Urban Outdoors: Conquer the course obstacles at Wintergreen’s Adventure Challenge

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Like this spring’s Mud Warrior in Gordonsville, the Adventure Challenge at Wintergreen features a strenuous course. But, don’t worry—each obstacle is optional! (Photo by Billy Hunt)

Lately, a growing number of running races are featuring more than mileage between the start and finish lines. Series like the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Muddy Buddy are exploding in popularity across the country—gaining an increasing number of entrants intrigued by the inclusion of obstacles along their courses. The challenges usually range from the exhausting (scaling large barricade walls) to the unnerving (crawling through mud pits under barbed wire) to the downright sadistic (navigating a maze of live electric wires or charging through fire pits).

Locally, you can get a taste of the action on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1, at the new Adventure Challenge at Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County.

“When you look across North America, a lot of these adventure-style races are popping up all over the place,” said Todd Clarke, Wintergreen’s director of mountain operations. “We’ve tried to create a course that will challenge the fittest of the fit, but also something that somebody with moderate fitness ability could navigate.”

After an indisputably tough winter for skiers, Wintergreen is hosting the event in an effort to diversify year-round recreation offerings. It became apparent the resort’s infrastructure could offer an obstacle race after Tough Mudder successfully held one of its races at Wintergreen last fall.

The Adventure Challenge, though, has been designed to be more inclusive to a range of skill levels. All of the course’s 20 obstacles are optional, and the organizers are calling the event a personal endurance challenge and intentionally avoiding the word “race,” as none of the participants will be timed.

Clarke said most people will be on the course between two and three hours, with the fastest runners finishing in about 90 minutes. Participants can take as much time as they need. Organizers are anticipating up to 3,000 runners each day.

“More than half of the people will probably hike the whole course,” he added. “It’s designed to have many different gears, but we wanted anyone to be able to come and have fun.”
Although accessible, the Adventure Challenge will by no means be easy. It is a seven-mile route through Wintergreen’s steep mountain terrain, including some serious ascents up slopes that are usually reserved for downhill skiing.

Runners should be ready to get dirty, as the course will feature plenty of crawling through mud and sand. Other obstacles include balancing on a spinning log in water, climbing a fresh cut pine tree and running through a set of blazing snow guns. There will also be a few refreshing breathers, like a section of waterslides.

The toughest part will most likely be what’s been dubbed the Green Mile—an uphill slog in the Black Diamond-rated Highlands section of the ski resort that will find runners gaining 1,000′ in just under a mile. Once runners reach the top, they’ll immediately be asked to blow up a balloon.

“[The obstacles] are strategically placed so once people feel like they’ve gotten over a hurdle they’ll run into another,” Clarke said. “We run you through water, mud, and hay—the whole gamut.”

Up for the Challenge?
Adventure Challenge races take place on both Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1. The entry fee is $109 per person on Saturday and $99 on Sunday. Discounts are available for entering as a team. For more information, call 325-8177.

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