After a Death at the Original Mud Run, a Runner Describes the Scene: "I Just Didn't Think I Was Gonna Make It Across"

Categories: Events

gut.jpg
via the Original Mud Run
Tony Weathers, a 30-year-old athlete in the competitive division of Saturday's Original Mud Run in Fort Worth, went missing before the end of the race, and yesterday, authorities found his body in the Trinity River, where participants crossed as part of the course. Original Mud Run organizers say they did their best to ensure participants' safety during the challenging race dotted with obstacles and physical challenges, but some race participants who swam across the crowded waterway weren't surprised that someone didn't make it to shore.

Mia Walters participated in the same division as Weathers and struggled to make it to a floating platform, where she took a break for a few minutes before finishing what she described as a potentially deadly swim.

"I guarantee you it was the first [of two river crossings]" where he lost his life, she told Unfair Park. (Eric Lindberg, a race spokesman, confirmed that was the case). Walters says that portion of the race was so unbearable that she sent her sister a text when the race was over: "I was gonna Google mud run deaths honestly," it read.

"We were being ushered in like cattle and told not to stop," she said of the Trinity entrance. Competitive participants like both Walters and Weathers had to wear pants and boots for a chance at winning. "You're touching everyone. You can't get away," Walters said.

Guide ropes were available, she said, "to shimmy along and pull yourself," but they were useless when frightened and exhausted participants sat on them and sunk them beneath view. This left a sea of participants in heavy boots and clothing struggling to stay afloat. People around her were crying and panicking, Walters said. A woman dunked her under water in an attempt to save herself, and someone else had to pull Walters back to the surface. "I literally just didn't think I was gonna make it across," she said.

Lindberg, the Original Mud Run spokesman, gave Unfair Park a run-down of the safety personnel on site at the race. At the first river crossing, where Weathers was found, there were four certified lifeguards, two of whom were on a floating platform connected to the guide ropes in the middle of the river. The guide ropes, he said, are "just meant to serve as a guide. They're not life-saving."

Another participant, Jim March, said lifeguards had an impossible job. "From my perspective, the lifeguards at the first river crossing were over-burdened with people that should have NEVER been in the water," March wrote in a Facebook message. Lifeguards helped struggling swimmers onto the center platform and yelled for the strong swimmers to move to the perimeter, he said, adding, "At no time did I feel unsafe. I'm well aware of my limits." At the second river crossing, he noticed more people took the bypass along the shore.

At the second river crossing, Lindberg said, there was one certified lifeguard and one volunteer certified in advanced cardiac life support, CPR, and first aid. Six others with medical training and over 50 volunteer safety monitors fanned out over the race, and two Marines and one nurse manned the water stop that participants passed twice.

Weathers marks the first participant death in the race's 14 years, Lindberg said, and though there was significant rain this weekend, he maintained that there was "nothing in particular" about the conditions that differed from previous years.

A statement released this afternoon by Original Mud Run organizers expressed condolences to the family and friends of Tony Weathers, and went on to detail the safety precautions taken by the organization:

"With all of our races, safety is our number one priority and we take extreme care in constructing our obstacles and the design of our course," the statement reads. "With any of our obstacles that involve river crossings or swimming we provide alternate routes, swim assist devices, guide ropes, floating platforms and certified life guards. In addition we make multiple announcements prior to the race, during the registration process and prior to the start of each wave regarding safety and encourage all participants to either skip or choose the alternate route should they feel unsure or feel that they cannot complete an obstacle. We care deeply about our participants and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Weathers family at this time."
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81 comments
Meredithkye
Meredithkye

