My first obstacle course race (or OCR) was the Warrior Dash in 2013. Convinced by Nicole and a few of her friends, I signed up for the 5K race through the woods of NJ and fell in love. The Warrior Dash is a great introductory race as there’s no penalty for not completing an obstacle and 3.1 miles is a distance most people can complete.
I loved crawling in the mud, over walls and even swimming in a lake. The last obstacle was something I considered a hazard: crawling under barbed wire in the mud. The concept was simple and when our wave began (after 10:30am) the mud was still watery. However, without a volunteer continuously watering the mud down it quickly turned into quicksand. I couldn’t lift my limbs out of the mud to take a step or shuffle forward. My hamstrings were seizing and after barely moving a foot and witnessing multiple people panic around me, I spent 5-7 minutes getting out and walking around the pit. One failed obstacle, but I was able to save my legs from injury that could have sidelined my marathon training. In addition, we were rewarded for raising $300 for St Jude’s with a warm shower.
That same year my friend had completed a Spartan race with Team in Training. I had crashed a practice to see what the training was like and was hooked. I signed up with a few friends for the 2014 Tri-State Spartan Sprint. Spartan races are more serious than the Warrior Dash, if you cannot complete an obstacle you must complete 30 burpees. They say “don’t look at it as a penalty, just an opportunity to do burpees.” Spartan also has a philosophy of overcoming adversity through training. After completing a Spartan, everyday problems don’t seem so bad. Never give up. Become great, etc. I am personally drawn to this type of thinking and fully believe in it. Our training was much more serious than anything I’ve done. We had our own sandbag (I named mine Darla) and did sprints, burpees, stair repeats, 52 card pick up and practiced a rope climb. The race was harder than I expected as the walls were a major point that needed improvement along with my grip strength. The terrain was very uneasy, there were only two water stops and our performances were tested. On top of that, a friend of mine fell wrong during the sandbag carry and broke his leg in two places (we were told by doctors at a local hospital that they had received 11 spartan related surgeries from the Saturday race (we had competed on Sunday)). Despite all of this, I still signed up for the Fenway Park Spartan Sprint.
High on OCR training, I convinced a group of friends to sign up for the City Challenge obstacle course race. It reminded me a lot of the Warrior Dash, except it was along the streets of Hoboken and was more gym-related obstacles instead of outdoor ones. The full list of obstacles can be found here Instead of a burpee penalty, we had to complete 30 squats if you could not complete an obstacle.
We started almost an hour late, but our waves were staggered so there we didn’t have to wait too long for obstacles. The walls were all ladder walls (thank God) so they were easy to get over without requesting a boost from a fellow participant. The only issue with these is when too many people try to climb the wall at once. More than one member of our group was almost kicked in the face by an overzealous racer. Sirrah actually had a man climb over her on the cargo net wall. Overall, the City Challenge is a great introductory OCRS for someone who lives in a city without access to a Warrior Dash or does not want to get down and dirty in mud races.
City Challenge Race Stats:
Race price: 4 – $50 early registration
Race Organization: 3 – no one was calling out when participants should line up and the emcee kept telling participants to check in at the gazebo at Pier A, when no check in was needed.
Level of Communication from race organizers: 1 – We received emails weekly for multiple months, some of which were alerting us of price increase “don’t miss out. Only 14 more days until the next price increase!” even after we had registered. It was quite confusing; were we actually registered or did we mess something up? They also continued to email us after the race fairly frequently about upcoming races. Unsubscribe.
Race Course: 3 – I loved that the race was in Hoboken so it was along my regular running route. However, there were no volunteers at the walls, which didn’t feel or appear to be very sturdy. I think it’s important for every obstacle to be manned so the volunteers can alert the race staff of my issues or accidents. Also, they had handed out full water bottles to the first several waves of participants and ran out by the time our team was upon the water stop. Luckily for us, we were able to purchase bottled water from a street vendor along the course.
Swag (in the race packet): 3 – coupons to local stores, Esos organic energy shots and participant shirt.
T-shirt: 3 – cotton short sleeve shirt in heathered charcoal grey (my favorite color grey because it masks sweat more than others). While it’s quite comfortable, the female shirts are cut small so I opted for a Men’s size along with a handful of other women at the bib pick up.
Medal: 3 – a bottle opener, which I was very excited about. While a great novelty medal, it isn’t the most functional bottle opener.
Spectator Support: 1- My husband was the only spectator I saw and he chased after us taking action shots for posterity sake. He also drank an Esos energy shot beforehand so he was amped up.
Post-Race Swag: 3 – average bagels and bananas. There was also a special “beer garden” set up with beer for purchase that was open to the public.