The idea of trying your hand at obstacle course races I've been carrying since 2018, when during the Kyiv Sport Expo the organisers “Dyka Gonka” were making a presentation of their competition for the first time. But then I didn't manage to get to them, so I put the idea on the back burner and it has been waiting for me until now.
Since not many races take place from mid-July to August, it was during this period of running lull that I planned my participation in the obstacle course races. Finally, I will be able not only to learn from my own experience what such a race is like, but also to take a break from my usual races.
Since it was my first time, I decided to choose a less professional start. I immediately rejected such races as "Spartan Race", "Dyka Gonka" and "Nation Race". In my opinion, they are more professional, and most importantly, they require more training from the participants. Participation in these races allows you to qualify for the World or European Championships. And I have a main running rule - you run a race as a participant only once (for a medal). So we'll leave the top races for later.
So, my introduction to obstacle course running in Ukraine had to start with either "Strong Race" or "Legion Run". It didn't take me long to choose between "Strong Race" and "Legion Run". On the day of the Kyiv start of "Legion Run", a mountain race is held “Ucka Trail”, which is a higher priority for me, so I chose the summer edition of the race “Strong Race”.
To take part in the race “Strong Race” you need to register on the official website of the running event - strongrace.com.ua. Participants can choose one of three courses: 10km/20 obstacles (pro), 7km/18 obstacles and 5km/15 obstacles (amateur).
The route of the race for a distance of 7 kilometres, consisted of one lap over rough terrain and the participants had to overcome 18 obstacles (javelin throwing, carrying and flipping bags, pulling a log and tyres, climbing and descending various ladders, crossing a ford, etc.)
After some thought, I chose an obstacle course in the town of Vynohradiv, a 10km race with 20 obstacles. I had no great desire to travel for 7 or 5 kilometres in the summer, almost 18 hours in a fast "comfortable train" from Ukrzaliznytsia. But 10 kilometres would be worth it, and at the same time, I could take advantage of the free service provided by Ukrzaliznytsia in the summer on its trains in the 21st century, namely the sauna. If you feel too hot, artificial intelligence air conditioners built into the carriage windows can always help.
After registering for the race and reading the rules (there are people who read them), I decided that the start for the 10-kilometre course should be at 2pm. This was supposed to be quite convenient, as the train from Kyiv to Vynohradar arrives at 11 am. But just before I left Kyiv, I decided to look through the social media of the Strong Race and see if there were any unexpected surprises. It turned out that it was a good idea, as I came across the current race schedule, which threw me into a bit of a stupor, because the starting order had changed and was different from what was in the rules and the participants for the 10 km course had to start at 11:20, and the train was due to arrive at 11:29 (without delay). Having a little bit of hesitation to go or not, I decided that when else would I go to Vynohradiv to see the ruins of Kankiv Castle (one of the few castles that Ukrainian officials did not have a hand in the destruction of, in the last third of the XVI century the Austrian imperial authorities decided to save it from this fate) and take a walk near the Pereni Palace (quite well preserved). Thus, my distance changed from 10 kilometres to 7 kilometres, which I was a little bit glad about later.
After arriving in Vynohradar, I headed towards the starting point of the "Strong Race", which was located on the lawn near the Vynnychky tract with a view of Chorna Hora. Upon reaching the starting point, I immediately started looking for the registration area to get my race bib number and at the same time re-register for the 7 km course, which I still had time for, as it started at 13:20.
After the starting countdown ended, the participants set off at 13:20 to meet their running adventures. While running on rough terrain is a common thing for me, it was quite unusual to overcome various obstacles. And this made the 7-kilometre distance more interesting. To tell you the truth, I didn't have a great desire to run, so I covered the distance at a free (running - walking) pace. Still, in this case, I was interested in the obstacles themselves, not the running.
The first two miles of the route were mainly in the forest, where participants were faced with such challenges as javelin throwing, climbing various ladders, tumbling, carrying bags and logs, and hand-to-hand walking. While I had no problems with climbing and carrying, I decided to do 15 burpees instead of the hand walk. The second part of the route was more interesting, as it mostly ran along the bank of the Tisza River with beautiful scenery, and the participants had to face many water obstacles, several fords, run on a water raft, move a canister through the water, spike and pull a wheel.
In the last part of the race, the organisers prepared obstacles for the participants, such as a wall, a hand walker, a rope and a wheel canting. After passing them, the participants had to overcome a small climb to the finish line, and then a delicious bograch awaited them.
My first encounter with obstacle races, which took place during my participation in the "Strong Race", left me with mostly positive impressions. For a person who ran this format for the first time, the obstacles were quite interesting, and most importantly, you could clearly see what to prepare for and what you should pay attention to first if you want to participate in more top races like "Spartan Race" or "Dyka Gonka".
As for the route, it was fully marked and volunteers were waiting for the participants at each obstacle to tell them how to overcome this or that obstacle. The organisation of the race was quite good for a small regional race. I also had a negative experience, which was mainly related to the information about the race, namely its rules (there are people who read them). I am referring to the paragraph describing the order of the race. Yes, it doesn't change much from race to race (the top distance and the downhill). But what to do when the rules state one time and immediately after registration you buy a ticket for it, and then bam, the order of starts changes.