Asked what he considered the most challenging obstacle on his mile-and-quarter-long training course, Williamsburg's Mike Scruggs turned around and pointed to what he called the "giant's ladder," off in the distance.
The massively oversized ladder looks a bit like it sounds and it's probably even more difficult to conquer than it looks, Scruggs said.
The first ladder rung is about 4 feet off the ground. Then, there are four more logs to scale.
"Those logs are about 2, 2.5 inches in diameter," Scruggs said, "so they're pretty hard to grapple and get your arms around and hoist yourself up…
"This is more of an entire core-body thing that you have to do."
It was built with a giant in mind, but Scruggs assembled much of the structure on his own. Still in the midst of a professional life in real estate, Scruggs is working on his second career training people for endurance races like marathons, triathlons, mud runs, and obstacle courses.
A soccer coach and certified personal trainer, Scruggs runs locally based Elite Health and Fitness and plans to open to the public his current test course that is located off Croaker Road and adjacent to Interstate 64.
Scruggs said it would be the only outdoor course of its kind in the state and in between Virginia and Pennsylvania, noting North Carolina has some similar indoor courses.
There isn't a lot of running involved, but in total, there are about 20 obstacles spread about the course. Some are fixed, like the red Elite Health Fitness walls that must be climbed and increase in height as the course path leads to a pile of large tires to be moved by hand. Not far from there, expect to traverse the brush by crawling in the dirt under barbed wire.
Think of it as part football camp, part ropes course and part military boot camp.
One of Scruggs' recent projects includes a 40x100-foot basin holding about 4 feet of water with several inches of mud at the bottom.
"You'll have three big piles of dirt that you'll have to cross," he said. "So you'll have to go in about waist-deep water, wade across, climb up the mud hill, climb back down it two or three times before you go to the next obstacle. So that will be a little fun for everybody in the summertime."
Scruggs was attracted to the obstacle course world just a couple of years ago while visiting his son, Michael Scruggs in Arizona and participating in a mud race.
The younger Scruggs, a former college soccer player, won free entry to a mud run through a radio show while in college in Arizona. He had seen it on TV, but never competed and has been hooked since. On Saturday, he'll compete in an event in Petersburg.
"I guess it's made for all fitness levels," Michael Scruggs said. "I think it's really kind of a battle against yourself. You want to push yourself and test yourself to better your times."
Michael Scruggs said one of the most challenging aspects of his dad's course is that it isn't all about running; It's simply that there's obstacle, after obstacle in your way. Among the toughest, he said, are dragging or flipping tires and the sandbag carries.
The overarching goal, shared by the Spartan SGX program that Mike Scruggs is also certified in, is to offer training programs so people are more prepared and more injury resistant in their quests to compete in endurance events.
Aside from that, Scruggs just wants to help get people off the couch, active and having fun while they're at it.
To get the course approved for commercial use, Scruggs is currently going through some proverbial ropes as he tries to acquire a special-use permit for the land. In the meantime, he can take advantage of special event permits to temporarily allow him to introduce the course to the public.
Scruggs hopes the course will be available to the public permanently by June.
This week, Scruggs started a separate endurance fitness class that will have sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays throughout May. The purpose of the training is preparation for the obstacle course racing season and will include running, swimming and biking.
If any part of the course seems too daunting, well, it is supposed to be daunting.
"You want everybody to be able to do it," Scruggs said, "but you want it to be a challenge. But if it's not a challenge, there's no reason in coming out and doing it."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.