Photo credit to Yelp.
I've always been a fan of the Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) television series, which is essentially just a dubbed mash-up of a Japanese game show from the late 80's in which contestants attempt to conquer some very difficult - and often very, VERY silly - challenges or games. It's ridiculous, it's hilarious, and it's dubbed for maximum entertainment. And it has spawned several knock-off shows, the most famous of which is the American show Wipeout.
Now, those shows are not only inspiring more shows, but their reach has crossed into the world of obstacle course racing. Mud runs like the Warrior Dash or Spartan Race have been gaining popularity as military-style challenges, but there are thousands of people who are not *quite* so hardcore but want a piece of the obstacle flavor in a more laid-back setting. Enter the silly obstacle race, an untimed, bring-your-friends type of event that gives people the chance to look ridiculous and have a good time on any convenient weekend. Race organizations are popping up everywhere, to varying degrees of success, but the industry is most certainly booming as more people than ever before are starting to participate in races of all kinds.
My opportunity with the Hit and Run 5k came about as the result of a blog giveaway from the Chicago Jogger. I'd already done a zombie run and a mud run, but threw some entries at the giveaway to try the sillier side of the obstacle scene, and lucked out with a win. The date was convenient, I got my hubby on board to come take photos, and set off for adventure!
Toyota Park is home to the Chicago Fire.
Organization: The race seemed really well organized - at least in my experience. Check in went pretty quickly despite a growing line, start times were well spaced, volunteers were pretty on-the-ball, the venue was well-prepped... I think safety was considered adequately, as well as convenience and amenities (row of bathrooms about two-thirds of the way through, great idea), which made my race-day pretty smooth. I did hear later that the organizers ran out of race packets halfway through the day, but I do not have any way to verify this. There was one obstacle in particular where the volunteers seemed to have lost some control, and people were kind of making up their own way to deal with the obstacle rather than attempt it as it was meant, but that was a pretty minor inconvenience.
The Course: Hit and Run is slated as a 5k course. I did not measure, nor could I have accurately timed to estimate, but I do feel pretty confident they covered the right distance. I'd previously done the Run or Dye at the same venue (Toyota Park), which was also a 5k and likely reasonably accurate; at worst it was maybe a few tenths of a mile short. The course was not as well marked as it could have been, especially around the back end - many people took what looked like an obvious turn and missed probably a half mile of course that was poorly labeled. I also noticed people skipping from the approach to obstacle #2 all the way to the very last obstacle because the course doubled back, and the proper direction was not marked; these people missed out on 80% of the race! While I had my head on a swivel and paid pretty close attention, not everyone does so, especially with a group of friends. It did not surprise me to see people going astray.
The Obstacles: This is an obstacle course, right? So let's talk about what was in my way, and how I conquered them! Most 5k obstacle course races seem to advertise anywhere from 12 to 20 obstacles along their course; Hit and Run only had five. At first, I thought that would make the event pretty lame. If I were less of a runner, and was considering the run for a group event or as something silly to do with friends, I probably would have passed. The race only charged $40 per person, though, which may be why the obstacles were so limited, versus races that charge $80+ and offer more challenges. But I am a runner, and the thought of having more space to actually run between obstacles was actually a little appealing. On the course itself, the obstacles were nicely spread so I really could stretch my legs a bit. There were three located in the general festival area, and two more behind the stadium. For the most part, they were executed properly and safely, with the only exception being the Wobble Walk: you're supposed to try to walk on top of the inflated pillars, like you're crossing a pond on stepping stones, but by the time I got to the obstacle, that was NOT happening. I tried to do it right, but there was nowhere to go, as this was the only over-crowded obstacle on the course. The lines did move quickly at all the obstacles; I don't think I ever waited more than ten minutes even for the Whacking Wall, which only accommodates one person at a time (you can see a video of me on the Wall right here). I think the four obstacles that were properly executed were a pretty good mix of challenge and silly, and I definitely had fun trying to get past them! I succeeded with only one obstacle (one of the ones around back) but my husband got another good video of me failing on the final obstacle, which is most like the famous Wipeout obstacle.
Swag: As usual, the race entry includes some free stuff. For the Hit and Run, everyone received a unisex cotton t-shirt and a headband, plus the typical flyers from sponsors. I could have sworn the registration website listed the shirts as gendered sizes, so I ordered a medium. With unisex sizes, my shirt was definitely a little big, but still wearable. The headband was more of a sweatband, but fit nicely. I didn't wear either for the course (I rocked my "lucky" mud run/obstacle course outfit) but many people did, and I did not see too many discarded headbands, so I'm guessing they stayed pretty snug.
I did it!
Bottom line, I had a good time, but not a great time. It's a little lonely sometimes to be by yourself amid lots of teams and families, but I also get to do things at my own pace and control how much I push when there is an opportunity to do so. I love the videos my husband took, and I'm really happy he was able to enjoy the morning. Similar to my experience with Run or Dye (I promise I'll post about it soon), I don't think this is the kind of event I will be looking to repeat without a good team of friends with whom to share the experience. Tomorrow's Epic Fail should be really awesome, though, because I WILL have some great people with me, and we'll have a blast. I'm excited to see what a race like this is like when you're with a group and tackling things together - stay tuned for the recap!