I would like to know if there was a problem why did not one single lifeguard jumped in the water to help anyone. I was in the same wave as Mr. Weathers and I saw someone that might have been a lifeguard but was not obviously a lifeguard. Not one of those supposed lifeguards had any type of life saving devices on them. They were throwing out swimming noodles. Last I checked those are not approved as lifesaving devices. There were tons of people gasping for air and calling out for lifeguard help, but you know not one of those life guards got into the water to help anyone. It was the participants diving back in to the water to save other participants. I actually heard one of them say at the bank there are too many people in that water, but she was not stopping anyone. And I wasn't sure if she was an acutal participant or a volunteer. I have also done this race before and it was not the same as it always has been in the past. When I particpated prior to this last one, there was not one location where we were completely submerged in water over our heads where we could not touch bottom. From my understanding many particpants in earlier waves complained to MudRun officials about how it was unsafe. And if lifeguards were out there why did they not count how many went in and how many came out? Sounds like they were not really certified lifeguards. I know lifeguards and they are trained to be obvious for people to know they are lifeguards. Isn't that why they wear red swimming suits and/or wear a shirt that says lifeguard on it? Not one of those volunteers had any type of official name on them so the participants would know. And as I completed the race there were not volunteers at each location. There was a man in one of the bogs with a cramp and another particpant was helping to massage the cramp so the man could continue. I didn't see anyone medical personal around to call for help. This was complete neglegence on The Original Mud Run officials. I am not shocked this happend. It is so sad and heart wrenching. They did not advertise that you could take alternative routes. At the second water crossing a girl had asked someone to see if there was alternative route so she did not have to cross the water and the voluteer could barely give an answer. The participant was like hurry, I need to know now, not when I get down the road.Very poorly executed. I also heard the young marine leader tell his kids it was poorly organized and he will not ever expect them to volunteer at this even again. They were volunteering along the 10k route and there was not one port-a-potty for them to even use the restroom. They were there from 9am-3pm. Just sad......

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

If a biker bar can keep its liquor license, there has to be a way for an event like this to dodge the liability bullet. As for the issue of personal responsibility, fitness freaks should grasp that concept fairly well. Nobody made Jim Fixx run.

Larry
Larry

Let this be the canary in the mine - imagine the chaos and lack of response when the Trinity floods a toll road full of cars.  Oh, but wait, those cars will have THEM - South Dallas people in them ..  never mind.

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

My mud run is usually about an hour or two after raising the flag 3-4 times at Pancho's.

Don't Get It
Don't Get It

Mud run?  Mud run?  What the fuck is a mud run?  When I hear mud run I think of my worst drunk night after eating Mi Cocina on the porcelain.  Who are you nut jobs who think a "mud run" is living?  Guess I'm just different in that running in "mud" is not on my bucket list.  Mud run.  Have better things to do guys.  Good luck and wear a preserver or bring your own guard.  Rely on the "mud run" best you'll in up in the mud....6 feet under.

EWill
EWill

It seems to me for an event where participants are entering open water, you need to have a way to ensure that everyone who enters the water comes out the other side within a reasonable period of time. Seems like you could place a timing mat near the entrance and another just past the exit, and set an alert within the chip timing system so that the race personnel are alerted if a chip # has entered the water but not come out within a set time. If the person can't be quickly located, you clear the water to search until they're found. And/or, you stagger the waves so that each wave is out before the next one goes in. You know 20 people went in-count to make sure 20 come out, and don't send the next group till everyone's accounted for. The fact that they weren't aware he was missing until his girlfriend reported it hours later is pretty scary...what if he hadn't told anyone else he was doing the race? (And side note on one of the dangers of banditting a race-no one knows to look for you) Having done several triathlons I can well imagine the clusterf that the swim must have been if so many people were sent in a narrow area at once. Getting kicked and pushed is enough of an issue in a tri, where people have trained to swim and are not wearing heavy gear, but I can imagine it must have been a lot worse for an event where people are told they don't have to know how to swim and are wearing heavy gear. I get that the fun of endurance events comes from the challenge of pushing yourself; I'm an athlete myself and I love that aspect. But it seems like there are ways to provide that challenge more safely than was done here. If the family sues it will be interesting to see how that goes...while the participants did sign a waiver, they may argue that the poor organization and management of the race created greater risk than the waiver disclosed or the participants understood. For example, I sign a waiver to run a half-marathon, but I sign it with the expectation that the race will provide sufficient water stations and medical staff, choose an appropriate and sufficiently blocked off course, and limit the number of participants or stagger the starts to ensure safe conditions. If I show up and you've got way too many people, insufficient traffic control, and no water, that's not what you promised when I signed up.

Carriedorothea
Carriedorothea

this year was totally different then last year. last year the races were spread out over two days not packed into one, so the number of people on the river this year far exceeded last years. and they should have known from last year that the ropes get bogged down with people standing or sitting on them. this year was so un organized starting with the packet pick up.

Shayalynn
Shayalynn

I participated in this run last year - it was my first ever. Crossing the river was a challenge, but even having never done it before I knew it was not smart to head in with a large group of people. Fact is, noone knows yet what happened to him EXACTLY.  It's a bit early to start playing the blame game in my opinion.

