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Recess Unsupervised

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Some of the NHMS team, including myself (gray shirt). Photo: NHMS

Remember when you were a kid just trying to have fun?

You'd be out at recess and your teacher yelled at you for going down the slide two at a time or bumping some slow kid off the monkey bars.

Well, say goodbye to those silly teachers, because we're adults now and we don't have any supervision during recess!  Nor do we have mothers chastising us for getting dirty and traipsing mud all over the place.

As adults, recess is unsupervised!

That was the battle cry of the Renegade Playground Challenge that overtook the parking lots and surrounding woods of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this past Saturday.  Over 900 renegades ranging in age from high school to early 60s competed in the 5K all-terrain, obstacle-filled competition.

This was the first ever Renegade Challenge and it was a huge success.  The numbers alone could tell you that.  However, the entire event was filled by pre-registration and sponsored by Coors Light.  For a foot race here in the small town of Loudon, that's pretty impressive hype for a first event.

I've claimed before to be a has-been athlete and that might be the case.  However, as my days in competitive sports have passed by, I try to stay active and have taken up running during the summers (hockey still rules the cold months).  Needless to say, with a competitive void in my life and the individual drive I've developed with running, this challenge was right up my alley.

I hopped on as soon as I heard about it and realized that with the ice out of the rinks, I needed to get back into running condition.  Leading up to the challenge, I even tried to run some stadiums here at the track.  That didn't go over too well.  I went up the 50 rows of the grandstand five times, felt terrible and jogged it out for the rest of the workout session.

That was last Tuesday, so things weren't looking good for this all-terrain event.

Thursday, I checked out the website to get a full list of obstacles and found that one would consist of crawling through a tunnel.  Like a greater portion of the population, I tend to get somewhat claustrophobic and the thought of getting stuck in the middle of some dark pipe just makes me squirm.

I recalled a saying from the great late John Wooden: "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."  Thus, I climbed in the car with our Senior Director of Events and had her give me a driving tour so I could be prepared for some of the different obstacles and make sure I knew exactly what I was getting into.

It turns out the tunnel "crawl" wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared.  I wasn't going to end up wedged in the pipe like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  In fact, when I got to the tunnel during the race, I was able to crouch and run as opposed to crawl on hands and knees.

The event started at 10 and, with so many participants, heats started in 20-minute waves for the next three hours.  The NHMS team didn't hit the course until 12:40, which was good in that some of the mud pits and the wooded trail were packed down but that was offset by the midday sun beating down.

The course started with swinging tires and a large pyramid that needed to be scaled, followed by a big hill.  One our team members took a big dive on this hill and was promised some epic photos from one of the event photographers.

After that we saw our first of many mud pits, which, as the race organizers said later, was intentionally followed by monkey bars above another mud pit.  None of our muddy, wet hands could hold onto the monkey bars, so it became easier to just jog through the mud.

The course then took Renegades to the outskirts of the far parking lots where they were guided through wading ponds with signs that tauntingly scared participants with warnings like "Leeches" and "Snakes."

From the parking lots, runners were taken into the woods.  As the Renegade website pitches, it's like “'over the river and through the woods…'” except there’s no bridge, so it’s really 'through the river and through the woods…'"  The stream was clean and relatively shallow, so after crawling through mud pits and wading through iron ponds, it was a good mid-point of the race.  The woods also got me out of the sun for several minutes.  They finished with a steep, grueling hill. 

Entering back into the high sun and panting from the hill, we weaved through parts of the northern most parking lots and straight through a legitimate pond before heading up the 5-lane highway that cuts through the property.  We finished by running through a school bus and jumping into a sticky pile of mud from the emergency exit.

I was told that an athletic person in good shape could finish in roughly 40 minutes.  Since I'd started running for the season about three weeks earlier, I had two goals: run the entire course (never stop for a walk) and finish in under 45 minutes.  The obstacles took a toll on me and the hill had me more skip/shuffling than running, but I kept the legs moving faster than a walk.  First goal accomplished!

Emerging from the mud pit in back of the school bus, I mustered up the last bit of energy in my tired legs and dragged myself across the finish line at a time of 41:43 good for 168th place.  Both goals accomplished!

Despite achieving the goals, I felt like I left something on the course.  I finished 124th of 361 males and 36th of 89 males ages 20-29.  That's not bad but, for a competitive guy like me, not bad isn't good either.

The good news is that I'll have the opportunity to improve my time when the Renegade Playground Challenge returns for round two on October 8, 2011.  I figure with an entire summer of running, there's no reason why I can't shave my time right down to a trim 35 minutes.  Thirty-four competitors finished with a time under 35 and with the weather likely a little cooler in October, there's no reason to expect I can't run at about that pace.

If you'd care to join me and the likely 1,000+ other participants, be sure to get registered early.  As I mentioned, the first event was fantastic and it's only likely to gain popularity and publicity.  Remember that you too can be a renegade and break the rules of the playground when there's no supervision!

-JS