So I’m always up for trying new races, especially obstacle course races, and one of the perks of having recently moved to Tennessee is finding all sorts of new events. So when I got invited to drive to Alabama for the St. Clair Scramble, turning that offer down never even crossed my mind.
So it was I found myself making my inaugural trek down to Alabama for my very first nighttime OCR! Even though the trip was about 7 hours (round trip!), it was definitely worth the drive.
When I showed up at the race, which simply had a street name, no numbers, I realized it was because I had found myself in the middle of northeastern Alabama.With natural creeks, ponds, and some fairly large hills, the terrain itself promised to be a challenge, regardless of whatever obstacles they additionally threw my way. During the 3.2 mile course, the St. Clair Scramble managed to throw about 20 obstacles at you, including some new and creative ones I hadn’t seen before.
Our group was set to run in the last heat of the night, starting out at 8:00 PM, well after the sun had set and justifying the headlamps, which served as our main illumination along the course, besides the occasional flare or glow stick lighting the way. In addition, the temperatures had dropped and for once, I was thankfully to have on long sleeves.I was even more thankful for the bonfire out at mid-course!
The course started out fairly straight forward, a casual trail run through the woods, utilizing natural obstacles, like a brief swim through a pond, and some over/under obstacles with fencing and a few man-made walls.
While you have a certain set of obstacles you expect to see at any OCR (monkey bars, mud crawl, rope climb, muddy mile, etc.), what really set the St. Clair Scramble apart for me were three key obstacles: the slide, the wagon wheel, and the rope swing.
This might seem weird, but I’m going to go through these obstacles in the reverse order that they appear on the course. This is mostly because I am a firm believer in saving the best for last.The final obstacle, and the way to cross the finish line was an epic rope swing, hanging from the scoop of an excavator over a pond.A magical combination of grip strength and inertia was necessary to get you across the finish line, and I’m not too ashamed to admit that I did not fully complete the swing. A trek through the mud was what got me across the finish line.
This guy made it-I did not.
Before getting to the rope swing though, you had to traverse the wagon wheel obstacle, a totally unique and creative obstacle, the likes of which I’ve never seen.Imagine a waterwheel, like you’d see on an old timey mill. Now imagine trying to walk on one while it turns round and round…Sound challenging?It is!
And I promised I would save the best for last.Slides are a pretty common obstacle these days in OCR, but I can describe the slide at the St. Clair Scramble in three words:
There, I said it. There was the slide, in the middle of the woods, down a hill that, rumor has it, was 160’ long (give or take a few feet). The slide ending with you landing in a deep, muddy pool, where many a headlamp suffered a tragic end. Instructions at the top of the hill, delivered in a southern drawl I have yet to master understanding, tried to warn you to make sure you attempted to steer.A dip right before the bottom and a tilt that could send you spinning and flying into the pool backwards only served to add even more excitement to what already felt like a death defying trip downwards.This slide was the stuff that legends are made of.This slide will live in infamy.This slide will get me traveling back to Alabama next year for a second, and perhaps third trip down my new favorite obstacle.
To top it all off, the St. Clair Scramble, besides being a fabulous race, also donates their proceeds towards a great local charity, the Ian Harper Memorial Scholarship Fund, having raised over $30,000 since the inaugural event. All-in-all, between benefiting a great scholarship fund and a course that is unrivaled, The St. Clair Scramble has definitely earned its way to my To-Do List for next year!
I protected these two from things that went bump in the night.