Gary
Gary

Well, they could change the water crossing and not make it a sink or swim event.  However, our son participated and nothing was that difficult for him, 18 y.o.   This guy looked fit but it sounds like he might have gotten dunked while crossing the river and trying to swim in boots is best left for those with survival training (i.e. ex military/military).   Taking a real look at a 14 year old event with thousands & thousands of participants you would expect more injuries/deaths if it was that bad.  I think they said this was the first.  That's really not a sign of a horribly mismanaged event, although there is room for improvement.   I have done the Hotter-N-Hell ride in Wichita Falls, seldom under 110* in late August, 100+ miles, and there is no qualifying event /conditions for participants there.  You ride and hopefully not die.  Unfortunately, almost every year someone either does or comes close yet the event continues as it should.  It is very well run.  There are inherent dangers in these events and that's why you sign a waiver (for what it's worth).  It's tragic but the event seems to have a good track record and the participants, overall, are helpful and safe.  Not sure what happened here but if people were aware they would have helped.  Perhaps too many in 1 wave across the river.   

Oxbow
Oxbow

The assumption is that he drowned. Which is most likely what happened. However, there may be 1,000,000 other reasons why this tragedy happened. From aneurysm, medication issues, or even yes, heart attack. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, they should wait for the autopsy.

Steve
Steve

YYYEEAHHHH!!  MUD RUN!!  CROSSFIT!!   BRAAAWWRRR!!   I CAN'T JUST LIVE MY LIFE, I HAVE TO DO ALL THIS EXTREEEEEME SHIT!!

P.S.:  CROSSFIT!

Doug
Doug

Not there, but from the comments it sounds like one of the primary problems was that what was supposed to provide security to competitors wound up becoming a liability since it provided a false sense of safety: the rope. A normal individual faced with crossing a high river doubtfully would jump in, boots and all without at least chunking the boots and possibly the pants across the river first. A person expecting to have a rope/lifeline/failsafe wouldn't think twice, particularly if they were acting competitively. Sounds like the brilliant minds that planned the race didn't account for the give in the rope or have a winch available to ensure it was taunt. Even if taunt when set up, with so many people pulling on it against a current, any rope on a fixed point (probably a low one at that) would quickly develop slack without ongoing adjustment. What's truely shameful is that $200 bucks at a hardware store  for a winch and Leslies pool supplies for some floating attachments for the rope (like at public pools) probably would have spared this man's life. When you've got participants commentting that they felt compelled to play "tug of war" to remedy this situation, you know the event organizers failed miserably!

Ben
Ben

You are your brother's keeper. There is an unwritten code among most endurance and cross country sporting races that when another participant asks for help...the show's over. You drop what's going on and help. Watching a couple of the videos posted where people are asking for help between gurgles, that should have been a show stopper. Many racing disciplines you don't stop and help, your Man Card gets revoked. Lots of these ultra-distance marathons, mountain bike races and sailing events span entire mountain ranges, deserts, oceans. When someone calls No-Joy, you help. They are all self-rescue in nature and it's a shame that these funniee muddiee buddiee things cannot hold themselves or their participants to that standard. 

Not fair that someone had to die this way, around so many people. Think about that. Doing some event like this is supposed to be a sheltered, measured, neutered safe event. 

Sparky
Sparky

I did the Original Mud Run in Fort Worth last October and the pandemonium I see and hear described is exactly what I experienced.  We were told if you are are strong swimmer you can swim and if not there are ropes to pull yourself across otherwise walk the bridge.  As stated, people sat and stood on the ropes making them sink and useless.  I made it across OK, but didn't do the next crossing and will never do a OMR again.  My point is telling us you could pull yourself across with the ropes is not what their PR people are saying now.  If I had been told swim or walk, I definately would have walked.  Bottom line - river crossing at a public event is a bad idea.  Surpised Fort Worth city safely officials didn't inspect this event and require more safeguards or close the dangeous obsticles.

Mia Walters
Mia Walters

Naive. I could swim in gear all day long if I didn't have people pulling me underwater trying to save themselves. The point is, is that you enter these events knowing there is help available IF NEEDED. This time they didn't provide anything helpful, and that's the bottom-line.

downtownworker
downtownworker

I heard from several participants, on the day of the event, that they were fearful something tragic would happen at this water crossing. I wasn't there but it sounds like the organizers are liable.

