emphasizing that it is a locally organized event benefitting a local charity. Last year's race raised about $60,000.

"This is about building a playground for kids who have experienced trauma," Smerud said.

And it's about having fun. No one enters a mud run or a color run looking for a personal-best.

"Who doesn't like to play in the mud a little bit in a nice controlled space?" Smerud said. "How often are you going to do this? This is the day where you say, 'I'm going to get muddy.' ''

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

For more information about the Race for Recovery mud run, go to acmhs.com. For more information about the Color Run, go to thecolorrun.com/anchorage. Both events are scheduled for Saturday, June 28.