The past two Saturdays, my family had the pleasure of participating in two different family-oriented obstacle races.
On April 25, we ran in the Families On! Challenge, which advertises itself as “the ONLY national family race specifically designed for any age, any athletic ability, and any family composition.” The YMCA of the Triangle and WakeMed hosted the local race at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
The theme for this race was “everything you can’t do at home,” and the event included such challenges as climbing over furniture and laundry, painting on the walls, and even a food fight. It was not the typical obstacle race you might picture if you’ve done these sorts of things before. Most of the “obstacles” were more akin to mini-games you could stop to play along the way. There was one stop where we threw tennis balls at chandeliers, and another where we threw plastic dishes into dishwashers. We stopped for a pillow fight and to play in some bubble foam just before the finish line.
My five-year-old son loved these games, but my 10-year-old daughter missed the more typical sort of obstacles and raced to finish them as quickly as possible. (She is much more competitive than her brother). I was especially excited about the “any family composition” promise. As a family of three, we often have to take turns or find another odd-numbered family to pair off with for the sorts of challenges that require partners.
The Families On! Challenge did have a few obstacles that required partners, but most of them could be done by any number of people ... or none. If I didn’t want to participate in a particular challenge, I didn’t have to. It was easy enough to walk around it or just wait until my son FINALLY got tired of painting on the walls!
The Big Muddy Challenge, a series that a Raleigh dad started, took place on May 2. It is also a two-mile course, but contains the more traditional sort of climbing and crawling obstacles – all in the mud, of course.
We crawled through the mud under string “lasers,” waded through muddy ponds, and crept through tunnels. All of the obstacles are directly part of the course, so we felt more compelled to complete each one – although we technically could go around anything that made us uncomfortable. (My son got cold toward the end and opted out of sloshing through one of the ponds, so he just walked around it while I suffered alongside my daughter.)
This race really kept us moving along through the course, and we didn’t’ encounter any bottlenecks or lines at the obstacles, with the exception of one: We did stand in a short line to go down everyone’s favorite obstacle – the giant slip and slide! I can’t wait to see the photos from that one!
The Big Muddy Challenge is definitely the more physically demanding race, though there was nothing we were unable to complete. Participants do need a certain amount of strength and climbing skill to get over some of the obstacles, and the ability to crawl and wade through waist deep water. None of the Big Muddy obstacles specifically required partners, so we made it through everything as a family of three.
Both events seemed really well organized. It was simple to pick up the race information and bibs and find the starting lines. We received medals for the Families On! Challenge and T-shirts for the Big Muddy Challenge – a very welcome gift at the end when we were soaking wet and filthy!
Families On! boasted a celebration area after the race, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to really keep the kids attention for long. There were a couple of sponsor tents with giveaway items, a food truck, and one bounce house. The Big Muddy Challenge takes place at Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville, and all of the farm activities are open for the day for participants. This includes seeing the animals, playing in the hay barn and corn house, the giant bounce pillow and more. Both races had several photographers posted along the course, and have promised links to the photos afterwards, but they have not yet been made available.
I suspect we will sign up for both races again, as my family really enjoys these kinds of activities. They are great ways to get the kids active and outside, and it’s something different than the typical playground.
Knowing these races are coming gets my kids motivated to “train,” which means even more time running around outside. They set up their own obstacle courses in the backyard or at the park for practice for weeks before, and again after the races, now that they have new ideas. We are always looking forward to our next adventure!
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She is an active member and former organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly.