Have you ever wondered to yourself: “Man, it would be a blast to run through the forests, hitting things with a sledgehammer, run through nasty brush and climb over moss-covered rocks! But where?”
Well my friend, I’d suggest you keep reading.
The Hammer Race is a locally run obstacle course race outside of Rochester, MN (approx. 1 ½ hour drive south from the Twin Cities area). While you don’t need much obstacle technique to get through the 10K course, you do have some very technical trail running filled with twists, turns and hills, along with some walls and tires. By the way, while navigating all this, you’re carrying a sledgehammer (we’ll get to that later).
The race is run by a group of dedicated people from a local CrossFit gym. The venue is at a local campground that runs alongside the beautiful Zumbro River area. As far as the festival area goes, that’s not the main focal point of this race. Aside from the local chapter of the Spartan Race street team having a tent set up, it has the grassroots feel that I want at a locally-run race. Within the main clubhouse, there was registration/waivers to sign. I got there about an hour early and breezed through check-in.
There was an elite wave, couple of teams that ran together and then a couple of open waves to start the race. They went through a race briefing (which side are the flags on? THE RIGHT! Be aware of your hammer, don’t hit anybody. This was said many times.) and after a few battle cries of “Hammers Up!” we were off!
Remember when I said you’re carrying a sledgehammer through this entire race? The main prerequisite for running this event is BYOH -Bring Your Own Hammer-. Most runners bring a 8-10lb sledgehammer, but some run with larger weights because they’re animals! That one thing sets this race apart from your normal obstacle course races. One thing to remember: You’re holding an awkward 8 pounds while running through dense, thick brush that’s barely cleared, rock beds covered in slick moss & climbing up hills that are surprisingly steeper than you’d expect for southern Minnesota. This race is challenging.
One of the other perks of carrying the hammer (other than feeling like a total bad-ass doing it!) is hitting the logs down the chutes. These are sprinkled throughout the course, with a gauntlet of logs and tires to hit at the final stretch. Hearing the THWACK-THWACK-THWACK of hammer hitting wood can bring a smile to your face as it echos through the forests. When you hear that, you know what’s coming next!
Another obstacle that stands out is the “Black Door”. The Black Door is a large section of the course that’s roped off with caution tape on either side. Inside this section, there’s a black door hidden which, when found, will put you back onto the race course. You can’t go outside the tape, there’s no other way out, you just have to find the Black Door. This is a great way to break up the course & most of the time forces you to partner with other racers to find it. I won’t give away too much in details, but I heard from others it took them upwards of 8-10 minutes to find that door.
Overall, this is an excellent, challenging locally-run race that brings to the forefront some of the best that Minnesota has to offer with the local OCR scene. It’s one I personally look forward to each year, and is a staple on many local racers calendars. I was told by the race director that some exciting new changes will be coming for the Hammer Race in October… can’t wait to see what they have in store!
Stay tuned this year, as I’ll be at more locally-run jewels that make up the crown of Minnesota OCR. Until then, hammers up!