By STEVEN NALLEY
Austin Shafer can typically be found in business attire: suits, ties and an impeccable sense of style.
It’s all part of his job: He is the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s vice president for membership and the chamber of commerce. On April 6, 2013, Shafer said he intends to make an exception to his usual dress code, accessorizing with dirt, grit and mud.
“I will be covered head to toe,” Shafer said.
Registration opens Monday for Starkville’s first Crucible Challenge, an obstacle-laced “mud run” race similar to Warrior Dash, set for April 6 at the former Highlands Plantation golf course.
Shafer said he plans to put together a team of friends to compete.
“We won’t win,” Shafer said, “but we will have a great time participating.”
While the GSDP is only playing a supporting role in the Crucible Challenge, Shafer said he believes the event has major potential as an economic driver.
“Similar events have brought thousands of people to the communities that have done something like this,” Shafer said. “We are just so excited to see something like this happen in Starkville.”
One of the event’s lead organizers is Brad Jones, also known as the Starkville branch manager for Regions Bank. Jones said registration will cost $50 before Thanksgiving and $60 after Thanksgiving, and anyone who will be 18 or older on the day of the event can participate.
Participation will be capped at 5,000 total, Jones said, and he anticipates a total course length of 4-5 miles. The official website for registration, he said, is http://www.cruciblechallenge.com .
“It will be an extreme obstacle course challenge featuring obstacles with water, mud (and) ice, as well as a few other things,” Jones said. “The goal is to make this an annual event that the city of Starkville and surrounding areas can rally around and have a lot of fun with.”
Jones said he wants to keep some of the course’s obstacles a secret, slowly rolling them out as the event draws nearer.
The organizers plan to hold a preview run within the next few months with a shorter version of the course, he said, and anyone 18 and older interested in becoming one of 75-100 people selected for this preview run can write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
“I can tell you, though, that the race will start around Cowbells, and just imagine that hill leading up to the old No. 2 tee box completely mudded out,” Jones said. “Part of what makes these events such a success is the location. After thinking through this for a few days, Highlands turned out to be the perfect spot. It’s already got a ton of natural obstacles built into the course. You’ve got elevation changes, ditches, water, swampy land (and) woods, and with it being close to campus and in ... a college neighborhood, we decided that this was the place.”
Jones said he and other organizers came up with the Crucible after participating in other “mud runs,” including the Warrior Dash in Jackson.
“We actually got together last March before Warrior Dash took place ... and started hashing out ideas and figuring out how we could make something like this work,” Jones said. “The overall success of Warrior Dash in Jackson just solidified what we were already thinking, in that there is definitely a market for this in a place like Starkville.”
The organizers are collaborating with several community organizations, Jones said, with support from the Starkville Chamber of Commerce and various Mississippi State University representatives.
He said the group is also targeting local businesses to help stage the event, and he hopes to make a significant economic impact with the Crucible. A portion of the Crucible’s proceeds will also go to charities, he said, including some scholarships for MSU.
“Since (MSU does) so much to support the Starkville community, we wanted to give a little something back to them,” Jones said. “We also will be donating to a local charity called the ReClaimed Project. This local organization has a mission of reaching out to fatherless children and orphans locally and abroad through a Christ-centered, Christian perspective. Another charity that we’ve selected is called True Life Camps. This summer camp takes place at Westside Park in Starkville, and provides a Christian environment where kids can have fun while spending time with camp mentors who are intentional about sharing the love and life of Jesus Christ with each participant.”