The latest craze of adventure racing makes its impact on Fayetteville and Fort Bragg with the Thunder Challenge Carolina in Raeford May 5-6. The trend of running through mud and various obstacles has increased in popularity over the past few years, but the Thunder Challenge is uniquely suited for the Fort Bragg area. One of the found-ing members is Scott Rhodes, a former member of the 7th Special Forces Group who spent 26 years at Fort Bragg. Co-founder Rusty Shellman is also a veteran Army pilot. These races focus on the overall physical fitness of the participants, not just an ability to run, tied to the principles of cross-fit training. The Thunder Challenge incorporates the challenges of specialized military training and brings it to obstacle racing.
The inaugural Thunder Challenge Carolina race is a 10K mud run at the Raeford Wide Open MX Park. It features more than 20 obstacles designed with the special training that Rhodes, Shellman, and former Navy SEAL Brett Morganti received in the military. The course is designed to challenge not only the combat-tested soldier-athletes and special operators of Fort Bragg, but also adventure enthu-siasts looking to push themselves to their physical and mental limits. Tough will only be the beginning. Racers can expect to crawl through mud pits, climb walls and even face cold-water endurance tests.
“The biggest difference with us is that we are trying to really focus on the mil-itary,” said Rhodes. “We use military-style obstacles, bring in special-operations veterans on the course, and try to hire veteran-owned businesses to help build the courses.”
The race will be run in waves, with both individuals and teams of any size, on Saturday and Sunday followed by food, beverages and music. An event like this obviously takes a tremendous amount of dedication and support. According to Rhodes, up to 50 volunteers are needed to help with the race. Many special-operations veterans will also be on the course to help add challenge and motivation to the event. The race will kick off when the Golden Knights jump in and will feature multiple ven-dors, prizes for the participants and even a mini-obstacle course for children.
With their ties to the military it is no surprise that each race helps to contribute to a veteran’s charity — Project Sanctuary, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. The project was started by a Fort Carson nurse, Heather Ehle, who wanted to help service members returning home reinte-grate with their families and help with issues such as PTSD, depression and possible suicide. The charity is small, and relatively new, which is a big reason Scott and Russell chose to sup-port it. It was founded in 2007.
“There are a lot of great charities that help support our veterans, but this is a small upstart with a great focus,” said Rhodes. “They really take care of the whole family, and that means a lot to us.”
Registration for the race will remain open until the day of the race. Tickets for racers are $95, with a $20 discount for all military members. Family and friends are welcome to come as spectators with no charge. The Thunder Challenge will make its way across the country this year, with eight more events scheduled from Pittsburgh to California. For more information on the Thunder Challenge, visit www.thundrpro.com.
Photo: The inaugural Thunder Challenge Carolina race is a 10k mud run at the Raeford Wide Open MX Park.