First off, some background on Savage Race:
It was founded in 2011 by Sam Abbitt and Lloyd Parker. Abbitt also serves as CEO of the company and Parker is the COO, creating the obstacles that are featured on the course today. Savage Race is easily one of the biggest national companies with over 100,000 participating in their events around the country.
Let’s start with the organization of the event: hands down, it was an incredibly well organized event. Let’s start with check-in. Before race day, they email you all of the information you need for the day of the event, including waivers to sign. I had mine printed, filled out, and signed; after that, I just had to hand it to the attendant. They also do something I haven’t seen anyone else do: put all important information in an envelope with your name on it. I used to see 5K fun runs do this. It makes life so much easier. Plus, they were organized in order of bib number. I found where my number would be, hopped in line, and it was done that fast.
They also had an efficient bag check-in, but they charged five bucks for it. I know what you’re all thinking: “Five bucks isn’t that big a deal.” True, but it’s the only one I’ve done so far that charged for bag check. It seems like a small thing, but why are other courses able to offer free bag checks and Savage Race, one of the biggest in the country, can’t? Maybe it’s because it was my first run that was over 3.1 miles and they need a little help with the setup? No idea. I just thought it was odd.
Aside from that, they had an overall excellent setup. Everything was easy to find, and the staff (both paid and volunteer) were very helpful with any questions.
Grade for Event Organization: A
Let’s move on to the course itself. They promise the best obstacles, and believe me, they don’t disappoint. In Florida, the course was a touch over seven miles, so they had lots of space to play with. Overall, they had a decent spacing for their obstacles, doing a nice job mixing between some “easier” obstacles (like mud crawls or cargo net climbs) and their signature obstacles. Their signatures, by the way, promised a challenge for sure. It was my first time taking on Sawtooth, Pipe Dream, and their newest Wheel World, and they definitely pushed me to my personal limits.
The one thing that got me was spacing could’ve been a bit better. After the initial half mile or so at the start of the race before the first obstacle, there were a couple huge chunks of running space between obstacles. I’m guessing that is by design, mainly to give Savagers some time to rest up a bit, but there were a couple of times where I was going through the run and thinking, “Ummmm, am I going to get to climb something soon?”
As far as pushing limits is concerned, Savage Race easily delivered on that one. Part of the reason I do obstacle racing is to look some of my fears in the face, and it was one of the most straightforward obstacles that really forced me to do so. The obstacle was Davy Jones’ Locker. Again, straightforward: climb up to this platform, then jump into the water below. Except the platform is between 15-20 feet up, and the pool of water is probably a good seven to eight feet deep. I’ve got a whole post coming up specifically about this later, so I won’t say any more about it here. We’ll just leave it here: it was more difficult than one might imagine, at least for me.
Grade for Obstacles: A- (just because I think the long stretches, planned or not, didn’t need to be as long as they were)
Moving on to the After Party: Savage Race knows how to party! First off, one of their beer partners is Shock Top. One of my current favorite beers: Shock Top. I’m already sold there. They had an awesome DJ playing great music to dance to, contests for athletes, an area full of tables and chairs so that Savagers could SIT and enjoy themselves for a bit, and plenty of places for great photo opportunities.
Plus they did something I haven’t seen anyone else do yet: they had stuff for the kids. Lots of families come to root on Mom or Dad in the race, and they are just spectators. But the entertainment crew got the kids going too. Not only do they have Savage Jr. (a half-mile course with 10-12 obstacles), but kids who are just there to watch can do things like foot races offered up by the entertainment crew after.
Oh, and they also offer an incredible deal for those at Savage Race events: a special discount to sign up for the next Savage Race. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Grade for After Party: A+ (giving something for everyone to enjoy pushes this one up big time)
Other notes on the event: after finishing the course (well, really, I was limping over the finish line), I thought it smart to seek out the medics to just get looked over. Savage Race boasts that off its 225 staff members at the events, about 50 of them are medical personnel. A tenet of these and all others is that safety and their participants’ health is paramount to having an awesome time. I saw a couple of medics on a golf cart and asked where their tent was. The young lady in the back told me where, then asked if I needed help. Originally, I brushed it off, but she had the driver stop the cart and helped me in the back. It was just a really bad cramp, but they still treated it with the type of priority you’d expect for a twisted ankle or worse. This was incredibly impressive, and while I am not saying that any other event’s course would do less, I just have to say that this was great from them. Bad cramps are not the worst thing to happen, but they treated me just the same.
And now, a personal view:
All of these obstacle course races are businesses, so they have to promote themselves so they can continue to build and become better. However, I feel like Savage Race approaches this differently. Let me explain: before the race, I found a video on YouTube of the spring Savage Race in Florida. At the starting line (they did this when I was there too), they split the crowd and have them do this buildup where they lock arms and rock back and forth while shouting “Ooh! Aah!” and so on. This was cool, but in the video, they made a point to put a camera down the line so they could get pictures and videos of this (like a photo op). During my race, they stopped folks at the cargo net so they could get an epic group shot. I heard some people skip this obstacle upset that the line was held up for the photo op. At Davy Jones’ Locker, they would give priority to those who planned on doing a flip off the platform so they could create epic videos of six Savagers doing acrobatics.
Look, I get that these companies need to show all the people who are having a blast. However, the races I had done prior all do it much more organically. Savage Race had photographers planted throughout getting some great photos, but stopping the line for the photo op? I get why some would be upset by that. And look, they all do it. Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Rugged Maniac, they all want to show the most epic of their participants in action so they can get more participants for next time. Here’s the best way I can explain it: Savage Race says they’re the best because of all the people who sign up for their events; others say they’re the best because the people are the best. Other events promote the people because they push themselves; Savage Race seems to like pushing the number of people.
Is that going to stop me from doing Savage Race again? Absolutely not. In fact, I have a personal bone to pick (more with myself) with how Savage Race ended for me. No one wants a picture of them limping over the finish line, so I’m going back for Savage Race. This time, I managed to finish; next time, I will beat it.