' Race Recap: Epic Fail Challenge 5k | Adventures with FitNyx

Friday, August 29, 2014

Race Recap: Epic Fail Challenge 5k

For my first team event at my new office, I scheduled us to participate in the Epic Fail Challenge, a new 5k obstacle course for which Chicago is only the second city (perhaps that's fitting) to host an event.  Though there is always skepticism when participating in a race franchise that has yet to be proven, I certainly couldn't find any negative reviews from their first race in New York, so we plunged in headfirst.

We have NO regrets!

Race day was B-E-A-Utiful, despite some extra humidity, and we had sun almost the entire race.  Our little five-man team took most of the course at a walk, in the interest of staying together and making it a real team effort, but SOME members of our group are a little excitable, and took of at a sprint when approaching many of the obstacles!  I had a borrowed GoPro with me, so whenever I had fair warning I took some video of our crazy charges.  Oh, and an attempted video-selfie on the Dash'n'Dive!  While on the course, several of our team members had course photographers right up in their faces for some action shots - me included!

Yeah we were being pretty silly.  Obvi.

Since this was a non-competitive team-building type of event, I don't have splits information or overall course time to share.  I wouldn't have wanted to try to keep track anyway!  After running several similar events on my own, I much preferred to spend my first team event socializing and having fun with my team, which I think was a great choice.  We all got to know each other a little better, outside the office context, and the event served its purpose as a team strengthener.

We also found out upon arrival at the St Jude Childrens' Research Hospital fundraising tent that SpotHero was the top fundraising team for the event!  This was the cherry on top of the event for me, as I am a solid supporter of the St Jude mission.  We raised a quarter of the event's total fundraising, which is really impressive.  I received an awesome St Jude Hero cape for having been third overall for individual fundraising as well, and I wore the heck out of that thing both pre- and post-race.

It has the St Jude logo on the back - but I had trouble
getting a good photo of the logo while wearing it...

I'm choosing not to share too much about the details of our team bonding, in the interest of keeping my teammates relatively anonymous (and keeping out anything racy or inappropriate!), so I apologize if my experience recap is a little thin, but I'm happy to share how I feel about the race details overall.

Organization:  Holy number of volunteers, Batman!  The Epic Fail team pulled in so many great smiling faces to man their tents, obstacles, and course.  And everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing!  Check-in at registration took five minutes, and that's only because I didn't sign a waiver in advance.  They were ready for my unpreparedness with an entire tent dedicated just to waivers.  The registration tent was divided by last name, which kept lines short and made it really easy for the volunteers to find my name.  Every obstacle had multiple volunteers encouraging, joking with, and efficiently guiding participants taking on the challenge.  Poorly trained or too few volunteers can really ruin a race-day experience, but Epic Fail really knocked this out of the park and gave us a truly great experience.

Plenty of registration help = awesome.

The Course:  From the moment we started (in small waves of about 10 people every 5-7 minutes), the course was well-marked and exciting.  Every turn gave us another great view of our beautiful city, and another set of obstacles to tackle.  We went up a small hill, did a few loops around the Solider Field parking lots, curved back towards the stadium, and then... went up ON the stadium!  Not only did this unexpected path give us an extra obstacle (stairs) but it also gave us a full loop around Soldier Field's exterior areas, which gave us even better city views, and some amazing lake views!  We were too eager to continue to stop and take photos, but trust me, it was a great vantage point.  A very scenic course, and probably pretty true to the 5k distance, though honestly I was too distracted by the obstacles to keep proper track of time or length!

The Obstacles:  These were a blast!  My previous "silly obstacle race" had only five obstacles on the 5k course; Epic Fail had MANY more!  There was a great fusion of silly inflatables with some tougher obstacles like wall climbs - though nothing was too high or difficult as to preclude beginners from eagerly taking the challenge!  Volunteers were able to explain any confusing obstacles, and they all did a great job to keep things SAFE: slides and such were policed to ensure the previous participant was clear of the obstacle before the next person could go, anything with water involved had lifevests and life guards on hand, and there were medical personnel everywhere!  The only complaint I could muster about the obstacles was that some of the advertised challenges were missing, like the Leap Frog ball bounce.  While they certainly would have provided additional types of fun, I honestly didn't even notice they had been missing until I checked the event page after the race to look for obstacle names, so I don't think missing obstacles really detracted from the race experience at all.  You can see some of our group's video highlights on my YouTube channel.

Swag:  I would have to say that the Epic Fail's biggest point of opportunity for next time is the gear.  For the race's price tag, a whopping $$$, participants received only a cotton t-shirt and a free beer.  I don't drink, but from what I hear, the beer was the usual low-quality cheap stuff, so they weren't doing us any favors there...  I understand that a race like this, especially in a big city at a major site, costs quite a bit to put on, and that a large portion of our entry fees goes to the actual race production - and after seeing how well this race was produced, I do believe they poured every penny into making this event the best possible - but it shouldn't be too hard to throw in a little extra for your participants.  Even something as simple as a sweatband with the logo on it would make the "race packet" a little more upscale.  But again, I do firmly believe that our registration fees were put right back into the event costs, and not into some bigwig's pocket, so I will let this one slide.  Especially since they're providing free race photos!  That's a big added value.

The race bib was actually a big sticker!

Bottom line: We had a blast!  All of my teammates thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I was thrilled to share the experience with a group of friends.  The Epic Fail folks certainly didn't fail with this race!  If they come back to Chicago, it is highly likely I will attempt to make this an office team event again, and hopefully we'll have more people on board after such a success this year.

What's your favorite silly obstacle course race?  If the Epic Fail came to your city, would you accept the challenge?


  1. There were so many of these races all clumped together it was tough to decide which to register for. I decided on the Hit & Run 5k as well as the R.O.C. but looks like this may have been the better choice. If they come back I'll keep that in mind for next year :)

    1. Yeah, Hit and Run was meh (but it was a freebie for me, so I had my fun) but Epic Fail was really awesome. How was R.O.C.?