In the last few years I have made it a point to blend my hobby of running with my passion for travel. I really enjoy ‘newness’ you know? It’s that feeling that you get when you see, smell, touch, hear and feel something for the very first time. It seems more exciting and it makes me feel more alive; this is probably why I love to travel. Partner that with a challenging 10 mile run through a major metro and you have one happy MarathonJake! It just so happens that the Men’s Health Urbanathlon (MHU) race series provides this unique experience for me. This race in hosted in three different cities domestically: Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; and New York, NY.
Within this blog I will recapture my experiences in Chicago (2010 & 2011).
I have always been fairly fond of Chicago. It’s the biggest major metro next to Minneapolis and it has an amazing atmosphere. I had spent some time out there for consulting training when I was at Deloitte and later for work when I was with U.S. Bank. During one of those visits (I was still fairly new to organized run races at that time), but was training for my goal of running a marathon later that fall. I decided to run from Wrigleyville to the John Hancock building downtown and back (~half marathon or 13.1 miles). Ever since I have been hooked on running through different city’s downtown areas.
A couple of years later I would come to find out about the Men’s Health Urbanathlon. Soon after doing my research on this race, I knew it was something that I wanted to try. The next season I put a plan in motion to make that happen!
So what really is an Urbanathlon? Well to me it is essentially a cross between a timed run race and an obstacle course. One of the coolest parts about the race that it is located in a densely populated city. The Chicago race was mapped out all along Navy Pier, so on one side of you there was the beautiful city skyline and on the other was Lake Michigan, loved it!
During the morning of my races, I mentally prepare by having coffee, stretching and getting a light sweat. I wake my body up and get limber. This is especially important when you throw obstacles into the mix. I am a fan of caffeine as it gives me heightened alertness and almost giddy reflexes. This comes in especially handy when you are in a race with hundreds if not thousands of other competitors and you need to avoid stepping on others or being trampled over yourself.
When it came time for me to compete in this race I was really excited; I had put in the time and work throughout the summer around Lake Calhoun and was ready. I remember being focused on having fun and pushing myself. It is usually my internal nature is to be aggressive and this characteristic sometimes is viewed as a flaw, however, I have learned how to harness it and rise above many difficult challenges because I do not back down. I am relentless and my abilities are only limited by my mental willpower.
Both times when I competed in the Chicago MHU there were moments that were more draining and there were gaps where you were able to regain your breath while performing at a good pace. The obstacles are something that I ravel at the opportunity to tear through. Fortunately, before I ever became a runner I was more heavily into weight lifting and body sculpting. This gave me a big upper body and the strength to match, which really helps when you need to pull your weight over a wall or do other more body balanced activities.
Don’t get me wrong, on purely run races I wish I could take off my armor suit, but for this it’s close to perfect. I found myself able to quickly demolish the obstacles on the course and come out the other side a bit winded but I kept shuffling my feet and pushed through it. I found that during the stair climb at Soldier Field, that my upper body was used to my advantage as I was able to swing my arms and use that momentum to keep shooting up more and more flights of stairs.
I would end up completing the race with at a decent clip. My time would prove to be better my second year. Probably because I had my Nell with me to cheer me on, lol. It also helped that I had a better idea of the race and the different obstacle stations. A few of the things I liked the most about the race include:
- monkey bars
- tractor tire wall
- stair climb @ Soldier Field
- traversing taxis and bus
- running along Navy Pier
Overall this race has been my most enjoyed to date and have actively recommended it to many fellow runners. Between the city, the time of year and the atmosphere, there is nothing that beats it! To wrap things up, here are my official times for both 2010 (left) and 2011 (right). Look for an upcoming post that explains my next adventure doing the MHU in San Francisco!