FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Richard Moore is athletic, in shape, and no stranger to challenging races. He and his wife had no fears of entering the Original Mud Run Saturday in Fort Worth. Then he saw the river crossing.
“You could be an Olympic swimmer,” said the 28-year-old. “There was so many people in front of you and back of you, you couldn’t kick. So the first couple people in there, you’re going straight down.”
Moore and other runners are now questioning what safety checks are in place for adventure races. Their concern comes after the death of one of the competitors, Tony Weathers. He disappeared in the river crossing that Moore chose not to tackle.
Adventure runs are growing in popularity. The Mud Run has another event in Houston in May. Local runners will tackled the Warrior Dash this weekend in Roanoke. That series is expected to top one million participants this year nationwide.
There is not necessarily someone though, apart from organizers, physically checking the safety of the course and obstacles.
When held on public property, race organizers have to obtain a permit. To get one, they usually have to have insurance first.
Insurance attorney Kirk Dreyer with Swingle Collins and Associates in Dallas said carriers do their research and ask a lot of questions before underwriting an event.
“Those can include asking for what safety plans they have in place, what contingent plans they have in place,” he said.
As much as they look to minimize the risk of an accident though, Dreyer said carriers can’t be everywhere. “When it comes to what you’re going to actually do on a race day, there’s some trust involved.”
Once a policy is in hand, organizers can get their permit from the government entity that controls the land they are using. In the case of the Mud Run, the Tarrant Regional Water District awarded the permit. The TRWD said it starts with addressing any issues or concerns from previous events. They also discuss the route for the race, and any post –event maintenance. The TRWD is primarily concerned with proper land use though, not the way organizers plan to provide for people involved.
Cities may require more from an organizer. Fort Worth’s special events guidelines reference an emergency fire and safety plan that must be submitted. There is no mention though of any inspection for compliance to the plan. Fort Worth was not involved in permitting the Mud Run Saturday.
Perceived safety slips on the course though don’t necessarily expose organizers to more liability. Dreyer said it depends exactly on any waivers that might be included with the policy and the supplemental pages included. Several Mud Run participants pointed out they never expected to swim in deep water. The company web site says participants don’t need to know how to swim. However, organizers say they did provide ways around the water, for those who chose to follow them.