'Mud Wars' Chicago Racers Allege Scam, Event Organizer 'Apologizes Profusely' (VIDEO)

'Mud Wars' Organizer Issues Apology After 5K Racers Allege Scam

Participants in last weekend's "Mud Wars," a 5k run and obstacle course featuring three mud pits on Chicago's Northerly Island, have been complaining about some dirty practices outside of the race course.

The race event was heavily promoted with deals on coupon websites like YouSwoop and Groupon, all of which have offered to refund the cost of participation, according to customers reporting their experiences on Reddit and Facebook.

Runners paid between $45 and $75 ($35 with widely-purchased discount coupons) to participate in the July 28 race, which was organized by Joe Bizzieri and promoted by Christina Roman, according to the event's Facebook page. Promotional materials promise live entertainment and after parties coordinated with local bars.

But participants list a host of complaints on Facebook and Reddit. They allege, among other things, that water wasn't provided to runners, previously advertised free beer wasn't available and that obstacle equipment was low-quality -- and broken at times, causing injuries. Participants also contend that heats were poorly timed, causing backups to scale the equipment that made the race "like waiting for a ride at Six Flags."

Nearly 6,000 people attended the event, meaning entry fees alone generated up to $300,000, WGN reports. It was advertised on the Living Social deal that a portion of proceeds would be donated to non-profits Chicago House and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and that used shoes could be donated to charity. Participants have questioned whether donations will actually be made.

In a note posted on the Mud Wars website and attributed to Bizzieri, the event organizers promised that a donation has been made to Chicago House. Bizzieri apologized for the event's shortcomings:

Although there are no excuses for how the event kicked-off and took its course, there were several occurrences beyond my control that, in part, led to my unpreparedness of what I thought would be a highly successful day. I only wish I knew then what I know now. This was my first event, which I ran almost entirely on my own. At no time did I mean to cause ill-will or scam you.

But the IAVA told WGN they have had no contact with Mud Wars or Bizzieri and have not received a donation.

“I think it really could have been a great thing,” Ashley Murray, who attended the Mud Wars event, told the Chicago Tribune. But “it was just poorly planned and even more poorly executed.”

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