Obstacle race wacky fun to raise money for food bank

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter


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If you happened to be walking down Eighth Street in downtown Vancouver on Saturday evening, you might have spotted three girls dressed as Wonder Woman gobbling down dried mealworms.

That’s right. Mealworms.

For a couple hours, the streets of downtown and more than a dozen businesses transformed into an obstacle course fit with wacky challenges for runners in equally wacky outfits. About 180 people signed up to celebrate the first day of summer with a little zany competition in the sixth annual Summer Solstice Urban Obstacle Race.

Dozens came dressed in just about any kind of costume you could imagine: Batman and Robin, the main characters of “Gilligan’s Island,” Waldo from “Where’s Waldo?” and walking pieces of chocolate birthday cake, just to name a handful.

The race began on Broadway outside Northwest Personal Training, which organized the competition. Between the participants’ registration fees and charges for food and beverages, the organizers weren’t sure how much money they would raise, but all of it would go to the Clark County Food Bank, said Michelle Mahler, who coordinated the race.

To start the race, Sherri McMillan, the owner of Northwest Personal Training, flung a handful of envelopes into the air above the crowd of excited runners waiting with their teams. Each envelope contained directions for their first challenge.

The runners ripped open the envelopes, then quickly talked strategy with their teams. Suddenly they were off in all sorts of different directions.

The course included 15 challenges for each team. Participants didn’t have to complete all the challenges, but the more they could complete before the end of the race, the more tickets they would win for prizes later in the night.

Some of the more physical challenges included much more than just running. At one point, the participants would need to stop outside Dirty Hands Brewing to roll beer kegs across the street.

At another, they would have to climb the rock wall at The Source Climbing Center.

The participants also had to solve a number of riddles along the way to figure out their next destination.

“So remember, the fittest does not win tonight. You must also be smart,” McMillan told the runners before they took off. “So, brains and brawn win tonight.”

The race also included a variety of offbeat challenges: going through an obstacle course on skateboards at Bad Monkey Bikes, playing musical chairs at Divine Consign, reciting the alphabet while hula hooping at the library and, of course, eating mealworms outside the Main Event Sports Grill.

At any point, the runners could always come back to the starting line to guzzle down some water or beer. And of course, McMillan emphasized that the race wasn’t a serious competition, just a fun way to get some exercise and celebrate summer.

“This is fun, right?” she said before the race began. “It’s something good for our community. We’re all getting a good workout.”

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