Hard Charge is a new racing series based out of Fargo, North Dakota, Yes, THAT Fargo, Yabetcha! They invited Obstacle Racing Media to come check out their first race last weekend, near Wichita, Kansas.
Hard Charge gets high praise on almost every aspect of their event. The first thing I really liked about this racing series is the way they break up the competitive waves. The first 4 waves in the morning are called Charge for Glory. Those in the “Glory” heats wear a timing chip .The top ten male and female in 3 age groups qualify for the TV heat at 3:00pm. (More on the TV heat in a bit) All of the other mid morning and early afternoon heats are called “Charge for Fun”. No timing chips are provided. Participants get a bib number and can run the race as quickly or as slowly as they would like.
Upon arriving on site the day before the race, I was struck by the quality on the build of the obstacles. They use a lot of steel trussing and solid, high grade wood. It was very impressive visually and would prove to be equally as effective during the race. The next high mark that Hard Charge gets is for an awesome balance of running versus obstacles. Too many times at races lately, I have noticed long stretches with zero obstacles or weak excuses for obstacles. HC did a great job of giving you a quality obstacle early and often. For the most part, the obstacles themselves are ones that we have seen at previous races. However, the previously mentioned superior quality is what set them apart. Also, the finale made the race really memorable. Most obstacle races end with either a mud crawl or a large slanted wall climb and then you walk across the finish line. Hard Charge put together a combination of obstacles unlike any I had seen before. They put together something called “The Abusement Park” which included the following: a muddy log walk with some barbed wire to step over, a short fence climb, a run through about 40 hanging tires, and then a 10 foot wall climb. After that, there was a 15 foot slanted rock-climbing wall; which led to a slide down a fireman’s pole. After all of that, there was an exhilarating 40-yard dash to the finish.
Hard Charge is the first obstacle racing series to finalize a deal for televised races. Episodes of the TV heats will be on the CBS and NBC affiliates for the various local stations at each race location. On top of that, they recently secured a deal with Comcast to be in 8 major markets on the Comcast SportsNet channel.
Looking around the event, it certainly had the feel of a major television production. There were 40 lipstick cameras all over the course at various obstacles. There were also 3 ATV’s driving around with different camera crews. Interviews too place before, during, and after the heats near the finish line, festival area, and in a special TV Heat tent. I also observed the crews setting up interviews to be filmed later in the week with some of the racers; which will also be used as part of the program. I am really looking forward to viewing what they put together. At last, a good portion of “average Americans” will get to see what we do every weekend.
Room for Improvement
At the start line, during the MC’s announcements when the first Charge for Glory began, there was a brief mention of burpees for obstacles that were failed. This was the first I had ever heard of it. It was never mentioned before on the website nor in any pre race emails. Even then, the mention of it seemed very vague and quick. There was no mention of chest to the ground or jump in the air or how to do the burpees at all. When I fell off the monkey bars on my first lap through, there was one young male volunteer stationed. He did not tell me how many burpees to do. I had to ask him. He then was not watching anyone do their burpees, or correct anyone with improper form. Later in the TV heat, one of the competitors fell off the monkey bars and instead of doing his penalty, he just got up, tried again and successfully completed them. I realize that even Spartan race does not have “penalties” down to a science but Hard Charge definitely can step up the game here if they want competitive waves to be taken seriously.
The other place where improvement could be made is an increase in volunteers. Again, I realize all races sometimes struggle with this, but the “one of the groups coming fell through” excuse doesn’t carry a lot of weight. I always say that Tough Mudder’s model of some paid staff to fill the gaps of missing volunteers is the way to go.
Even with those two blemishes. Hard Charge is a race to be taken very seriously. They are putting themselves in a great position to grow and be a real contender in the OCR world. They are doing 6 or 7 races this year and plan to do 12-14 in 2014. CEO Greg Lang told us they have no intention of doing 36 races a year and would rather focus on putting on fewer, higher quality, events. He also told me they are starting the race intentionally in the smaller markets so they can perfect their course and their systems before launching into major cities next year.
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