Memorial Day – a day set aside to our honor military heroes – for many, also signifies the start of warmer, sunnier, and better summer days. After what seemed like a dreary, cold winter here in the Midwest, I’m happy to say that the unofficial start of summer has finally arrived! What makes me happier than that, is that for Ohio residing mud run enthusiasts like myself, we have access to the perfect way to celebrate that transition – with an obstacle course race of course. So on May 27, 2019, while many Americans fired up their barbecues, nearly 200 participants gathered in Columbus, Ohio to take on the Memorial Day Mayhem.
Memorial Day Mayhem is a local OCR event that takes place at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus at their permanent obstacle course training facility, the Black Diamond Obstacle Course. Designed by JCC Fitness Director Jason Goggins, the Black Diamond Obstacle Course has been repeatedly nominated for best OCR training facility by the Mud Run Guide “Muddies” awards.
I have trained at the Black Diamond Obstacle Course on several occasions, and this was my second year participating in the Memorial Day Mayhem.
On race day, the weather in Columbus was beautiful with sunshine and temperatures upwards of 70 degrees. With the sunshine and heat, my fellow racers and I found a great appreciation for the heavily wooded trails and shade provided on much of the course. The course covered 3.1 miles of extremely technical and single track trails, included a wide variety of man-made and natural obstacles (40 total obstacles), and offered three refreshing water stops.
Nearly 200 racers participated in either elite or open waves. The race commenced at 9 am, with four elite heats, each with a maximum of 20 participants, starting at 15-minute intervals. Numerous open waves of five to ten participants each began at ten o’clock and took off at one to two-minute intervals. I participated in the open wave.
For this event, elite waves required participants to strive for mandatory obstacle completion and utilized wristbands to account for those who had earned 100% obstacle completion. Competitors were able to try obstacles as many times as they needed to pass the obstacle or else forfeit their wristband. Open wave participants were encouraged to attempt every obstacle; however, there was no penalty for sidestepping or failing an obstacle.
Understanding that the Black Diamond Obstacle Course is primarily an OCR training facility, the course included many of the “typical” obstacles we see in bigger name OCRs such as a rope climb, rope traverse, log carry, monkey bars, and many wall variations. These traditional obstacles have come to be a staple in our beloved sport and I was appeased to see these scattered throughout the 40-obstacle course. In addition to these OCR favorites, there were also many unique obstacles, utilizing the natural environment and terrain, as well as innovative, manmade obstacle creations.
To name one of these innovative constructions, new to the Black Diamond Course for 2019, was the “Ring of Fire” – an inverted wall with rings hanging from the top that required racers to scale and surmount the wall using momentum, grip strength, and a fair bit of courage. Other obstacles unique to Memorial Day Mayhem included, for the second year, the “Undercarriage” and the “Diamond Cutter”. I believe that it’s these distinctive obstacles that set the Memorial Day Mayhem apart from other obstacle course racing events.
In the ever-developing sport of obstacle course racing, no matter how great the event, I believe that there is also room for improvement and growth. In this case, that is in regards to bottlenecks at obstacles as well as on the single track trails. Since the venue is first and foremost a training facility, most of the obstacles are a single lane or at most, allow 2-3 racers on a given obstacle at a time. I will say that I did see improvement from the 2018 to 2019 events – perhaps attributed to the small, staggered starting waves – and while running the open wave, I did not mind waiting at times to complete an obstacle or to jog behind a fellow runner until an opportunity to pass arrived.
New for 2019, the Memorial Day Mayhem offered a kids course courtesy of the Buckeye Ninja and Obstacle Course Racing and welcomed a number of new event sponsors. Sponsors included: MudGear, Altra Running, Matrix Fitness, Orthopedic One, Captain Marvel, and World of Beer.
After the race, participants and spectator alike were able to enjoy a small festival area with access to the kids' course, a water play station for kids, the Black Swamp Runner traveling rig, DJ entertainment, and more.
Awards were given to the top three male/female competitors, well as to the top three masters men and women with the course record for the day being an impressive 33:30 by first place male, Brandon Ours.
All Memorial Day Mayhem finishers walked away with a finisher medal, a Black Diamond Obstacle Course t-shirt, a banana, and bottled water.
I rate the event at a 4 out of 5, as it (for the second year in a row), exceeded my expectations! This event continues to be the perfect warm-up race for beginners and first-time mud-runners, as well as for seasoned racers eagerly beginning their “racing season”. Overall, Memorial Day Mayhem is an enjoyable, affordable, accessible, yet challenging event that proves to hold its own in the OCR community and reminds us of the benefits of racing local. I would absolutely recommend this event to all Midwest obstacle course racing fanatics and to those looking to traveling for Memorial Day weekend. For the third time, I already have my calendar marked for the events’ return in 2020!
Until next time, happy racing!
*Memorial Day Mayhem is an event that takes place only once a year and is the first event in the “Ohio Grand Slam”. The Ohio Grand Slam is a racing challenge put together by locally-owned Ohio obstacle course races and directors. Events included in the Ohio Grand Slam are Memorial Day Mayhem, the Black Swamp Dash, Indian Mud Run, Mud Ninja, and the Nightmare Challenge and competitors who participate in these events are proud to support local racing.
*Results from the 2019 Memorial Day Mayhem are available at SpeedySneakers.com and race photos can be found on the Black Diamond Obstacle Course Facebook page. *Race photos featured in this article are courtesy of the Black Diamond Obstacle Course Facebook page.
*Couldn’t make it to the 2019 Memorial Day Mayhem? The JCC of Greater Columbus and Black Diamond Obstacle Course offers occasional open training days throughout the year. Be sure to follow their Facebook page for additional information and open training dates.
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This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.