Most of us have heard about the adult obstacle races such as Spartan Races and the elite TriFecta designation.  Another big name is Tough Mudder and others.   These mostly focus on adults and are highly competitive.  While I have heard they are now offering kids challenges, I have not specifically attended one and reading about them they appear to be geared towards older kids.

We recently attended the Kids Obstacle Challenge near Portland Oregon.  This was a fantastic event for families first-time obstacle challenge.  The course was about 1.5 miles and presented about a dozen obstacles.  The course was set in the Columbia River Gorge at Rooster Rock State Park.  This setting offered a beautiful trail system complete with its own natural challenges of hills and a steep sandy drop off.

The Kids Obstacle Challenge was a great introduction for my younger children.  The obstacles presented required a basic level of skill and concentration.  The intensity comes from running the course and personal challenges with a partner or other groups of kids.  When the completed the race, both of them were tired however excited about completing the experience.

When we arrived the setup was not overly impressive and the signage was not super clear however we were pleasantly greeted and pointed in the right direction.  Check In was easy, we could have done it online, however, I was not sure if our schedule would allow us to get there in time so I registered at the event.

The starting line was a great atmosphere with people pumping up the kids, guiding them through a quick stretch session.  They put on a mini show for the participants and sprayed the crowd with water guns.  Parents beware, the kids and staff will turn on you, if your dry and your kid point to you, they will aim their Super Soakers at you and fire.

The race starts with energy and excitement, the kids shot out of the starting area.  At the time, I knew parents could accompany their kids on the course, however, I did not know, parents could participate and run the course with their kids.  The teenagers start each course followed by kids separated by age ranges.  Bring your own change of clothes so you too can experience the adventure with your kiddos.

The course was filled with motivational signs encouraging the kids.  They had balance beams, crawling and climbing obstacles, and the grand finale was a two part mud obstacle.  The first was a rope swing into a mud pit than a mud crawl.  As they cross the finish line, they are awarded a completion medal just like they were victorious at the Olympics.  For an extra $5 participants can run the course again.

We hesitated initially about participating.  Our youngest is five years old and we were not sure how he would do given the length and number of obstacles. He was a rockstar.  His energy level was high, his determination to finish the course was on display and while he was tired once he crossed the finish line he was all smiles and his confidence was sky high.  Since completing the course, he likes to show family and friends his medal and tell them about what he went through.  This was a fantastic experience for both kids, as it really improved their self-confidence and showed them they could achieve something that at first looked a little overwhelming.

Some takeaways from our first experience.

  • Save some money and register early online. It was about $20 more expensive per kid because we waited.  With the money, you saved in registration fees consider buying a t-shirt for about $25.
  • Bring a change of clothes, towel and a plastic bag or something to hold the wet muddy clothing when you leave. After the race, they provide an area with hoses to spray the kiddos off.  While that was helpful in no way cleaned off all the mud.
  • Next year we decided to go earlier in the day allowing the kids to run the course additional times. Despite being tired, they were ready to take another go at it even if they walked more the second time.

Lastly, just do it.  Take your younger child or teenager.  Run it with them and have that bonding experience that creates those memories we all want.  Next year, now that I know I can join my kids on the course, I will swing and crawl through the mud with them.  My reward will be the memory of being with them and also the photo with all of us covered in mud!

Once they are a little older move them up to the youth events offered by Tough Mudder and Spartan Races.  This experience has provided consideration to participating in one of the adult obstacle races.  Check out the Kids Obstacle Challenge website for their scheduled events and locations.