The brave men and women who took part in the fourth annual Tough Mudder Whistler weren't the only ones to feel the bumps this weekend, with participation in the gruelling obstacle course up over last year.
"It was bigger than last year and numbers were looking more like they had been in 2013," said Nick Cogger, director of operations for Tough Mudder Canada.
In all, there were roughly 12,000 pre-registered participants, and 1,000 more who signed up on race day. Throw in the 1,200 spectators cheering on the Mudders as they snaked their way through vats of ice and fields of live wire, and there were nearly 15,000 people who cycled through Whistler Olympic Plaza over the race's two days.
About a quarter of the racers had taken part in a previous Tough Mudder.
While official numbers have yet to be tallied, Tourism Whistler reported that room night bookings paced ahead of last year's event, making Tough Mudder "one of our busier weekends of the summer," said James Buttenshaw, director of planning and partnerships.
"It brings a fantastic, energetic group of people to Whistler who not only participate in the event, but make the most of everything Whistler has to offer and help to create a great vibe in the village," he added.
What makes the average Mudder such an ideal visitor to the resort, said Joey Gibbons, owner of several local bars and clubs, is that they make up a group that combines two passions that Whistler is so well known for.
"(It's) a young, professional, active group that loves to go out and play in the mountains, but who still goes out to play at night, too," he said.
Other than the Longhorn, which saw an estimated 20-per-cent bump in sales, business at Gibbons establishments was mostly on par with the weekend before Tough Mudder, although that's more a reflection of how much busier Whistler's shoulder seasons are these days, Gibbons said. The rush of Mudders also didn't result in an uptick in reported crime, said Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton.
"It's always been a good crowd and we haven't had any real issues associated with (the event)," he said.
The revamped Olympic Park course has been positioned as "the crown jewel" of Tough Mudder's Canadian events, Cogger said, and outreach to markets across the Pacific Northwest, central Canada and as far south as Texas has paid off, although the lion's share of participants still come from the Lower Mainland.
"The message we're putting out there is: 'You may have done a Tough Mudder, but you've never done Tough Mudder Whistler," said Cogger. "It proves that this is not only a unique Tough Mudder experience because of the landscape on which we've built the course, but it showcases all the other elements that Whistler as a community and the valley at large has to offer."
Last year, organizers spoke about wanting to better integrate non-race events into the community; that goal was hampered this year by a last-minute regulatory hurdle that prevented a signature obstacle from being shipped in from the U.S.
"We're hoping, with a little bit more understanding of the regulations around these things, to build a really spectacular feature obstacle in the village that would be open not only to Mudders but also to the general public," Cogger explained, noting that he hopes to bring in the popular "Ring of Fire" obstacle in 2016.
Organizers will return to the resort on Sept. 26 for a womens'-only race, called Mudderella, which is expected to draw 9,000 participants to Blackcomb Mountain.
"We have a new course designer, so we're going to be working with him on the Mudderella project, " said Cogger. "I think his base knowledge of the area and the trails available to us is going to make it an increasingly better project with innovation in trails and obstacles."
Registration is now open at www.mudderella.com.
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