Hammer Race 2018 – Spring – Do I bring a Hammer or Snow Shovel?

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Swag


Bluff Valley Campground-Zumbro Falls, Minnesota

Race Conditions:

One of my love/hate relationships with OCR is the unpredictability of the weather.  As Hammer Race states, “There Must Be Tests”, and for the 2018 Spring race, this was no exception. The days leading up to the event I was expecting to get an email stating the event was canceled but instead was re-assured by Event Staff that it would not.  As the impending record-setting snowstorm approached; the Staff continued to update racers via social media of the current course conditions, and how they planned to still put on the event; while also taking into the consideration of racer and volunteer’s commute and safety.

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Weather_Update

Any racer that did not show up to the 2018 Spring Hammer Race due to the weather would be allowed to transfer to the fall race.  For a small local event, allowing transfers really highlights the passion and respect the hammer race event team has for its small, but loyal group of race followers.

The Event:

Last year the start line was filled with people in shorts and summer clothing.  The grass was green, it was Spring!   This year, Spring didn’t show up.  The 20-40MPH winds, temperatures in the 20’s, and snowfall upwards of 1” per hour had the race starting indoors with slight course modifications (a bit shorter, and a few less obstacles).  Wave 1 consisted of elite individuals and teams; while wave 2 was the rest of the brave souls who decided to venture into unknown OCR meets blizzard territory.  Donning an 8-10lb sledgehammer in hand, each wave charged out of the building and into the great white wilderness.  I’m glad the Elites stayed on course and blazed a trail through the snow; as I started in the second heat and was happy to have footprints to follow.


A fair amount of the event is bushwhacked through unforgiving hilly terrain that the area is known for.  This terrain is what I feel makes the Hammer Race such a special event.  It’s tough running even if dry.  The technical, rocky, steep terrain had you crawling and scraping on hands, knees, and hammer to the top of some climbs; just to send you sprawling down the hill on the backside grabbing for branches and small trees to control your descent.  These conditions made it challenging even for the most seasoned of runners.  The course was just shy of 10 K in distance, similar, but different routing than previous events and slightly shortened due to the weather conditions.


Want to make running more challenging?  Carry a Hammer!  That’s not enough?  Add technical terrain.  Still want more?  Here’s a snow storm! Did I mention lots of wind?  How about some sleet to the face? I for one enjoy a suffer fest.  For this, the conditions were epic.

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Finish Approch

The Obstacles:

Hammer Race Spring2018 Crawl

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Roadkill


Obstacles generally consisted of the following:  Climbing over, climbing under, carrying, dragging or hitting.  I hope Hammer Race continues to innovate new obstacles that involve the use of a hammer for future races to keep it fresh.


The way the race directors use the Zumbro Falls terrain may be one of the crown jewels of Hammer Race.  In the case of this past weekend, most events (regardless of type) would have been canceled.  I’m glad Hammer Race was not.  The long relentless Minnesota winter made the race one to remember, and I’m happy I made the drive to experience it.  Until next fall, Hammer’s Up!

If you came to this article to find out ‘What is the Hammer Race?’ (Which I did not explain)  See the link below:  http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/hammer-race-2017-spring-hammers/


Hammer Race Spring 2018 Shovel_or_Hammer

Hammer Race 2017 – Spring – Hammers Up!


Have you ever wondered to yourself:  “Man, it would be a blast to run through the forests, hitting things with a sledgehammer, run through nasty brush and climb over moss-covered rocks!  But where?”

Well my friend, I’d suggest you keep reading.

The Hammer Race is a locally run obstacle course race outside of Rochester, MN (approx. 1 ½ hour drive south from the Twin Cities area). While you don’t need much obstacle technique to get through the 10K course, you do have some very technical trail running filled with twists, turns and hills, along with some walls and tires.  By the way, while navigating all this, you’re carrying a sledgehammer (we’ll get to that later).

The race is run by a group of dedicated people from a local CrossFit gym.  The venue is at a local campground that runs alongside the beautiful Zumbro River area.  As far as the festival area goes, that’s not the main focal point of this race.  Aside from the local chapter of the Spartan Race street team having a tent set up, it has the grassroots feel that I want at a locally-run race. Within the main clubhouse, there was registration/waivers to sign.  I got there about an hour early and breezed through check-in.


There was an elite wave, couple of teams that ran together and then a couple of open waves to start the race.  They went through a race briefing (which side are the flags on? THE RIGHT! Be aware of your hammer, don’t hit anybody. This was said many times.) and after a few battle cries of “Hammers Up!” we were off!


Remember when I said you’re carrying a sledgehammer through this entire race?   The main prerequisite for running this event is BYOH -Bring Your Own Hammer-.  Most runners bring a 8-10lb sledgehammer, but some run with larger weights because they’re animals! That one thing sets this race apart from your normal obstacle course races.  One thing to remember:  You’re holding an awkward 8 pounds while running through dense, thick brush that’s barely cleared, rock beds covered in slick moss & climbing up hills that are surprisingly steeper than you’d expect for southern Minnesota.   This race is challenging.

Hammer-Race-2017 Spring-Rocks




One of the other perks of carrying the hammer (other than feeling like a total bad-ass doing it!)  is hitting the logs down the chutes.  These are sprinkled throughout the course, with a gauntlet of logs and tires to hit at the final stretch.  Hearing the THWACK-THWACK-THWACK of hammer hitting wood can bring a smile to your face as it echos through the forests. When you hear that, you know what’s coming next!



2017 Hammer-Race-Spring-Tire-Hammer

Another obstacle that stands out is the “Black Door”.  The Black Door is a large section of the course that’s roped off with caution tape on either side. Inside this section, there’s a black door hidden which, when found, will put you back onto the race course.  You can’t go outside the tape, there’s no other way out, you just have to find the Black Door.  This is a great way to break up the course & most of the time forces you to partner with other racers to find it.  I won’t give away too much in details, but I heard from others it took them upwards of 8-10 minutes to find that door.

Overall, this is an excellent, challenging locally-run race that brings to the forefront some of the best that Minnesota has to offer with the local OCR scene. It’s one I personally look forward to each year, and is a staple on many local racers calendars.  I was told by the race director that some exciting new changes will be coming for the Hammer Race in October… can’t wait to see what they have in store!

Stay tuned this year, as I’ll be at more locally-run jewels that make up the crown of Minnesota OCR.  Until then, hammers up!

2017-Hammer Race-Medal