Military-style obstacle race to benefit U. of Iowa veterans

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Mud runs, Spartan races, warrior dashes and other types of adventure-style runs involving obstacles – like crawling under barbed wire and jumping through fire – have exploded in popularity of late.

Most courses traverse wooded areas, creeks and fields – like the Mud Run in Des Moines. But one University of Iowa student has launched an urban-set obstacle run in Iowa City that will – among other things – involve climbing 500-plus steps in Kinnick Stadium and mounting trucks using cargo nets.

“We tried to create a unique race and do something different than what is out there,” said event organizer Mike Considine. “It’s unlike any other race in Eastern Iowa.”

Considine, also an avionics technician for the National Guard and president of the UI Veterans Association, said he and his colleagues designed the urban obstacle course based on their own military training.

“We went back through the obstacles we all went through during our time in the service and drew from those,” he said. “But we also wanted the obstacles to be ones that everyone could do.”

Mirroring the race – called the Warrior Challenge – after military-style obstacles is fitting for its mission, Considine said. All proceeds benefit veterans locally and nationally via the UI Veterans Association, which supports veterans on the UI campus, and the Fisher House Foundation, a national organization known for supporting family members of veterans receiving treatment in military hospitals.

The Warrior Challenge actually got its start on the UI campus in 2012 in a different form. It included both a traditional 5K run and a “warrior team challenge.”

“But we wanted to create a race that was unique,” Considine said.

Beginning this year and going forward, the race combines the two into a 4K obstacle run that includes eight challenges and starts and ends in the UI Recreation Building, near Kinnick Stadium. Obstacles include the football stadium stair climb, a tunnel crawl through semi-truck tires, a sandbag carry and a “cargo climb” over a truck.

Considine, 21, of Sioux City, said he’s on track to graduate in Spring 2015 and wanted to make the event sustainable and easy to repeat for future race organizers. Most of the obstacles can be reused – although Considine said he expects they’ll throw in one mystery obstacle each year.

So far, efforts to bolster participation by giving the event a unique spin appear successful. He expects 500 runners this weekend, along with 160-plus volunteers and about 200 spectators. This year’s proceeds already have reached $10,000, topping the $7,000 raised the first year and the $3,000 raised last year – when the event collided with Easter weekend.

“It really seems like our participants are happy and excited,” he said. “Now I just have to do my job and follow through to make it a fun race.”

Considine – also a member of the UI Trihawks Triathlon Club and headed to the national championships next week – said he’s run the course twice and plans to complete it a third time before the registrants attempt it Sunday morning.

Although many of the event’s volunteers are veterans – there are more than 650 former and current service members on the UI campus – other community members are pitching in too, including those from fraternities and sororities.

This is the first year the run has involved Kinnick Stadium – named after famed Hawkeye footballer Nile Kinnick, the only Heisman Trophy winner to die in military combat, said Allen Roberts Jr., UI military and veterans education specialist.

“We figured that was appropriate,” Roberts said.

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