By Stephanie Butzer
There are few races that incorporate balance beams, mud hill crawls and rope climbs. There are even fewer that guide runners past exotic animals.
The Conservators’ Center, in conjunction with Legend Race, a local company that constructs unique races, will host The Wild Stampede, a mud and obstacle 5K that runs along the Center’s outer border Sept. 21.
Some of the obstacles will mimic toys in the animal enclosures, such as the A-frame, a common plaything for tigers to run up and down.
Fred Augustine, founder of Legend Race, has been constructing the course since late June. This will be the first race the Center has held, and Augustine said it will be a challenge the whole family can enjoy. He said the run is a good mud run for both beginners and experienced athletes.
“This won’t be timed because we want more families to come and tour the animals and get a feel for what’s up here,” Augustine said.
Maximus MacClennen, the Center’s coordinator, said the question his team asked themselves when planning the race was how to make The Wild Stampede more entertaining than the dozens of other mud runs in North Carolina.
“It’s like, you can go out to a field and do your mud run and leave or you can come here, do your mud run and you might hear some lions and tigers while you’re doing it and then afterwards you can take the whole family on a tour,” MacClennen said.
Two groups of Elon University students — Service Learning students and Leadership Fellows — came out to the Center to assist with digging trenches and moving large parts of the obstacles into place Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, respectively.
“The 23 of us not only arrived at the Center with jittery determination, but also with uneasy anticipation,” said freshman Kelly August, a Leadership Fellow. “As a member of the staff explained our tasks for the day, howls and unrecognizable growls sounded in the distance.”
After working for hours on the obstacles, August and the rest of her group were able to see the animals inside the compound.
“The dedication of the volunteers and workers at the Center left the biggest mark on me,” August said. “It was easy for the 23 of us to complain about the heat or the bugs, but to those who give entirely of themselves to this cause, it was just another day doing what they love.”
Freshman Dexter Blank, also a Leadership Fellow, said he thinks the Center deserves more recognition for its animal care, so hopefully the race will bring in more positive publicity.
“The event will be one-of-a-kind and I have no doubts that it will be a success,” Blank said. “I believe that our group was very helpful, worked hard and represented Elon in a very respectful manner.”
The race fee is $50 and includes a walkabout of the compound. Spectators can pay a small fee to enter. Sixty percent of the proceeds go to supporting the animals the Center cares for, including big cats, wolves and binturongs.