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Not Your Grandma’s 5k

Local race directors take on growing trend of obstacle course races

Erin Crowell - September 3rd, 2013  


Obstacle course races are surging in popularity across the country. Events ranging from three to a dozen miles take participants through mud, over barriers, under log beams and across the finish line with a sense of completing something more than just a running race.

One such event recently made headlines in Michigan.

Around 16,000 people participated in the Tough Mudder—a 12-mile obstacle course of ice water, walls and electric live wires that raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project—at the Michigan International Speedway this June. Hundreds of those people reported getting sick after the race, which officials later reported to be an outbreak of the Norovirus.

But that hasn’t deterred folks from participating in other Tough Mudder events throughout the country. Registration is already open for the Michigan race in 2014.

Yes, despite being chilled by ice water and exhausted by ascending wobbly cargo nets, athletes are loving obstacle course races. Two such races will be happening this September in Traverse City.

PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METTLE

Athletes will test their mettle with the return of The King of the Mountain, a 5k obstacle course race set on the rolling terrain of Mt. Holiday, on Sept. 7.

Mettle, as described on the race website, is “A person’s ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.”

Like the Tough Mudder, King of the Mountain is a military-themed race with a course designed by Navy and Air Force personnel. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Ryan Patrick Kennedy House, a new Post Traumatic Stress treatment facility in Traverse City.

“Every single branch of military will be there,” said race director, Matt Myers. “There will be sergeants out there yelling on the course to try and shake (participants) up.”

There are two participation race portions: recon and lone warriors.

“Recon teams consist of four members, male or female or both, who compete against other teams. We encourage them to wear uniforms, and you’ll probably see a lot of costumes,” Myers laughed. “The event is not totally serious. It’s going to be fun.”

Myers, who along with sons Matt and Keegan Myers organize the annual M22 Challenge in Glen Arbor, was brought on by the folks at Mt. Holiday to run the third annual King of the Mountain.

“They told me about their event and thought I’d be perfect to help them out,” Myers said before adding with a laugh, “I guess I fooled them.”

Although the course is designed to be challenging, Myers wanted to make sure it was designed so that everyone could finish. Otherwise, participants can expect a genuine boot camp atmosphere.

“Mt. Holiday is going to look like a military installation. There will be flags everywhere, big SUVs and machines parked here and there. And as long as the wind isn’t blowing, I think we’ll have smoke to help ‘confuse’ racers.”

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Aside from testing their physical prowess, King of the Mountain is designed to test one’s mental mettle.

“We’ll have mind game stations along the course, questions that pretty much everyone knows but they make you stop and think for a minute,” said Myers. “There will also be problem solving stations, like using limited tools to stop a leak on a set of water pipes… or throwing a grenade—which is a water balloon—through an open window.”

One of the course highlights is a 120-foot-long sheet of plastic going down the mountain. Participants must try to aim themselves to grab a red flag from a “medic” located halfway down the hill, to give to their comrades at the bottom.

And if they miss? “You’ve gotta run back up and give it another try,” Myers smiled.

Half the course is viewable from the deck of Mt. Holiday’s lodge, and the race will include a kids’ course option. Post party events include a beer tent with live music, with proceeds benefiting the non-profit ski hill.

If you’re into country music, race participants also get free entry to the Chris Cagle concert at Streeters Ground Zero later that evening (a $30 value). The King of the Mountain starts at noon. For more info on how to register, visit imkingofthemountain.com.

“IN THE FACE!”

When the 2,500 to 3,000 participants of the annual Traverse City Turkey Trot were surveyed last year on whether they would be interested in a mud run format race, the answer was clear.

“It was overwhelmingly positive,” said Brian Hagerty of UpNorth Media, the host sponsor of the Turkey Trot. “Couple that with the property owner at Timber Ridge Resort was looking at hosting a race, and it just fit.”

UpNorth Media and Byte Productions presents the Here’s Mud in Your Eye 5K at Timber Ridge Resort on Sept. 14, with a portion of proceeds to benefit Michael’s House and the March of Dimes.

“The course is designed to be the most rugged that registrants have ever seen, however all obstacles can be made optional,” said Hagerty.

The Mud in Your Eye course design included help by fitness experts, military fitness course experts and past Spartan Race designers (with events throughout the world).

Not sure if you’re ready? No problem. “When you sign up for the race, you get free membership to train with people who know the course at Fit for You, up until the race,” said Hagerty.

MYSTERY COURSE...

Otherwise, the format for the course remains a mystery.

“The idea is to have a fair amount of confidentiality,” he said.

In other words, the best way to know what the course will be like is to just sign up and do it.

The race, which is geared for ages 18 & older, will include a 21 & older post party with beverages on site.

The first 100 registrants will receive a commemorative logo beach towel. But hurry, time is running out.

Registration is already close to 100, said Hagerty; however towels will be available for purchase at $15.

When asked why he believes the race community has jumped on the obstacle course bandwagon, Hagerty said it’s a matter of switching things up.

“There is and has been a number of races that don’t have any texture. That’s why we’re seeing color runs pop up, disco themes, prom date themes… there are night races with illumination; and I think the general public is interested in a little variety than the traditional 5k.”

Expect such variety when Timber Ridge Resort hosts the first ever Here’s Mud in Your Eye 5K on Saturday, Sept. 14, starting at noon. For more info, visit events.bytepro.net/ HeresMudinYourEye5K.

 
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