I noticed from my web traffic logs that a lot of people were coming across my blog while searching for urbanathlon training tips. My existing articles didn’t really touch on how to train for an urbanathlon so I thought I would write something up for everyone out there. I remember back when I was prepping for the race reading the Men’s Health Training Guide and thinking that it seemed pretty ridiculous. After having actually completed a race I would say the training guide is a cut and paste job. Unless you have an extra hour a day to waste on stretching and weight training then save yourself a lot of time and get some advice from me.
First and foremost this is a foot race. If you want to have a killer time then train like you were going to run a half marathon. That means starting twelve to sixteen weeks out if you aren’t already in good form and focus on running three to four times per week and steadily increasing mileage/pace. I would shoot for being able to run ten miles at your goal pace two weeks before race day. Make sure that you stretch before and after running as well as stay hydrated and eat after running! If you are having trouble increasing your pace then mix in some interval training. I won’t get too into this because there are a million guides to half marathon training already out there. If you do nothing but train for the run and handle the obstacles as they come on race day you will do just fine.
The obstacles are easy. Okay, not easy easy, but relatively speaking they comprise a miniscule part of the overall race. Except for the stair climb each obstacle took me no more than a minute. So even if you are a five minute miler those obstacles will only consist of about 2% of your course time. The most important aspect of the obstacles is to have some foresight into how best to handle the obstacle and to maybe have practiced a little bit on your own. You do not need to go out of your way to train really hard at the obstacles.
The tire stutter step and climb over is easy. Concentrate on landing in the front half of the tire, keep your knees high and stay on your toes. If you step right in the middle and you have big feet like me then your heel may hit the rear of the tire and send you flying. The “monster” truck tires are actually quite small. I stepped up with one high foot and “walked” over them. The last tire actually was large, but you can sit on the edge and swing your legs over. I did not witness anyone having trouble handing them. For me it felt like in the middle of a run I increased my pace 20% for thirty seconds. I really don’t think it is even worth “training” for this obstacle.
Next are the monkey bars and certain people may need to train a little for this. The monkey bars at your local playground may not be the best training arena. The urbanathlon bars are farther apart and quite thick in diameter. Really concentrate on keeping your momentum by swinging your legs. It is most efficient to climb by keeping your arms straight and swinging (like a monkey). If it is raining you may want to consider wearing a set of batting or golf gloves to keep your grip. To practice for this I would find a jungle gym and instead of using the narrow hand rails I would instead use the cross supports. Do a dead hang and focus on using your legs/core to reach out to the other cross support. Then match hands, reverse without coming down and repeat. There are only ten or so bars to handle.
The marine hurdles may pose a difficulty, especially for shorter individuals. They are about five feet high and on the beach. The most efficient way to climb is to place your palms on top, jump straight up into a stiff arm position and swing first one leg over, then the other. Gentlemen… be careful as that other leg comes across. Then hop down and continue. To train for this I would find a chainlink fence and practice jumping up into a stiff arm position. If this is hard for you then pullup/tricep exercises would seem appropriate. Also practice throwing a leg over from this stiff arm position.
The stair climb! Oh how I dreaded and feared it. Turns out it didn’t really matter though. By the time I got to the stairs there was a backup and I ended up slowly walking them. The funny part… I was actually rested after the stair climb because it was so slow. I did get a chance to do a couple full to the top runs and my quads were burning on those. At Soldier’s Field in Chicago the steps are really tiny though. So think about stutter steps to get you up. You get a decent rest on the descent. If you have a race where it is one long set of stairs like NYC then I would do a lot more training for this. Otherwise I think that the running prepares you quite well. If you want extra training just do some hill training. Focus on going fast enough that you really feel the burn in your quads.
Taxi cab hurdle is really more like a crawl over the hood of a car hurdle.
The finishing wall. So I saw a lot of people struggling on this. They have these stupid ass ropes hanging off the wall to “help” you up. I tried one of these ropes post race and I think they hurt you more than they help you. The problem is that the ropes don’t go to the very top of the wall. There is a hole cut in that they run through. Even if you do get up the rope it ends before the top of the wall and you are stuck! Also, the wall has absolutely no traction so you cannot press your feet into the wall easily and work your way up. So the trick is to be able to jump up and grab the top ledge, do a pullup and throw a leg over the edge. For some people that may sound like a lot. This is the only obstacle where I could see training being absolutely required. If you cannot do a pullup then getting over that wall is not going to be easy. Practice jumping up and grabbing the edge of an eight foot ledge. Pull up half way and then throw an arm over the backside of the wall. Finally kick a foot up and over the edge. If you have the strength then do the same thing you do with the marine hurdles and go into a straight arm before swinging your legs over.
Feel free to leave training tips in the comment section!