A Fine Mess
That’s what Sam Abbitt has gotten himself into with the sloppy endurance event known as Savage Race. And he’s cleaning up.
By Jay Hamburg
Are you the sort of fitness fanatic for whom marathons have become too mundane or triathlons too tame? Then Sam Abbitt would be happy to throw a few obstacles in your path. For starters: a face-down mud crawl, rows of flaming logs and barbed-wire fences.
Abbitt runs Savage Race, an outfit that stages 4- to 6-mile tortuous slogs that could test the endurance of a Navy Seal. Yet thousands of fitness buffs pay for the chance to push their limits while climbing towers of hay, jumping over fire, sloshing through mud and diving into skin-shriveling ice water.
Indeed, the response to his first two races, both held in Clermont, has been so strong that the Orlando entrepreneur is planning events in other states right after he stages his third Savage Race on Oct. 20 at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City.
“We’re going to push you,” Abbitt says of his maniacal obstacle courses. “It’s not for everyone.”
Still, he expects this month’s Savage Race to draw 10,000 runners and spectators to the growing sport of extreme adventure racing. With participants paying between $70 and $100 to answer the call of the wild, Abbitt’s company took in $500,000 in revenue in 2011.
Although his promotional slogan shouts, “The Race Built to Kick Your Ass,” the organizer himself has a quiet demeanor when talking business, and the wisdom of using profits to improve thrills.
Abbitt, 30, says he got the idea for Savage Race a couple of years ago after he ran in a similar event called the Warrior Dash. He saw the intense interest it generated and figured he and Savage Race co-founder Lloyd Parker, 32, could “ramp it up.” With an MBA and a passion for fitness, Abbitt secured the help of the University of Central Florida Business Incubation program and set about building a better shoe-sucking mud bog. He also found a way to mix humor, fitness and fear while appealing to folks from 14 to 74. Nearly half of the participants are women. “People love it, and they trust us,” Abbitt says.
Indeed, his website even offers a helpful training regimen in case you want to unleash your inner savage but don’t know how.
Wayne Summers, a friend of Abbitt’s and owner of CrossFit Country gym in Oviedo, says Savage Race dares people to be exceptional. Moreover, if you call those who take the challenge a little crazy, that’s OK.
“At some level we are, but that’s the beauty of life,” Summers says. “People are too caught up in not pushing the envelope and just falling in line like sheep. This puts you past just existing and into really living.”
That exhilaration can be seen in videos posted at savagerace.com. And the after-party looks pretty festive, too. While some participants are in it to win it, everyone gets a medal, a T-shirt and, as Savage Racers like to say, plenty of mud in your underwear.
“Bring a friend,” says Abbitt. “Have fun.”