Conquer the Gauntlet offers feats of masochism geared equally to the power walkers and those who find their high by pushing through physical exhaustion, wetness, a few blisters and plenty of mud.
For centuries, going all the way back to Koroibos, the winner of the first recorded Olympics of ancient Greece in 776 B.C., Earth’s best athletes have raced competitively on foot. The world still showcases its finest runners in the most competitive footraces at the Olympics every four years. But these days, obstacle course races, like this month’s Conquer the Gauntlet at POSTOAK Lodge and Retreat, give the ordinary Joe or Josephine a chance to show what they’re made of.
Conquer the Gauntlet, based in Tulsa, has forged itself into the upper echelon of obstacle races by becoming one of the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship qualifying races. Yes, there’s a world championship of obstacle course racing. It’s that big nowadays. You’ve probably heard of Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race. They’re huge events every year. In fact, industry experts predict that the obstacle course racing industry will reach $1 billion in 2017 and rumor has it that the IOC (International Olympics Committee) is looking into creating an event that is based on races like Tulsa’s Conquer the Gauntlet.
Co-founder Courtney Mainprize sees Conquer the Gauntlet, which began in 2012, as a “jam packed” version of a lot of the other obstacle races out there.
“It really started as an idea of something we thought would be fun to run,” Mainprize says. “The options at the time were either run really far, like a half-marathon distance with 20 obstacles or a 5K which only gets 10 obstacles. We created a run we would have liked that is a short distance but with all the obstacles.”
The course set out for the Conquer the Gauntlet race at POSTOAK Lodge and Retreat is 4.11 miles, has 28 obstacles and an average run time of one hour and 32 minutes.
Why did Mainprize and her husband, Stephen, and his brother, David, start Conquer the Gauntlet? “It’s unique and it’s fun,” she says. “It’s not something you can do every weekend. You can always go see a movie. You can have some friends over and have a cookout, but to do something that’s big, that puts you a little out of your comfort zone or allows you to do something that maybe you’ve been training for, that’s why we started it. It’s a little hard to go to the gym, day in and day out, without a goal.”
Although the race is never exactly the same from venue to venue or year to year, there are two obstacles that make Conquer the Gauntlet challenging and unique: Stairway to Heaven and Pegatron.
The only challenge of its kind in the obstacle racing industry, the Stairway to Heaven obstacle climbs 17 feet into the air, over a 7-foot deep mud pit. Using only their hands, participants must scale the underside of the staircase to the top, and back down the other side.
“A lot of people set as their goal to complete Stairway,” Mainprize says, “and by 2015 many of them got it, so we made another challenging obstacle called Pegatron.”
Sliding left to right, competitors use pegs to traverse Pegatron. Sticking the pegs in and out of holes with their arms, participants move through the obstacle, steadying themselves occasionally with pegs at their feet. Halfway through, however, the pegs where the feet could rest are no longer there, and it becomes entirely up to upper-body strength to finish the course.
Other challenging obstacles you’re likely to see this year would be the Cliffhanger, Belly of the Beast, Hammer Time, Razor’s Edge, Walls of Fury and Pit of Despair, to name a few. Just thinking about the intense possibilities those names conjure up sounds intimidating.
Yes, Courtney and her co-founders had in mind a race that challenges the competitive athlete, but also one that anyone can set out to participate in.
“You don’t have to be at the peak of fitness or be able to do all the obstacles. If you can walk 4 miles, you can do this. Really, we see everyone,” says Mainprize. “We see the typical fitness enthusiasts that are gym regulars. They’re fit. They’re in shape. But we also see groups of, like, soccer moms. They might not have a gym membership. Maybe they walk a couple of times a week, or they’re just trying to get back into shape. They’re using this to just motivate each other. They’ll say, ‘I can’t do this alone, but we can do this together.’”
And the choice of venue for the race couldn’t be any more perfect. Folks who have visited POSTOAK’s thousand-acre lodge and retreat know that it truly does offer something for everyone.
“The beauty of POSTOAK,” says Trish Kerkstra, the race venue’s general manager, “is that we’ve got so much acreage, it lends itself to lots of different outdoor events like Conquer the Gauntlet, but also the Child Abuse Network Superhero event, as well as the POSTOAK Wine and Jazz Festival we have in September.”
Conquer the Gauntlet
POSTOAK Lodge and Retreat
5323 W. 31st St. | Tulsa
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