Mile 1: The Beginning

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I’m not that hulking guy you see at the gym wearing sleeveless shirts and lifting 300 pounds. I prefer to keep my chicken arms covered at all times. On the occasions I go to the gym, I’m lucky to make it through the first 15 minutes of a workout without questioning why I chose to go to the gym in the first place. In an effort to get to know me better, I’m 28 years old, weigh a whopping 160 pounds, am the same height as Abraham Lincoln (6’4”) and have a partially torn MCL & ACL (not running related) in my left knee. I work behind a computer screen five days a week, eight hours a day. Pizza is my favorite food; I eat it often, in addition to cheese steaks, hoagies, and of course ice cream. The only “food group” I steer clear of is fast food. It’s good, if it’s actually what they say it is, but I tell myself if I avoid it then I’m eating healthy. Okay, enough about food, because now I’m hungry. Let’s talk about obstacle course racing.

I first got involved in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) in October 2012. My first event was the now defunct “Run for Your Lives” 5K in Maryland. I can’t remember specifically how I heard about this event, but I believe it was through Facebook. Since I didn’t want to race alone, I organized a team for this. To my surprise, I was able to find 10 people willing to complete the race. Initially since I had my own hesitations, I thought there would be no way I’d find maybe two or even three people. After lots of convincing and promises (free beer!) the team was organized.

Side Note: none of us prepared for this race, we just kind of showed up since we didn’t know what to expect—a mistake for some, but not for all. I personally would not suggest this.

Since “Run for Your Lives” is now defunct, not many people are familiar with this race. The 3.1 mile course was through a good bit of obstacles, some steep hills, a ton of mud and even more zombies. Yes, I said zombies. Not real zombies of course, but other participants made to look like zombies.  We each got a flag football belt with three flags, which represented our “lives” that the zombies would try to take. It reminded me of a video game, but with no restart button. The goal was to finish with at least one flag. My goal was just to finish the race. I had never run a continuous three miles in my entire life—not in gym class nor my short lived track and field career in middle school. We started the race, and in the first 30 seconds I was thinking, this isn’t so bad. I can do this. But then we got to the first zombie zone. Seriously, there had to be at least 20-30 zombies in this field. Our team ran through the zone at full sprint. When we got to safe zone, I realized I was missing a flag already. Great! We weren’t even a quarter mile in and I had already lost a life. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so easy after all. So I went into full defense mode to protect my remaining flags. How? I surrounded myself with people that were slower than me. Let’s be honest the zombies didn’t actually want to run; many of them already ran the race earlier that day.

Over the course of the race our team got separated. There was just no way we could all stick together while being chased. I felt bad at the end, because I had asked all these people to sign up and run together. But the only part we ran “together” was in the beginning. Now when I race with the team, we all start, stay and finish together no matter what. Believe me, it means more to my friends and me than a good finishing time or having a flag at the end.

Although the race wasn’t officially timed, we estimated it took between an hour and an hour and a half. That probably seems long, and it is, but we took a lot of breaks along the way and definitely did some walking. I’m happy to report that I crossed the finish line with one flag left! I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was happy I finished with a flag, but I was even happier I finished without pulling a muscle or seriously injuring myself. Not everyone finished with a flag, but no one on the team got hurt, and everyone did cross the finish line.

After a series of post-race and then post-clean photos, we walked around the “Apocalypse Party” area where they had live bands, food and the free beer tent. Unfortunately for me, I don’t like beer at all. Fortunately for someone on our team, they get my free beer. So, no, I don’t do these races for a free beer. In addition to free beer we received a shirt and a medal. The shirt was pretty nice, and I still wear it today. It is a moisture wicking, non-cotton black shirt with their logo on the front and back. The medal had “Run for Your Lives” on it along with the year. This became the start of my OCR journey.

I hope with my insight and reviews you find my blog posts helpful. Maybe they will even encourage you to try some of these races. They are a lot of fun, but if you don’t have fun, at least you know you’ll get a free beer, a cool medal and a shirt you can wear around the house.

In the next mile I’ll talk about my introduction to running and why I personally run in these types of races.

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