ROC Race Brings Out Wild Side of Running

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The leaders at VAVi Sports in San Diego, California were obviously television game show fans growing up.

The organization was brainstorming adventure racing ideas, when TV programs from their childhood kept popping up in their heads. Specifically, shows like Double Dare, American Gladiators, MXC, or more recently, Wipeout.

"Everyone watches those shows and thinks, 'Dude, I want to do that. I want to go on a course and do those obstacles,'" said Keith Cunningham, marketing director of VAVi Sports. "So we made a 5K obstacle course.

"It's inspired by the whole 80s and 90s game shows, and then we added a running element."

The Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge Race (ROC) debuted in the spring of 2011 in Del Mar, California (near San Diego), and its second race debuts November 2011 in Pomona, California (near Los Angeles). The debut race in Del Mar attracted 6,000 participants, and was considered a huge success.

"The first one was a test--let's do it, see how it sells, see what their reactions are," Cunningham said. "It was nothing but incredible. All of the feedback has been nothing but stellar."

The 5K course is crazy, to put it mildly. Besides the running, it features obstacles like a rope swing over a water pit, a ladder climb followed by a slide down a fire pole, a mad dash through a zone that features giant bouncy balls being thrown at you, monkey bars over a water pit and a giant inflatable slide. Most participants navigate through this course wearing costumes, some of them downright wacky.

And afterward? Beer. Plenty of beer. All participants in the Pomona race received their first beer for free.

Post-race suds is nothing new, of course, but it's certainly a fitting finish to a wild race.

"People love to run, but people love to run in costumes and get ridiculous," Cunningham said. "Why not call the race the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge?"

What's noticeable with the ROC Race, too, is that it's not necessarily going to get you filthy. VAVi also organizes the Del Mar Mud Run, so it's not against slop. But outside of possibly getting wet if you fall off the rope swing or the monkey bars, you'll get through the ROC Race course and won't need to go through a car wash afterward.

"Mud runs are huge, but not everybody likes mud," Cunningham said. "That's one thing we noticed."

The ROC Race concept was a success in its first year, and that has VAVi thinking bigger. The plan is to expand the ROC Race into multiple cities in 2012. Really, anywhere that has a crowd looking to get fit and act crazy doing it could qualify.

"We have people who try to blaze through the course as fast as possible," Cunningham said. "But it's a social run. It's more focused on the social aspect rather than the competitive element. That's what people want--they want to be active but they want to have fun."

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