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Getting Dirty

Mud, electricity, and even fire make the latest wave of race events something to be grappled with by both the courts and insurers.

September 18, 2015 Photo

Looking at artwork for this month’s cover story was, shall I say, an “enlightening” experience. Like many, I’ve become familiar with the multitude of extreme obstacle race courses that have proliferated in recent years, although I’ve yet to participate in one. At the risk of sounding like a stick in the mud, I’m not so sure I want to after reading Christopher Fusco and Jesse Lubin’s piece, which starts on page 24.

For instance, in one image I found, dozens of mud-covered athletes scamper across a water-logged field with hundreds of live wires hanging down like streamers at an electric eel’s birthday party, each one apparently loaded with 10,000 volts. Tough Mudder, a major purveyor of the extreme race experience, calls the obstacle “Electroshock Therapy” and brags about a redesign this year that includes a hot zone with wires containing “souped-up voltage.” In another event, participants climb what Tough Mudder describes as the tallest obstacle in its history before shooting down a water slide toward and through a five-foot-high wall of fire before ultimately splashing down into frigid mud waters.

It’s tough to imagine how courts dealing with the inevitable accidents that occur on these courses will be able to differentiate between simple and gross negligence when it comes to liability. After all, a description of each obstacle is readily available on these races’ websites, and race organizers don’t exactly mince words when it comes to the reality of danger and injury included in each. As with most liability issues, it’s likely to boil down to the specifics of each incident, but I’d be shocked if we don’t see more of these cases make their way through the courts and into the pockets of insurers that provide coverage.

About The Authors
Eric Gilkey

Eric Gilkey is vice president of content at the CLM, and serves as executive editor of CLM magazine, the flagship publication of the CLM.  eric.gilkey@theclm.org

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