Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): 2012 Course Review

Men’s Health Magazine came out with its Chicago Urbanathlon course map the other day, and my first reaction was “oh snap, I’ve been training all wrong.” But level heads prevailed, and having let the new course marinade for a few days, here are my quasi initial thoughts:

Note: the new layout could play out swimmingly; this is just my first take. Also, here is a link to a larger PDF on the Urbanathlon website.


  • 10.8 miles. This is the first thing to smack me in the face. For some reason I thought they would skew shorter this year, but they stretched it about a mile. I’m good with that (but need to up my training miles)
  • This year the final 3.8 miles are nearly all shoreline. It’s such a magnificent view and should be a great distraction when negotiating the misery of the last leg.
  • The opening leg is still the furthest uninterrupted run at about 2.1 miles. There is another near-2-mile stretch along Monroe Harbor right before Soldier Field. These long stretches are liberating.
  • A whopping 9 obstacles PLUS the Soldier Field stair climb. Men’s Health has yet to reveal the actual obstacles, so I could change my thinking in a week or so (but I doubt it).  


  • The start and finish (Festival area) have moved down about a mile and a half near McCormick Place. That in itself isn’t a big deal, but from a Google Satellite image they appear smack in the middle of a parking lot. This could be an old image (the Men’s Health course map shows it as green space), so my grievance could be moot.


  • The Soldier Field stair climb is nearly smack in the middle of the course, rather than the end. This could go either way, though my initial reaction was one of great delight. I feel it will either give you more time to get your legs back and finish the back half really strong, or it will deplete you and make the final  4-5 miles a leg-cramp tsunami.

Overall, I feel like Men’s Health did a great job of keeping some consistency, yet through modest tweaks is challenging participants to up their game. Well done.


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