The 2015 Chicago Savage Race was held on the weekend of August 22 at Richardson Family Adventure Farms in Spring Grove, Illinois. This was an ideal location for race director Garfield Griffiths and his team to install all of the quality obstacles Savage Race is known for. Obstacles were evenly spaced over the mostly flat, 6.96 mile course. While turnout was lower than I expected, the atmosphere was great, and the comradery was instant the second I stepped out of my car. Mr. Griffiths and men’s Spartan Pro, Brakken Kraker, were greeting people and taking pictures.
Parking was in a grassy field and very close to the entrance. There were several volunteers directing drivers, making the $10 parking fee well worth it. There were restrooms near the registration tables, which were clearly marked. Several volunteers and staff members were stationed at each table to make the lines move quickly and smoothly.
Savage Race has two basic formats. Savage Open is just that. It’s open to run with friends, with no penalties for missed obstacles. Savage Pro is the competitive format where each racer wears a blue wristband. Instead of a physical penalty, Savage implements a mandatory obstacle completion requirement. If you don’t complete the obstacle, they take your blue wristband and you are disqualified from winning any age group awards.
The obstacles were quite demanding and left me feeling thoroughly tested. The “Teeter Tubes” are smooth, narrow tubes that are positioned like a teeter-totter. Racers must climb up the tube until it pivots down, and then crawl out. For a person with a large or broad build, this is a real challenge. “Block Party” is a test of strength. Racers must pull a chained, cement cinderblock across a field, then pick it up and run it back to its origin. My personal favorite, the always tough “Saw Tooth” is a set of monkey bars that is designed like the teeth on a blade of a handsaw. Climbing up, down, up, and down again while maneuvering monkey bars is extremely challenging. If you lose your grip, you fall into the water and start again.
The course weaved through cornfields and forests, always taking 90 degree turns along the way to keep you guessing which obstacle was coming next. According to my GPS watch, mile markers were correctly spaced along the route. There were enough aid stations along the way to keep you hydrated, and I found the volunteers to be attentive and helpful. In fact, after falling off the “Nut Smasher” (a balance beam over water), the volunteer stationed there even gave me advice on a different approach, which worked perfectly for me. The mix of upper body intensive obstacles and get-on-the-ground and crawl obstacles were set in a way that really gave you a feeling of a total body workout. The “Me So Thorny” low crawl with barbed wire was set quite close to the ground. Volunteers worked tirelessly unloading bags of ice from a truck to keep the water in the “Shriveled Richard” ice cold. Participant safety was clearly on display at this event. They even had a diver stationed in the water for the “Davy Jones’ Locker” obstacle (think jumping off a high dive). Savage did a great job avoiding most of the pitfalls of a first-year venue race. I heard several racers say that this was their favorite race to date this year.
For spectators and racers, the festival area was clean, open, and spacious. There were several tables and chairs set up near the sound stage. Music was playing for all to enjoy. I think some large tented areas would have been well received as it was a sunny, warm day, and there were no natural shade providers in the festival area. There were plenty of clean restrooms for the amount of people there. Results were available immediately upon race completion for those competing. This is fantastic since nobody gives out as many awards as Savage Race! Cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 Overall Men and the top 3 Overall Women.
If you have run a Savage Race at any location, we’d love to hear all about it. Click below!
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