Friday, May 15th, 2015

New challenge awaits Mad Run competitors

By William Kincaid
Submitted Photo

A log bridge is this year's new obstacle for the Mad Run. It was constructed by four Fort Recovery High School students in Joe Hawk's structural engineering class.

FORT RECOVERY - Joe Hawk's high school structural engineering students spent two weeks this spring building the log bridge, the newest challenge a battalion of runners will face Saturday at the fourth annual Mad Run.
"The planks the participants will walk on are all hooked together and suspended by chains that will allow the planks to keep moving in all directions as they attempt to walk across it," Mad Run coordinator Deb Hemmelgarn said. The log bridge is one of 27 obstacles spread over a three-mile course at Fort Recovery Ambassador Park that as many as 1,000 participants must overcome as they run, crawl, climb and jump their way to glory.
"It's heavy-duty. They built it to last. They do great work over there," Hemmelgarn said.
Each year, the Mad Run committee has asked Hawk and his students to construct new obstacles. At the end of each Mad Run, participants are asked which obstacles they liked best and which ones they'd like to see next year, according to Hemmelgarn.
"We have (helped) for quite a few years," Hawk said this week from his Fort Recovery High School shop. "They came to us looking for some items when they first started. First year we built some walls they had to scale. Second year we had a climbing wall."
The budding builders this year are seniors Ray Siefring and Janel Heitkamp and juniors Dakota Stephen and Jake Siefring.
"This year they sent me a picture of this swinging bridge with some modifications that they wanted," Hawk said. "The one in the picture was permanent and they don't want anything permanent because of the park being used for other things during the year so we had to change the design up a little bit."
The students, equipped with saws to cut the lumber and routers to blunt the sharp edges, turned 300 feet of chain, boxes of bolts and lots of lumber into the bridge.
"Once we had a plan, an idea
of going we just had to get everything. It had a lot of chain in it. We had to get all the chain right and cut right and we had to make a few adjustments," Hawk said.
"You see four different people with four different skill sets, four different abilities," high school principal Jeff Hobbs pointed out.
Ray Siefring has a lot of responsibilities on the family farm and Janel Heitkamp's dad works in construction so those two took the lead in the project.
"I rely on these older guys to help out with some of the other people," Hawk said. "Some of the skills are lacking so they can teach them."
"Janel's kind of the engineer," Hobbs said.
"She's not afraid to try something," Hawk added.
"Not afraid to give orders either. That's a good thing," Hobbs said.
Hawk tested the bridge before allowing it to leave his shop.
"I had a whole class standing on it, so it will hold, I would say, a half-a-ton easy," he said. "Everything we build down there is overbuilt because I don't want somebody getting hurt."
"Projects that go out of here I know from Joe, because he's putting his name on them, that they're safe," Hobbs said.
"It's real life," Hobbs said about the class. "He's teaching these kids real life. They're doing drywalling, they're doing roofing, they're doing electric."
The students also made 30 picnic tables for the Mercer County Fairgrounds, put a new metal roof on a park shelter house and constructed small buildings for different organizations.
"It's a very shop-oriented class where we do a lot of hands-on skills," Hawk said.
Hawk, Hobbs and the students said the Mad Run has become a massive community event over the years.
"When we first started, we only built one of everything and now we're building two of everything so we had to go back last year and build some of the things we had built before because of how big it's gotten," Hawk said.
Hemmelgarn said this year's course is bigger and better than ever because the owner of a property neighboring Ambassador Park gave the group permission to use his land. Runners will venture through a wooded area and make their way through an underground tunnel, she said. There are also ravines, mud pits and an abandoned railway line.
"Every year we try to change the layout," she said, noting on average it takes about 45 minutes to complete the course. "The starts and stops are a little different."
Volunteers, too, will bring the mud to make the course very sloppy, a feature participants enjoy, Hemmelgarn said.
"On the survey that was one thing they wanted - more mud," she said.
The enormously popular slip and slide obstacle, which was dug out of a hill and encased in heavy plastic, is back this year, measuring 120 feet long and probably 20 feet across, Hemmelgarn said.
"They worked several weeks on the slip and slide and it's going to be totally awesome," she said, adding at least 100 volunteers will help on Saturday.
So far, about 900 runners have signed up, some from Kansas, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana. People, aged 14 and up, can register Saturday starting at 7 a.m. The first wave of competitors is unleashed at 8 a.m. Succeeding waves will be released every 15 minutes.
Finishers will receive an official Mad Run T-shirt, a medal and a free beer token to be used at the park that day.
Spectators are encouraged to watch as competitors navigate the 3.1-mile route along state Route 119. Food and beverages will be available on site with sales benefiting the park. A DJ will play music throughout the day.
There also will be a strongman and strongwoman contest and a scaled-down version for kids.
Mad Run has donated more than $40,000 to charities. This year's recipient is the Cancer Association of Mercer County.
"We look forward to helping the CAMC continue to help local cancer patients survive their disease physically, emotionally and financially," Hemmelgarn said.
For more information, visit

Mad Run 5K:
When: Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday. Registration starts at 7 a.m.
Where: Ambassador Park, Fort Recovery
Who: Anyone 14 and over.
Cost: Fee is $60
Goal: To raise money for the Cancer Association of Mercer County.
Photo by Shelley Grieshop/The Daily Standard

As many as 1,000 participants are expected to get down and dirty Saturday at the fourth annual Mad Run on a three-mile course at Fort Recovery Ambassador Park featuring 27 obstacles - and lots of mud. File Photo.

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