This was my first foray into a child-centric OCR. I am used to attending OCRs with kids, but they were all adult courses. Kids Obstacle Challenge was going to be a good test of OCRs geared towards young children. The best part of the race is that a parent can run with each child for free! I’ve run relatively easy OCRs (Warrior Dash) and difficult ones (Spartan). I attended the event with three OCR newbies.
The event was held at Lake Lanier (Buford), GA. This is in Northeast Georgia. It is little over an hour from Metro Atlanta. This is the same location of the October 2017 Spartan Super/Sprint weekend. The course and the venue are absolutely beautiful. There are great views of the lake along with a challenging terrain. The course has steep hills as well as flat fields. I was a bit concerned as I struggled with those same hills during that weekend. I surely thought that we would be on the flat portion of the course. More on that later.
The weather was a perfect 77 degrees. The cloud cover and breeze from the lake made the whole event that much more fun for everyone.
Kids Obstacle Challenge got early kudos as there was free parking! That is relatively unheard of in OCR world. The parking lot was about an eighth of a mile from the starting line. It was an easy walk.
We were late for our 11:30 am heat and I was not sure how it would be handled. The registration table was well staffed and went quite smoothly. We were promptly put into the noon heat with a smile and “good luck.” I attended the event with my partner as well as our kids, ages 10 and seven, respectively. They were excited to get on the course ASAP. One thing that I noticed that it was a pretty large area.
There was a large water station that was constantly being refilled with cold, fresh water. There were several vendors that sold everything from icees, freshly pressed juices, and Clif bars. The company also had a large information tent that was always staffed with volunteers. I did not see any food vendors, but it wasn’t an issue. The festival booths were pretty spread out. There were no chairs or tents available, but it did not matter.
One side of the festival had the obligatory sponsor backdrop for pictures. It was large enough for several people to take pics and not be squashed in. There was also a cute mural with a bunch of markers for people to write messages on.
The Starting Line was at the end of the festival area. We had a good warm up of squats and jumping jacks to get ready for the race. There was also a nice spray from a few super soakers to keep us cool. It was energetic and fun.
One thing I noticed here and throughout the course was the fact that the festival and course did not seem overcrowded. That was a huge plus when you are navigating with children.
Course and Obstacles:
This course was well designed and spread out. It consisted of 15 obstacles within two miles. And yes, we did experience some significant hills. Both kids had no problems with running up the hills as they went from obstacle to obstacle. I had flashbacks to the Spartan Super and took my time. Each obstacle was well manned with a volunteer, sometimes two. They were energetic and also helped kids over the obstacles. There was one water station on the course that provided plenty of water. There were inspirational messages peppered throughout the course to keep everyone energized.
These obstacles were relatively easy for an experienced runner. The obstacles were created with a kid in mind. The footholds and grips were sized for smaller children. That sizing me struggle a little, but not enough to not try the obstacle. This was my partner’s first OCR and he enjoyed it. He was able to maneuver easily.
My son (10) loved climbing the obstacles. He was able to finish each obstacle with minimal help. He excelled at the Clif climb and scurried across with no problem. My daughter (7) was a bit cautious but was able to try at least 12 obstacles. Her favorite was the ball pit because there was a fair amount of water. There were several obstacles that we were able to try several times before going to the next. The obstacles were challenging for kids, but not to the point where they couldn’t try them. The course did not seem like it was 2 miles and that was a good thing. The terrain kept it interesting and had a great flow.
As a mom, I appreciated that the mud was towards the end of the course. The kids asked throughout the course “Where is the mud?” “When are we getting muddy?” That made me a bit nervous because I was afraid it would have been mud city towards the end. They did get the mud that they asked for. The mud slide was a big hit for my son. Both kids loved the mud pit. It was a crawl through a fair amount of mud.
You can also gauge a race by their volunteers. The volunteers were encouraging and had fun with us. They also helped kids, and adults, on obstacles. We encountered two race photographers on the course and they made sure they got great shots of each family. They made the course that much more fun.
One difference with this race was that there wasn’t the obligatory t-shirt provided at the end of the race. They were sold in the merch tent. There wasn’t a lot of merchandise to purchase. The merch consisted of t-shirts, water bottles, and blackout for your face. At the finish line, the kids received their obligatory medal and banana. As a medal lover, I didn’t get one, which bummed me out a bit. I think it would be wrong if I stole the kid’s medal.
One difference was that you were able to “build” your own goodie bag. The kids got a vinyl backpack and load it with several items. They could choose a nut butter Clif bar, a Luna Bar, stickers, temporary tattoos, a race flyer and coupon for Razor products (the race sponsor).
This is a bone of contention for me at most races. Either it is a few hoses with weak water pressure or in an area way off from the festival. The rinse-off section was not far from the finish line. It was off to the side and had over 10 hoses. All had great pressure and the area was never crowded.
My family and I loved the race. The kids were challenged but also had a lot of fun. I think that Kids Obstacle Race is a good OCR for both newbies and experienced OCR runners alike. What makes this race attractive is the price point, the ability for parents to race for free, good obstacles/distance, and free parking. My only qualm is the lack of finisher t-shirts. But that is not enough for me to not run this again. I cannot wait to attend next year.
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