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Think outside the mud  

Eric Sirois's picture

Last Saturday was a very different obstacle race from what we are used to do. Normally, the vast majority of races are held in a natural environment far from the city like a mountain, a woodland allowing us to connect with nature. On the other hand, the City Challenge Obstacle Race has made the bet to exchange the dirt roads against the concrete of the city. The race was taking place mainly on the Hudson River boardwalk next to the Jersey City Exchange Place. No need to say the view was beautiful with the city of New York in the background.

The festival square was full of sponsors tents of all kinds. Participants finishing their race were not left on their own. We make sure that each of them receives food and water in order to replenish their energy. The registration was done without problems or disproportionate waiting. The organization sent a message to the participants with a tool allowing them to retrieve their bib number online, which accelerated the tracking of the envelope to be given to the racer.

As for the race, it was about 5km (a little less according to my Suunto) and included 23 obstacles. The start was made by waves of about 30-50 people every five minutes so as not to overcrowd the obstacles. Despite this, there was still some waiting on some of the most difficult obstacles for the open waves late in the day, but mostly due to the accumulation of runners on the course. I have not heard of a similar problem for the morning elite wave. The first obstacle encountered on the course is undoubtedly the best known of the race. The famous police barricades immediately followed by police and taxi vehicles over which we must jump. Other obstacles included three eight-foot walls, two six-foot walls, a sandbag and a cement block carry, as well as some exercises like jumping rope, box jump and American kettlebell swing. There was also a special carry where you had to carry another participant on a short distance! Two balance obstacles were on the course: the teeter-totter and the urban balance beam, which was quite unstable, making the completion rather difficult. The two obstacles that caused the most difficulty for the runners were the final rig as well as the Devil's Playground, an obstacle designed by Full Potential Obstacle that always require the best out of the athletes.

The race course along the river was easy to follow and well defined. Despite this, some athletes of the elite wave have still managed to cut a certain place that has complicated the compilation of results for the podiums. The only place I think where there could have been confusion was at the end of the sandbag carry where the direction to follow was less well indicated. The course also comes back on itself in many places and may cause some confusion if you do not pay attention. Obviously, the elevation was practically zero and the announced 5km was shorter by a few hundred meters (according to my gps watch). For the elites, the obstacles were mandatory and therefore had to be completed in the right way. On the other hand, the rules of certain obstacles were more or less applied by the volunteers. In fact one rule in particular was bizarre and made the volunteer's task impossible. The final rig was actually monkey bars with grips (rings, ropes, etc.) that were hooked on it. The problem is in the fact that the runners could use the (more difficult) grips or the monkey bars. For the open waves, I totally agree, but as for the elite, all should be forced to use the grips ... especially for a qualifying race for the OCRWC and NORAM. Aside from that, there was a water point on the course which was well appreciated by the runners since the temperature was close to thirty degrees. I do not know if they ran out of glass, but a volunteer held a pitcher of water in the air while the runners opened their mouths by pressing the pitcher to run the water!

All in all, it was a great event full of atmosphere and especially very fast. It's the perfect kind of race for whoever want to get into the obstacle course without necessarily climbing a mountain or rolling in the mud. The proximity and ease of access also makes it possible for many people. At least, it already  did for almost 2000 people who took the start last Saturday. The race series will hold another 4 races this year: Secaucus (First responder only), Boston, New York and Hoboken.