The Race Spotlight Series continues this weekend with a New England staple, F.I.T. Challenge. F.I.T. an acronym for Fortitude, Integrity and Toughness Challenge held it's first event in 2013 at the Cracker Barrel Fairgrounds in Wrenthem, Mass. F.I.T. Challenge is an OCR World Championships qualifier race and was recently named the Runner-up for Best Small Race Series in 2015 Mud Run Guide Awards. We sat down with race director and owner of F.I.T. Challenge, Robb McCoy to learn more about the event.
Tell me a little about your first F.I.T. Challenge…
It was a combination of MANY factors. Originally it was my idea; I reached out to a former track coach of mine to ask him to be a partner. He initially agreed, then shortly after decided he didn’t want to be involved, and I’m thankful every day he didn’t!!! I had NO intention of being the “next best thing” or taking over the OCR world, I just wanted a fun, Challenging event for anyone to participate. I initially contacted virtually every local race in my area to “work together.” Let’s just say that wasn’t met with lots of resistance!!! So it was me, picking everyone’s brains, running as many races as I could, talking to as many people as possible and trying to be everywhere!
The first event was a hit! We had 1,232 runners. People had a great time and got what they were promised, a fun day with your family and a Challenge on the course!
How has the event grown since the first event?
We certainly have. We changed venues twice. Went to WWI Park in North Attleboro of April 2014 and then to Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, RI in October 2014 and we’ve been there ever since. The folks in Cumberland are AMAZING. We have struck gold at this venue. I fully believe it’s the most Challenging short course (under 4 miles) OCR there is. We now have two OCR’s per year (April and November) and we had our first Trail Race this past Thanksgiving and had a Trail Race scheduled for March 13th in addition to our inaugural TrailFecta to be held next fall with dates on 10/23, 11/24 and 12/11. So all told we have six events planned for 2016!
What have you learned from each event you have put on?
Don’t trust the Reebok “Store on Wheels” that guy is a scumbag
When your t-shirt sponsor says he’s bringing enough shirts, he’s not, order a lot more yourself
Whatever number of volunteers you think you need, double it, a lot don’t show up or leave early
The New England Spahtens are the greatest thing EVER to happen to local OCR!
NEVER put your first obstacle less than ¾ of a mile on your course
There is NO such thing as over marking a course, when in doubt, caution tape the hell out of it! AND even when you think your course is over marked, someone will still find a way to get lost!
People LOVE swag!!!
Changing tents should always and I mean ALWAYS be staked down, or they blow away!
Groupon and Living Social “can” work for you if done right, even though I’m done with them!
The absolute, next big craze on OCR will be multiple lap races and events, and WE started it in October 2014! Yup, we did!!!
The greatest stories from my events come from my Dad and best friend who collect the parking money…hahaha!!!
Until you have organized an OCR you have NO idea what it is like, I don’t care how many races you have participated in. Once you have organized one, yes, now you “get it.”
Whatever you think might be your issue on race day, won’t, whatever you think you have nailed, will be your problem!
A good volunteer coordinator is worth their weight in gold as is a good registration coordinator!
What are some of the obstacles that you get most excited for participants to try out?
Our most Challenging obstacle is the actual course. It is the least intimidating looking venue when you pull up to the venue. It looks like some trees….but then 150 yards from the start line the first hill drops you immediately! The course is just awesome! The terrain is rocky, then flat, then steep, and then trails, then some grass and then wicked downhills. It never allows you to get into a rhythm, which is why it’s AWESOME!
Aside from the course, we have a few unique and Challenging obstacles. We have a peg board climb immediately followed by a rope climb that’s a killer. Our Double-Up’s are big trees cut in half that you have to climb over that are Challenging and unique. Our rig changes each event and last time we added suspended rock wall grips on a landscape tie. Our rig ends with a 12’ vertical cargo net which people love. And of course, The Destroyer…Larry’s obstacle made its first appearance in November and what a reaction it had! It’s amazing!
Are you known for a certain obstacle?
I would say we have become known for the Wreck Bag carry. We were the first ever OCR to have the Wreck Bags at their event, in April 2014, and have and will have them at every event in the future. They are an AMAZING company, and the product is incredible. I use it myself in training almost every day, and I teach 4 GetWrecked fitness classes each week at a local fitness facility. Our medal in April 2015 was a replica Wreck Bag!
What do you think makes your event stand out from the others in the industry?
Wellllll…we just are what we say we are! A Challenging, local, mom and pop race and business. I will answer your email within minutes. We respond to everything on social media, are active in the OCR community and genuinely care about providing the best possible race experience. We have grown and continue to grow. Our events now are a MUCH different “feel” than before. Someone said it perfect last event, “it feels and looks like I’m at a big national race, but there is still that local OCR charm about it.” That’s exactly what we want. I’m not retiring from what we make at the events, not even close. I’m a high school teacher so this is a “side business” for me, but it’s my lifestyle. I don’t just believe in F.I.T. Challenge; I live F.I.T. Challenge every day, and I think it’s clear to everyone that’s the case and very clear that I and all of us involved care.
How have you seen the industry evolve since you began holding events?
Well, the new races popping up all over the place has certainly slowed, as there aren’t many new ones anymore. I think the ridiculous growth has pretty much leveled, and now it’s about maintenance more than anything. The two biggest evolutions, I see are in multi-laps and training. The craze in multi-laps has been awesome, and our program has grown significantly, and April will be very big! I am a multi-lapper, so I absolutely see why it’s so great!
There are certainly a LOT more dedicated facilities to train for OCR. When it started maybe a few gyms had a wall or some monkey bars, now there are five dedicated facilities in my area alone!
Anything else we should look for in 2016
We have our first Trail Race of 2016 coming up in March, so I’m pumped about that, and we also do group training monthly at Fitness Appeal, which is an OCR Training Facility up in Lawrence, Mass. I’m very excited to get in the gym and get F.I.T. with some inspiring folks! I’m also extremely excited about my new position with Bonefrog Challenge as Race Coordinator. We have 6 Bonefrog events scheduled for 2016, so I’m going to be quite busy! Bonefrog is an incredible event, and our values and mindset towards things are perfectly aligned. I can’t wait to help them grow as we do 4 traveling events in 2016!
We have donated more than $20,000 through our events to various organizations! We were given the 2014 Global Achievement Award by Joslins Diabetes Center. We just collected over 1,100 food items for The Rhode Island Community Food Bank at our Thanksgiving Day Trail Race. So we do our best to help as many worthy causes as we can.
Find More information about F.I.T. Challenge Here