Overall this is an extremely fun fast paced course. With only 276 ft of elevation gain The Battlegrounds is a “runner’s course,” but it is obstacle dense. 33 Obstacles packed into a 5-mile course or 29 over the 5K course. For those of you who speak Spartan, that’s a beast’s worth of obstacles in a sprint distance.
When I first saw the course map I had wished that the extra 2 miles on the 5-mile course had more obstacles (I always want more obstacles). But while running the race I never thought “man I’ve been running for so long, when is the next obstacle.” The spacing was good and I really liked how the course was backloaded with obstacles.
The obstacles were a great mix of classic OCR standards and fun “mud run” type obstacles including a giant waterslide, and a few long runs through a creek. Noticeably lacking were grip strength type obstacles such as Monkey bars and other hanging obstacles. There was a short 8 or 10-foot pipe traverse, and “the gauntlet,” a unique obstacle to the battlegrounds with 6 different lanes.
You can choose any lane and some are much easier/harder than others. Some lanes are heavy on grip strength and others more rely on balance, making sure you pick the right lane for you is key to success and speed through the obstacle. As far as brute strength obstacles go there were really only two; a tire flip and a wreckbag carry.
The terrain doesn’t have many hills so to make the wreckbag carry more difficult you were required to carry the bag over and under a series of walls. My favorite obstacle by far was the perilous pontoon bridge. A long chain of 4.5-foot square pontoons stretched across a pond. The pontoons rock and bounce and jostle on the water as you maneuver over them. My core has never been used so much while running, I felt like I had done 30 sit-ups after getting back on solid ground.
This was probably the greatest venue I have ever seen from a spectator’s standpoint. 19 out of 33 Obstacles were easily viewed. That means that your friends and family not participating could watch you do over half the course, far more than any other venue out there.
In making the obstacles even easier to see there is a giant tower that spectators could climb and see the course in 360 degrees. While you have to be 18 to participate in the race there was a large kid’s area with a big mud pit to splash around in, balance obstacles, walls, tires and other obstacles for the kids to play on.
Did I mention this race is held at a winery? Because it is, which means if you want something a little more sophisticated than a Miller Lite you can have a glass of Merlot, Riesling, or Pinot Grigio. In addition to the wine Kor Complex a St Louis area obstacle/parkour gym, and sponsor of the race, brought out a salmon ladder to the festival area that anyone could try and earn a free open gym session if they got up a few rungs.
I was really impressed by the Photographers at this race. They are really amazing, they don’t just sit in one spot and take the same picture of each racer, they are looking around for the best angle, the best shot. While volunteering at the May race I got to talk with a few of the photogs and they are very passionate about their photography. Not everyone may get an epic picture and you may not know where they will be all the time, as they move around a bunch, but they do get some amazing shots.
The race shirt alone sets this race apart from any other OCR I’ve been to or heard about. Chances are you have lots of race shirts (you might even have 3+ of the same shirt) but I bet they are all short sleeved, and they are all at least 50% cotton. The Battlegrounds really set themselves apart by giving participants a long sleeved 100% polyester shirt. A great fall running shirt for a great fall race.
In conclusion, I wish they would add 1 or 2 more, longer hanging “monkey bar” style obstacles, but overall I think this is an awesome race that I would gladly do again and very much recommend. It was a great course with good people and the best finisher shirt in OCR.
All photos courtesy of The Battlegrounds, Justin Smith, and John Kelly Photos