Carriedorothea
Carriedorothea

I did the mud run last year and watched my husband do it this year and everything this year was different: more competitors, less volunteers/workers, less water stations, less attendants at obstacles etc, etc. I would say last year if something happend it would be accidental, but this year from the cluster fuck that I witnessed, any serious injury or fatality could easily be blamed on gross negligence. and for those of you saying that you take the risk when you enter a race like this you're right we do, but the waiver signed doesn't protect the organization from gross negligence and that's the risk they took when they condensed the mud run to one day and decided to have less workers when there were more competitors

scottindallas
scottindallas

Heat stroke on a bicycle is like prostate cancer compared to drowning.

scottindallas
scottindallas

In all those case, the actual cod would be drowning.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 alleged EXTREME ! Like working out in an old bodyshop on Ross makes you a real tough guy 

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 So True,   when events like this are marketed to the mainstream, sounds like it attracted lots of people that didnt belong there, people want to be tough and tell their cube mates they are tough but in reality they are soft and belong in some suburban gym with a skinny goateed trainer

Doug
Doug

Amazes me that if this occured for you  in October, the organizers should have known exactly how pointless a submerged rope would be and taken appropriate steps to correct it for this race where someone died!

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

City of FW stated tt was outside their jurisdiction, and that's why they didn't inspect anything or issue a permit.

you should know
you should know

MIA you should look into why the owner of the company won't come forward. Also why the MS. Society stopped using Omr. and now has another company for there races. The owners are a bunch of shady people. Does not surprise me they are hiding and not taking questions.

cp
cp

Oh please! Don't get in the water when there's a hundred other people in there, you moron! What, were they all hiding from you? YOU knew what you were wading into, YOU!

Guest
Guest

Liable? Please. Everyone had to sign a waiver.

Anon
Anon

liable for what? this is the problem in America. people want the fun and adrenaline rush of an event that is inherently risky but want to sue when the risk materializes? it doesn't seem that the organizers were grossly negligent. could there have been better risk management procedures in place? probably. can you prevent every single negative outcome in something like this? no.

you should know
you should know

Omr fired all employees last year right after the ft. Worth race. They also lost their contract with MS. Society. This is why you saw less volunteers and few employees on site. All this was done so the owner could pocket more money. It's so sad someone had to lose there life because the owner wanted to pocket as much money as possible and cut back on life guards.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

 "Sign a Waiver" sounds like the name Of a Trial Lawyers Boat.

Mia Walters
Mia Walters

It was grossly negligent. They had FAR too many people in the water for proper supervision and were telling people to keep getting in the water. Once they saw they were over their heads, pardon the pun, people starting yelling to stop letting people in, but it was too late. This would have been prevented if the proper safety procedures were taken. There should have been kayakers in the water like every other event involving water. This was outrageous and no one understood how bad it was until they got in, and there was no getting out. 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Four lifeguards for 4,000 participants (or, 1 lifeguard for 1,000 participants) sure sounds grossly negligent to me.

you should know
you should know

I'm not surprised something bad happened. It's a tragedy that it had to be a death. The Omr has been around for 14yrs. This race was the first under a new owner. Sad to say and from what happened this new owner is clueless how to put on a safe, organized event. Like I said its sad no one from Omr has come forward and they are hiding behind some pr to make statements.

Paul
Paul

 "All this was done so the owner could pocket more money."

And you are surprised because ... ?

Anon
Anon

sorry, but hindsight is 20/20 for both the participants and the race directors. you yourself admit that no one understood how bad it was until they got in. no one feels good about what happened but we are talking about legal liability. and you haven't said anything that makes me think the waiver would be voided.

Meredithkye
Meredithkye

none of us knew we were crossing a river in not one place but two locations. That might have been great info to let particpants know....

Meredithkye
Meredithkye

well. in the past the river wasn't 30 feet deep and it wasn't 75 yards wide. No officials warned us that the water was that deep. They could have easily announced that at the beginning before starting us. If it is not necessary to swim to compete then why put that as an obstacle...... The Original Mud Run needs to be a litte more clear. 

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 So whos more at fault the 100th swimmer that could see all the other tards getting jammed up and went into the water or the event organizers for getting all these personality types together. People think they are tough and strong because their trainer tells them but really most folks arent near as athletic as they think  

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Water = Swim River = Current Nature = Unpredictable 

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

You couldnt cross at another point on the whole damm Trinity River ?

Like the river wasnt the problem the proximity of idiots was

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 Didnt your mammas tell you some saying about your friends and jumping off a bridge or something about sheep and a cliff ?

dmp
dmp

@ JS, if you didn't do it, you really don't have a clue and it's easy to judge those of us who did. i can tell you when i entered the water, i didn't know it was over my head. when you realize you need to swim, you "think" you can do it. you don't realize you can't. fault us for that if you wish. you also don't realize the rope is as loose as it is.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Have you ever seen a triathlon and the cluster-f that goes on there? This is a sad sad story, but we don't know for sure he died from drowning. He was in the competitive division and the guy looks pretty fit. Runners die during and after marathons on a semi frequent basis. There were no other drownings reported and this guy, and I'm just guessing, looks like he would be in the top 10% in terms of physical condition.

