Men’s Health Urbanathlon 2014: Embracing change and the new ‘sprint’ course

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a miser when it comes to change. So no surprise when I roundly poo-poo’d the Men’s Health decision to scrap the relay portion of the Urbanathlon in 2014 in favor of a newly designed ‘sprint’ course. Three to five miles and seven or more obstacles. The standard, or ‘classic’ course still holds. (The sprint course in Chicago is 3.6 miles, New York is 4.6, and San Francisco is 3.) 

More than change, though, I think I was miffed because in their 2012 post-event survey Men’s Health asked a few questions to gauge interest in a ‘sprint’ distance. I kind of knew it at the time that they were high on the idea and asking the question was more formality than feedback. What you don’t know about me is that I love taking surveys (rarely pass one up), but it’s always the most unsatisfying experience in my life (give honest feedback to loaded questions that you never get closure on). Yet I keep coming back; I can handle the disappointment.

And to be fair to Men’s Health, they did probe about an extended 13-mile course, too (I was more receptive to this change, but didn’t endorse completely).

The more I kicked around the idea the more I came around to appreciate it. Even like it. The relay always struck me as a fun activity among friends, but legs 2 and 3 have to spend an inordinate amount of time simply waiting in the cold, there’s little to no fanfare for leg 2 if you like that kind of thing, and divvying up the legs to see who gets to do what obstacles never seemed like a fair shake.

This sprint distance keeps the miles manageable for those who want that, and more importantly everyone gets to experience the most iconic and exhilarating portions of the race. Specifically the stadium stair climb and the final wall (at the final wall you also close with the taxi climb, bus climb, and fence crawl trifecta). I’m not sure what other obstacles are included throughout, but at gunpoint I lay money on police barricades, jersey barricades and a cargo net for starters … maybe a tire stutter step. That’s a pretty gutsy race, and you’ll have earned your light beer in the festival afterward (if you’re gonna have to wait somewhere, the beer tent is the place, not the course).

Depending on when you register, the sprint will run you $65, $78, $85 or $94.

When the 2012 post-event survey came out I gave an emphatic ‘no’ to the sprint distance. But in this case I’m glad Men’s Health didn’t listen. I think this will be a nice, ummm, ‘change’ for an event that works hard to balance keeping things consistent with adding something new to keep us challenged and coming back.

So if you crave a more full Urbanathlon experience, but 10-11 miles is a bit out of your comfort zone, the sprint is a great fit. Make it so.

Now go climb some stairs! You’re gonna need the reps before hitting Soldier Field/Citi Field/AT&T Park.

Now everyone gets to experience the joy and pain of the stadium climb.

Now everyone gets to experience the joy and pain of the stadium climb.



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