The clouds lifted, the sun came out, and suddenly the fields of the Fairgrounds were flooded with the faithful of Goliathon, ready to try the obstacles for their eleventh event. One veteran of all eleven was there, Jedi Markowski. This was my third event and it was a real treat.
The staff, minus co-founder Doug Horton who earlier in the year announced his retirement, promised an exciting day with some old favorites along with one new obstacle and a few rule changes. They also wanted our feedback on all that so here it is.
First, for those not familiar with Goliathon, here are the basic facts: It is a permanent course located in Mullica Hill, NJ on the 4-H Fairgrounds. This is their fifth season (two events per year). There are about twelve obstacles on the course, each tiered to the ability level of athletes from beginner to expert. Of the thousands who have attempted this course, as of Goliathon IX last year, only 21 individuals have completed every expert obstacle in a single race. But it’s not a race. There is no timing. Just points accumulated based on the level of obstacle you complete, or not.
Some of that will change in Goliathon XI. First, there will be a four-hour time cap for each athlete to complete the course. If you are out there beyond four hours, you may complete the course, but your point accumulation will stop at the cut-off. Next, once you start an obstacle, you may take a rest at any time, but you may not remain idle for more than 30 seconds. Otherwise, the referee will notify you to get moving and possibly DQ you. Personally, I get that they want to keep things moving but this one will be very hard to manage given the crowds. Just too many people to watch.
There is one rule change on the warped wall. Athletes no longer get three attempts. Only one. So choose your tier wisely. The reason for this rule change is that it was too difficult to monitor how many attempts athletes made. One is easy. I think this is a good idea. Athletes, if you want multiple attempts, you should come out to Try the Obstacles Day.
Finally, there is at least one new obstacle – Arachnophobia. Located where Half Dome used to be. Athletes swing from a base into a spider wall. At the end of the wall is a slack line. Cross the slack line and climb a wall. Finally, jump off the wall onto a big pad. This obstacle, inspired by American Ninja Warrior, will probably DQ a lot of athletes. Slacklining is just getting into mainstream OCR and most athletes have little experience with it. My advice is to buy a slackline and start training. Most people will not take my advice and this will cause a huge bottleneck on game day, just like it did yesterday. Goliathon may want to consider a 30 second time limit here.)
Enough of the technical stuff and onto the fun. I brought my son Aaron with me. My training partner John brought his brother Ralph. Aaron and Ralph are both brand new to OCR. They picked it right up and got hooked. Aaron even went for a few of the most difficult tier obstacles. That brought cheers and encouragement from our group and it really made his day. He loved the close-knit feel that we all had from the little kids up to the old adults like me. That adrenaline took him to the top of the 16-foot warped wall and across the tiny blue floating tires of Leap of Faith.
Ralph, a local gym teacher, picked right up on the techniques we coached to him from the sidelines. He sailed through the mid-tiers without much problem. Both Ralph and Aaron became students of technique by watching experts and little kids alike. By the way, most of these kids go to the local ninja gyms and they are incredibly talented. Many of them are taught by Jedi, a former ANW contestant. The one technique that every athlete learns on this course, usually the hard way, is to pick your line, get going, and use momentum to carry you through. Because once you double up on any hold, you land in the doldrums, unable to escape.
Goliathon XI is June 1. Registration is still open. I’ve been around OCR for seven years now and to me, this event is one of the best out there. It is one of the few, if only, non-running events where you can qualify for the NORAM Championships. For all you’ve done and continue to do Goliathon, I give you another 5 out of 5 rating. And of course, for those unfamiliar, there’s plenty of parking, potties, and provisions on TTOD and race day. Never an issue thanks to the expert Goliathon staff.