Carriedorothea
Carriedorothea

my husband was in that heat and he described it as a heard of buffalo in a river freaking out and hitting eachother when the alligator comes. he said he tried to swim and couldn't without hitting another competitor

JS
JS

When you signed up, didn't you know you were going to be swimming across a river?

JS
JS

Yeah, that demonstrates to me that anyone who decided to swim across a river fully clothed (shoes and all) and ignore the alternative route that does not require such a swim should not be allowed to complain about a lack of lifeguards or anything else. It doesn't take a whole lot of brains to see that this is a disaster waiting to happen, and one which you have paid to subject yourself to. Sue the heck out of the company, but at some point you have to be smart enough to decline the opportunity to try to kill yourself.

MBM
MBM

I did a mud run a few years ago in Ft Worth and they managed the number of people that could cross any given obstacle at any one time.  Yes, that meant that there was a lot of standing around waiting in lines to cross rivers and/or obstacles, but it also meant that there was never a risk of someone getting trampled or drowned.  Seems like that was the smart way to go.

Anon
Anon

um, more people die during "leisurely" swims on the beach than they do during controlled racing events. this is not the same as an open water triathlon, so to think they should require the same water safety is incorrect. 

Mia Walters
Mia Walters

Exactly, but if they hadn't allowed SO many people in at once they would have seen him go under. That's the point. And at no time did the waiver mention swimming. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

fair enough, but when you sign a waiver to do any type of extreme sport, you assume the inherent risk.  Yes, you could die while attempting this run, or bungee jump, or sky dive.  Its sad someone died, but from the in person accounts of this tragic event, 20 more lifeguards wouldnt have helped, because NO ONE saw him go under

Eastdallasgirl
Eastdallasgirl

Gosh, when I ride the tubes at Hurricane Harbor, there is a life guard at every entry and exit point. There is an organized plan for everyone to get in and out safely. I believe a much better plan is in order.

Mia Walters
Mia Walters

There were 50-75 people when we were in the water. I saw one lifeguard. I saw maybe a handful of employees, mostly volunteers who were almost all young ROTC kids who couldn't have lifted me and I'm 110 lbs soaking wet. You can't understand without a visual. We were all in a narrow area swimming together bc everyone wanted near the ropes. If everyone was spread out it may have been manageable, but in hindsight we probably looked like fish being fed over the shore and fighting for food bc we were all on top of each other like that. If you've ever fed a pond full of Koi fish you can understand the image I'm trying to present. It was impossible for anyone to be saved because officials couldn't have known they needed to be saved and everyone was panicking screaming for help so it wasn't being taken seriously. 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

A leisurely swim on miles of open beach is a lot different than 100 people racing one another to be the first across a narrow river. I don't know if you've ever done a triathlon but the swim is ALWAYS chaotic — people kick each other, scratch each other — not to be assholes but because of the sheer nature of an event like that. People are racing one another and until the pack thins out, it's elbows to assholes in the water. That's why most races have staggered start times, and why most race organizers err on the side of caution.

I have never organized a race but I have participated in several of them. I don't know the magic number, but I still feel like four lifeguards weren't enough. According to the sources in the story above and here in the comments, most of the participants in this weekend's race feel the same way.

Anon
Anon

please. were there 1000 participants to be managed at any given moment? from a logistical perspective, the river itself does not hold that many people at once. 

are there any adults left capable of making decisions and living with the consequences? seriously, this is absurd. if you are fatigued, a poor swimmer, or wearing gear that makes completing the race difficult, stop and take yourself out of it before you end up in lethal situations. the death is tragic and I truly mean that, but he voluntarily took on additional risk in order to be able to compete for prizes. Ms Walters talks about a deadly swim, but she is the one who decided to wear heavy gear to compete in the event. events like this are meant to be fun, and they are when you act smart and don't fool yourself into thinking you are something you are not. if the tasks weren't difficult, no one would bother to sign up.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

serious questions, how many lifeguards would you want?  Also, how many people do you think are on a beach in Cali swimming in the ocean, and they certainly dont have a lot of life guards on duty

JS
JS

That's misleading because not everyone was in the water at one time. Saw another article somewhere that said at most 100 people were in the water at any one time, so that's 1 per 25 participants (plus race officials, etc.).

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