Locals take over Project Mud adventure race series with plans to keep it regional and affordable

Considering the fact that the Lowcountry has dipped into freezing temperatures this week, it seems awfully late for a local mud run – the last of which for 2013 will be Saturday’s Project Mud at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island.

But the 5K featuring 18 to 20 obstacles is an effort by the new owners of Project Mud, Jimmy Stephens and Joey O’Rourke, to honor a commitment and to set the stage for 2014.

Stephens and O’Rourke, business partners in Event Timing Solutions (which many already are familiar with at local races, such as last weekend’s Old Village Harbor 5K), decided to take on Project Mud as part of their business.

(For those who may not know Stephens and O’Rourke, Jimmy used to work for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department and helped create the Mount Pleasant Track Club and O’Rourke grew up in Mount Pleasant and is the son of Charleston County PRC Director Tom O’Rourke.)

Stephens says he is confident they can make Project Mud work. The previous owners put themselves “in a hole” by over-discounting themselves via Groupon and Living Social deals.

Last April’s Project Mud drew 800 people to the tea plantation and Stephens says they will be happy to draw half that. In their favor is a much warmer forecast for Saturday and, surprise, surprise, a rare weekend with no other local runs.

Still, Stephens said – “We’re not going to do it in November again.”

For next spring, they are looking at a date in late May and need to coordinate it with the tea plantation for weekend not to coincide with the plantation’s first flush festival.

As for 2014 as a whole, Stephens says they don’t have aspirations to go national similar to bigger mud run enterprises like Tough Mudder and the Spartan series. Because of that, he envisions lowering the registration price point to a more reasonable $45-$55 (about $30-$50 less than many).

“We can’t make that price work if we’re going all over the place,” says Stephens.

Project Mud will stay in the Southeast with other cities, besides Charleston, being Greenville/Spartanburg, Raleigh, Virginia Beach, Birmingham, Nashville and possible sites in Florida and Georgia.

As for this weekend, Stephens says the price is not what is listed on the website http://www.projectmud.com/events/charleston-sc-nov2013 … The fee is $75, even on race day.

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