Participants: Mud Wars event poorly planned

Participants: Mud Wars event poorly planned (Tribune illustration / July 30, 2012)

A run on a muddy obstacle course that attracted thousands to Chicago’s Northerly Island on Saturday left many asking for a refund.

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

The hours-long lines, subpar obstacles and little direction at the 5-kilometer run left her and her three friends disappointed, Murray said. The run, which was advertised to include nine “exhilarating” obstacles, three mud pits and live entertainment, cost between $45 and $75 per person, according to its Facebook page. The race attracted about 6,000 people, according to Murray.

Murray wasn’t the only one who was angry. Complaints poured into Groupon and Living Social on Monday, prompting both daily deals sites to offer refunds to customers who registered for the event.

“Once the volume of these difficulties became apparent, the decision was made to issue refunds to our members and an email was sent providing instructions on how to claim that refund,” Living Social spokesman Brendan Lewis said in an email.

Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler e-mailed a statement saying: “While these situations are unfortunate and infrequent, the Groupon Promise has customers' backs when they occur.”

A statement posted Monday night on the Mud Wars website under the name of organizer Joe Bizzieri apologized for the problems.

“I take full responsibility for the disorganization of the event this past Saturday and I apologize profusely, Bizzieri said. “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...This was my first event, which I ran almost entirely on my own.”

It was advertised on Living Social that the run would raise money for the non-profits organizations Chicago House, a social service agency, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“So you can feel good about bein’ bad,” the deal said.

But a representative from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said in an email that the non-profit never granted the event organizer permission to list the group as a charity beneficiary.

“IAVA has not and will not accept any proceeds from the 'Mud Wars' event,” communications director Michelle McCarthy said.

nnix@tribune.com

Twitter: @nsnix87