At 6:30am on Saturday morning of the inaugural BattleFrog Obstacle Race, and I find myself traveling the same familiar roads I have travelled to other races in the past. The parking was the same, the festival locale was also a familiar site, as was the first turn from the start line, but upon arrival, I could see this was not just another obstacle course race.
The anthem played, the announcements began, and the energy was infectious. Over the horizon the loud piercing blades of what looked to be a Kiowa Warrior flew low overhead as a siren wailed the start of the elite heat and we all chased down a Taliban insurgent who led out the day. Not only was this a race developed by Navy Seals, but also they found a way to fully integrate the athletes into the opening enactment by making them part of the action.
Having just run these very trails a few months earlier, I didn’t realize just how well one could simply alter terrain to enhance an event. The event went off without a hitch. The placement of obstacles, the attention to detail and the optimal use of terrain were on point. This was shaping up to be one of the top OCRs I had the privilege to attend. It was both challenging, unique and fully captured the spirit of why we all fell in love with the sport in the first place. The 15K race began with the typical over, under, through obstacles, leading to rope assisted mud hills, but quickly separated itself by having the more pleasing elevated monkey bars which spanned a water pit. They also added in some 12-foot ladder walls, and 12-foot rope walls throughout the course, which deviated from the norm of an OCR and added the element of surprise. My personal favorites of the less colossal variety were the delta ladder, the swamp laden vertical cargo net, and the good portion of the race that zigzagged across a massive slab of bedrock.
The event offers an appealing variety of distances. A 15k Battlefrog, 5k Bullfrog, 2.5k Bullfrog Jr, 1k Tadpole, and .5k Tadpole Jr. allows all skill levels to obtain mastery at their OCR endeavors and optimize fun. It includes the typical wall jumps, mud crawls, barbless barb wire crawls, and rope climbs we all love and adds the more elaborate mega-obstacles: The Hooyah, a slippery rope wall with a tube slide into a mud pit followed by a cargo net crawl, and The Tsunami, a curved 15-foot rope assisted plastic wall with a vertical slide drop into a pool, that added a definitive extra level of excitement. I have never met a more receptive staff that painstakingly strove to capture all input to improve the experience for the serious athlete, the recreational racer, and those after family fun.
Later that day, I had the opportunity to stand at the start line for a second time, as the Kiowa again flew overhead. They made a tactical landing a few yards off along the tree line, pouring through the doorless helo, the Seal Team advanced on two enemies taking cover by their vehicle. One was theatrically gunned down, as the vehicle exploded and the other made a run for escape. The tactical k9 in full sprint chased down the enemy, allowing the team to make a live capture and extraction. The race announcer led a chorus of “GET SOME, GET SOME, GET SOME!!!” and once again we were off – this time to experience the 5k course which veered off around the 2-mile point eliminating some of the obstacle like the 8ft walls, cargo net, rope traverse and delta ladders, but keeping the rolling balance logs and adding rolling mud hills, and a lengthy crawl for freedom, a 100ft crawl under a net.
Not a detail was missed, including the custom BattleFrog Volunteer Vests, the highly informative marketing and advertising social media posts, live race coverage, and a festival area that was the best I’ve ever seen. Their fitness challenges included an apparatus that added American Ninja Warrior Obstacles and they had a massive inflatable recreation area for the children. With the palpable enjoyment of the racers, the delight of the spectators and the excellent turn-out, this race series appears destined to have some serious staying power, and is a must-do event for adventure goers and families alike. There are upcoming events in SC later this month, DC, (July), Tri-State (August) and Pittsburgh (October) and are strategically planning to add several more next year.
We interviewed Don Mann, one of the Founders of BattleFrog, when they launched a few months ago. You can listen to that interview here.
We also have a video from this inaugural event. Watch it here.