Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): Can’t touch this

I’ve been noticeably clandestine about my current training because my efforts have been lackluster at best (I’m improving). In my defense my body has brazenly betrayed me the last 8 weeks, with an invasive throb here, an incessant pull there, a where-did-that-come-from twinge all over. I ache in places I can’t touch or isolate. It’s weird.

Toss in the icy roads, snow, single-digit temperatures (it’s actually minus degrees as I type), and comfort food in abundance, and I should get a finisher medal for simply rolling out of bed each morning.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss. Men’s Health recently emailed their 2012 Urbanathlon participant survey. I probably skewed higher on the satisfaction scale for most questions (packet pick up, race course, festival, several obstacles, etc.), noting some areas for improvement along the way, but was sure to clearly lament need to find a way to add a few strength elements to the course. I went so far as to suggest a second mid-course 8-foot wall climb (hey, we’re just spitball’n here). I also suggested they double up on the monkey bars (an easy modification). It was difficult to poo-poo certain obstacles because on the survey they grouped them with how they were grouped on the course. So I couldn’t give an ‘epic fail’ to the Subaru crawl without dissing the Marine Hurdles (which I love). Surveys can be frustrating that way.

And after all my brooding these last few months I forgot to add my two cents about the Soldier Field stair climb (providing a path for runners and one for walkers). This is always my biggest course complaint, and I missed my opening. I thought at the end of the survey they’d provide a free-text field to add some final thoughts. Nope. Oh well.

What was most interesting, though, and the reason I’m making this entry is that Men’s Health had a question to gauge interest in a sprint version of the Urbanathlon (3-5 miles) or an extended course (13ish miles). I roundly disapproved of the sprint distance (it’s over before it starts and I won’t haul the family 409 miles for that) and agreed in theory to the extended course, only because I’d actually consider it (whereas I would not register for the sprint version).

The more I think about it, an extended course would just favor the true runners that much more (and just like that I talked myself out of it). My preference is that they don’t mess with distance. It’s a nice sweet spot right now; a major milestone for non-runners, and a competitive distance for the road vet.

In any event, though, the probing on that question was interesting. My only hope is that Men’s Health remain an innovator in the ‘adventure/urban’ race and not an imitator (if I so much as get a wiff of a mud run in this thing I’m out).

I don’t know how serious Men’s Health is about digesting and vetting feedback, or if they are just gauging the temperature on their potential ideas, or perhaps scoring their email database, but if you have thoughts on making the 2013 experience better (be it Chicago, New York, or San Francisco), and you did not receive the survey, post your thoughts on their Facebook page:

As much as I enjoy the race there is always room for improvement. Help make it better!


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