Playing in the mud has gone to

a whole new level. Competitors of all ages will be climbing, crawling and running their way through ever-changing terrain and mud pits as they take part in Yakima’s second annual Pirate Plunder Adventure Race on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Pirate Plunder is part of the growing trend of obstacle course-type races nationwide. In bigger cities, these events can include up to 10,000 participants, and it’s estimated that 2 million people will take part in obstacle course races across the United States this year. “It’s fun and it’s different and it’s just as competitive as you want it to be,” says Rich Austin, director of sports for the Yakima Valley Sports Commission.

One of the primary pursuits of the sports commission is to organize athletic events in the Yakima Valley. When the commission began looking at obstacle course races, it first set out to bring the nationally recognized Warrior Dash to town. It turned out that Yakima was too small for the Dash, which holds 36 races around the country, including one in Bonney Lake.

So with the help of Tony Andreas, owner of Whiplash Sports, which helps organize local sporting events, the commission started its own event.

The commission’s senior sports sales manager, Mike Carey, came up with the pirate theme, and sports sales manager Nicol Sloon helped him design the course.

The course required a large plot of land within close proximity to town. Scott Schaffer, who manages Yakima’s wastewater treatment plant, helped the group secure permission to use a piece of city property at the intersection of State Route 24 and South 24th Street next to Kmart. “They let us dig, build things and leave things up,” says Austin, who plans to tweak and revamp the course over the years.

The site is now known as Pirate’s Landing, and it includes a 4.15-mile course with 16 pirate-named obstacles. They include a 12-foot rope climbing wall (“Black Beard’s Blockade”), a 30-foot “Scallywag Water Slide” and a 100-foot “Marauder’s Mud Crawl.”

“The thing everyone wants a lot of is mud,” says Austin.

The site includes a variety of soil types, so in each mud area, organizers work to create the right consistency. “We want it to be good mud that will really stick.”

Many participants also compete in costume. Last year’s participants raced in everything from pirate gear to ballerina tutus. A nude-colored wrestling singlet was even spotted. The office of David Clark Family Dentistry ran as a team, all wearing matching T-shirts. “It was a blast,” says Clark’s assistant, Holly Bucholtz. “In our office, we’re all pretty competitive ... we’re gonna beat Dr. Clark,” she says with a laugh. “I’m so looking forward to it this year.”

There are no fitness requirements, but many will train to gain the strength and stamina needed to complete the course. “(But) there are no officials,” says Austin. “If you can’t do an obstacle, you can just go around it.”

Renee Navarrete, 28, ran last year’s race. “I’m not a runner,” she says. “I liked that you didn’t have to be a pro, but you still felt like you accomplished something when you were done.”

Adds Sloon, “They’re smiling and they’re happy at the end.”

Participants are awarded with a race medal at the finish line, and then have access to the after-party on Pirate’s Landing, where there will be food, a beer garden and live music.

As for the stuck-on mud, rest assured, local firefighters will be there hosing off the muddy participants. For more information, go to