Race Recap: 2017 City Challenge Race in Jersey City, NJ
City Challenge Race is an obstacle course race (OCR) without mud, barbed wire, electrocution, or hiking—it’s the OCR that leaves anyone with very few reasons NOT to run it. On April 22, City Challenge Race kicked off its 2017 race season at Exchange Place in Jersey City, NJ. The course was a park that ran parallel to the Hudson River and overlooked the New York City Skyline, which made for a great view. This is the fourth year of City Challenge Races, with the first ever being held in Hoboken, NJ in October 2013. According to Citychallengerace.com, Philip Duarte had the fastest time of the day with 20:02, which was actually an open wave time, while the fastest elite time was Frankie DiSomma with a time of 21:09. Nicole Aleles was the fastest female elite athlete who completed the course in 22:36. Let’s take a closer look at the Jersey City course and how City Challenge differentiates itself in a competitive OCR business.
I ran three laps of the 3-mile course, but since I kept my timing chip on from lap 1 to 3, the sensors picked up my time from lap 3 and not lap 1. I finished the competitive wave in about 35 minutes and I completed my third lap, while wearing a 30-pound rucksack, in 40 minutes. The first obstacle was 30 box jumps onto a stone ledge and subsequent obstacles included a cinderblock carry (competitive had to carry two blocks), 30 kettlebell swings, a sandbag carry, cargo net, a heavy jump rope, a bear crawl, jumping over the hoods of two cars that were facing each other, a rig, rope climb and the hardest one for me, the balance beam. Since competitive runners couldn’t use assistance (such as a volunteer’s helping hand), it took me four tries to complete the balance beam. In fact, I managed to take a nasty spill on my third try as I fell chest and hip first on the wooden beam which left me pretty bruised up!
“We had over 1500 athletes come from all over the country (25 states were represented),” says Elvi Guzman, founder and CEO of City Challenge Race.” The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our athletes loved the new obstacles, finishers medals, photos, and the overall atmosphere of the event.”
STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD
Guzman says the Jersey City event was the first to include three new obstacles: the Rig, Pyramid Climb (tall cargo net) and the Urban Balance Beam. Participants of this race included corporate teams, groups of friends, elite OCR athletes, and even the mayor of Jersey City Steven Fulop. Perhaps the most eye-catching participant was Billy Richards, a Marine and Army combat veteran. Richards completed this course wearing a very heavy military-grade rucksack (it had to be 60+ pounds), and carrying a large American flag, which is his usual race gear.
“I’ve been carrying the ruck since 2014 and I do it to honor the military,” says Richards, who holds a plethora of certifications including NASM-CPT, CES, PES, ACE-CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Level 1 CrossFit Coach, Spartan SGX Coach, CHEK Exercise Coach, and Mat Level 1 Pilates Instructor. “I served four years in the Marine Corps and three years in the Army and I’ve been carrying the flag at endurance events since July 4, 2015.”
The feedback Richards receives from wearing the flag and rucksack include, “You’re inspirational” and “I’m struggling without a backpack, and this guy is doing it with a pack.” The police officers watching the course and participating in the event respect his patriotism. I actually saw a police officer ask for a photo with Richards, thanking him for his service.
Richards is an ultra-marathoner and powerlifter who has completed five City Challenge Races dating back to 2013. He is currently on a 9-day soul-searching adventure which started with the Spartan Race New Jersey Ultra Beast and includes the Ironmaster 50K, 5 consecutive 50K races, the X-Terra Northeast 50-mile race, and finally the Long Island Marathon. When asked why he makes the trip from Long Island to City Challenge Race, he shared his willingness to race for the sole purpose of having fun, which is what City Challenge Race is all about.
“City Challenge is one of those fun races and it’s more urban themed as you get to jump over cars; you don’t see that in OCR,” Richards says. “I don’t do City Challenge competitively. It’s a day to play with the obstacles and it’s a good time. Elvi is a cool race director and he always helps me out when I need it.”
THINK OUTSIDE THE MUD
There were booths for several brands including Nesquik (each racer received a free bottle of chocolate milk), MunkPack (another complimentary item), Protes Protein Chips, Legacy Athletic Club, CKO Kickboxing and Bear Mattress at the festival area. I’m no race director but I’d guess that securing valuable partnerships and sponsorships is a pivotal part of growth in OCR and City Challenge’s connections were on full display. In 2017, there are three events available for sign up: New York City, New England, and Hoboken, all providing a unique OCR experience.
“Three things separate City Challenge Race from other OCRs: location, no mud, and our urban obstacles,” Guzman says. “Our events are easily accessible by mass transit and always offer parking. Our urban obstacles are unique to City Challenge Race events and are both fun and challenging which give our athletes a stuntman like feel. Our races DO NOT include mud so you can keep your clothes clean and your shoes after each race!”
Location alone made the City Challenge Race a no-brainer for me. I live in New Jersey and I could’ve taken a bus or train to the exact location of the race, which is rare in OCR. I wound up driving and parking was only $5 for a space in a fully equipped parking lot: not over a patch of grass. City Challenge Race is also one of the most affordable races at a time where obstacle races seem to be skyrocketing in price (the next City Challenge Race in July is currently under $70). Another great thing about City Challenge is that Guzman, the race director, was front and center during the race, sitting right next to the start line. This way, if anyone has questions about the race, he was right there to answer. It’s not easy finding race directors the day of a race at most OCRs.
City Challenge was a fun change of pace from the snow of March’s Greek Peak Spartan Race and as a New Jersey resident, it’s one of the races I was proudto be a part of.
For more information about City Challenge Race, visit citychallengerace.com.