It’s a Mississippi Coast first — a 5K obstacle course race on Pascagoula’s Buffett Beach.
Make no mistake. The biggest obstacle will be the sand.
It’s the reason the Battle on Buffet Beach, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, will be particularly difficult — soft sand under the feet of the runners, shifting with every step.
The whole time they’re running, they will be churning sand.
Then there are ramps to run up using ropes, and trenches full of water to cross before going over sand dunes.
Runners will sprint to culverts they’ll then have to crawl through.
They will haul sand bags and cross floating logs over a bayou hanging upside-down from a rope.
Wait. That last one needs a pause to fully appreciate what we’re talking about here.
My hands hurt, my whole body hurts. Let me just give you a list of the things that don’t hurt.
Pascagoula City Manager Joe Huffman, after testing the course
Joe Huffman, Pascagoula’s city manager, will explain it. He has done it already in a test of the course.
He will be among 350 who have signed up for the inaugural event — people at every skill level from elite runners to those who are in it for fun. There is a separate category for kids 13 and under.
Huffman crossed the bayou hanging beneath a rope two hours before he talked with the Sun Herald on Friday.
“It takes a strong grip and if you don’t get your legs right, you fall into the water,” he said.
Has he fallen in? Yes.
He was sore during the interview.
“My hands hurt, my whole body hurts. Let me just give you a list of the things that don’t hurt,” he said, bending down to rub his calves.
But he’s going to do it again Saturday, and this time, he’ll do it with a team of people that includes another 56-year-old, Vincent “Top” Jackson with event co-sponsor Singing River CrossFit, and three other members — one each in their 40s, 30s and 20s.
Chevron’s Pascagoula Refinery helped design the 12 obstacles and the city Parks and Recreation Department built them. County crews built the six sand dunes.
“This is not for people who are afraid of getting wet,” Huffman said. “Is it going to be crazy?”
Spotters will release the runners in waves every 20 minutes. One wave will have nearly 100 runners.
Spectators will be lining the beach, spotters will be posted at each obstacle and CrossFit trainers will oversee and call the race.
Some 30 to 40 elite runners will lead the race. The course starts at the city’s Point Park on the west end of the beach and extends through the community pier at Beach Park. Runners will go to the end of the beach, turn around and end the race at Beach Park.
The course has a military theme. Many of the obstacles are borrowed from military training. It is a hybrid and fits no named race type. It borrows from several themes.
The sand made designing the course particularly tricky. Everything had to be sturdy and solid.
The event is getting support from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau. It’s set a week before Gulfport’s inaugural marathon and it will be Pascagoula’s own.
“Something special,” Huffman said. “It’s not a mud race, where they tear everything up. We got the idea to feature our beach. To me, it’s unique because the obstacles are challenging, and the biggest obstacle is the sand.”