Gladiator Assault Challenge is a local mud run put on every year outside of Ames, Iowa. For being a small, local race, it has quite a large attendance number with heats of runners going off every 20 minutes from 8 am till noon for 2 days. There was a DJ pumping out tunes and getting people hyped and ready for the race. Being a local race, some frills were left out such as bibs, and timing chips. (which I agree would be completely unnecessary for this race). But what it lacked it made up for with all the benefits of local-race charm. The parking and bag check was free, the atmosphere was friendly and down to earth, and the volunteers/staff while few and far between were ultra-positive and dedicated to making sure everyone was having a good time. You were even greeted with a free beer right in the finish chute, and brand new this year they hired photographers for free race photos. And the winners were given bad-ass handmade wooden swords as trophies.
No one told me that this race was on a ski hill!
This is the Midwest we don’t have mountains we have gentle rolling hills… except sometimes we have big steep hills and we put up little chair lifts and ski down them, and sometimes when there isn’t any snow we set up obstacles on those hills and run ‘em. I had no idea till I showed up what exactly my quads and calves were in for, over 1K ft of elevation gain on very steep slopes, not including the 150 ft vertical climb from the spectator area to the start line at the top of the chair lift. For some perspective, a typical Midwest race has around 200 ft of vert.
The race offered two race distances a 5K or 10K option. According to my GPS, the 5K was actually 2.5 miles and the 10K was only 5 miles, I’m not sure but from looking at previous course videos it seemed that a portion of the course that involved running through the creek may have been cut due to weather-related issues. Most of the obstacles (20) were on the 5K course leaving more running on the full gladiator course, going up and down steep hills.
The number one obstacle at Gladiator Assault Challenge 2019 was mud, mud and more mud, combined with the steep slopes this made for some precarious running and some really fun slipping and sliding down the hills.
Most of the obstacles were terrain based with some big climbs assisted by a rope or the “Plinko” obstacle going down a precipitous descent where you bounced from one small tree to another to keep you from tumbling down the hill. Thankfully the heavy carry was actually on flat ground, while the barbed wire crawl was on one of the nasty hills (have I mentioned how steep the hills were yet?)
95% of all the obstacles could be completed by everyone running making this a very family friendly event, and there were plenty of families in attendance. My favorite obstacle had to be the cage crawl which got you super muddy just before your final push to the finish line.
I would like to see some obstacle improvement though. Of the 30 obstacles, there was only 1 grip obstacle which had you traverse a set of monkey bars while your lower half was submerged in water.
While the water provided some resistance and slowed movement it also provided buoyancy making the traverse easier.
I really enjoyed this race and I would not hesitate to do it again. Everyone I talked to was having a great time, from the OCR vets to the first-time mud runners. Gladiator Assault Challenge has been adding new obstacles every year and seems dedicated to putting on a quality event. Two thumbs up!
(I know, those aren’t thumbs)
Photos Courtesy of Justin Smith and DE Hodges Photography