The Ultimate Challenge Mudrun based out of Columbia, SC is best known for their twice a year events. However, this July the Ultimate Challenge Mudrun team added a new event to their bag of tricks—the Night Ops Challenge.
This race consisted of teams of four who got to take on the well known Leatherneck course. Although Leatherneck was cut down to a 5k version with 20 obstacles, the venue’s reputation remained true.
As we arrived, dusk was on the horizon. The parking fields were a little bare compared to their better-known events. However, this was the first year for the Night Ops Challenge (and I hope it won’t be the last). The venue was well setup up and easy to navigate. Friendly faces greeted us as we walked through the Night Ops banners. The check-in tent was quick and painless as we got marked on every visible limb with our team number. Music was pumping, (and we all know I love loud music to get me pumped) needless to say I was the crazy one dancing my way to the potty area before we got set up.
Immediately I could tell this race was not for the faint at heart. Nearly everyone who walked through the venue’s banners were dressed in race attire from all sorts of events. Running at night was clearly not for beginners.
The dark fell quickly. So we geared up in as much glow-able attire as we could and placed our mandatory headlamps atop our heads (racers weren’t allowed to enter the run-chute without it).
And we’re off! The terrain was rugged and full of limbs and dirt mounds (obstacles on their own). The first mile was like something out of the Blair Witch Project. All you could see were glow sticks illuminating the path (green on the left, red on the right) and headlights bouncing off the ground. I almost thought I was playing laser tag until the first obstacle came about—then I came back to reality and remembered I was doing an OCR.
Obstacles are meant to be tough, but at night they are tough times a million. You can hardly see two feet in front of you—then you stick a 12-foot wall climb, log jumps, mud pits, rope swings, clay mountains, and other military style obstacles in your way and you have a recipe for pure mental agony.
We crossed the finish line after 3.1 miles and a fireman’s carry. The finish felt amazing, but we just got started! Our team signed up to run twice to help out a runner whose sponsored team bailed on him. Honestly, I didn’t think I could make it through the mental challenge of nearly pitch black a second time, but I did it anyway. Thus, we began round 2!
Overall, the Night Ops Challenge was a great experience. Plus, the glow in the dark T-shirts added a nice “run in the dark” touch. There are only a few suggestions I would make: advertise more (people won’t race, if they don’t know about it), use more glow sticks to light the path (they were almost all out by our second leg), do something to make us want to stay for an after party (it was very in-and-out), add more miles and obstacles (don’t sell yourself short).
Our team had a great time at the Night Ops Challenge! Although it wasn’t a timed event, it was all about having fun and getting over a “blacked out” run in the night, mind game.
*Photos By: The Ultimate Challenge Mudrun and Allison Dacus
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