Get Lepo (dirty) at the Makahiki Challenge

The sun is shining on a beautiful Saturday morning as hundreds of people arrive at Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu. Excitement is in the air as they all prepare to take on Hawaii’s original mud run – the Makahiki Challenge.

The Makahiki Challenge has been created by the organisers to allow participants forge relationships with others and the land. A handful of people are there for the competitive race, but most are there to challenge themselves and have fun.


I’m greeted with an ‘Aloha’ and friendly smile whilst getting my race bib, and a few minutes later I am in the start corral and am ready to go.

We were led down and up some small hills before coming to the first two obstacles – a bear crawl followed by dirt mounds. People quickly gave up on the idea of running as we headed up a path and towards some 9’ walls. The Makahiki Challenge had walls of varying difficulty meaning even beginners could get up and over without assistance.


After a partner carry we headed up another small hill towards what looked like a haunted house, but was just a shed full of tyres waiting for us to flip repeatedly. A hill sprint followed and those who aren’t used to running sat at the top to catch their breath before continuing.

Several people started humming the Jurassic Park theme song as we headed past a filming location from Jurassic World, and continued as we did the shortest sandbag carry in history (no complaints here!).


As we headed back down the hill it was time for mud. The volunteers suggested removing shoes if people didn’t want to lose them as the pit had already claimed over 3 pairs. One volunteer pointed out the importance of making sure the timing chips were safely attached – not because of timing, but because that’s how you got your free beer tokens.


Some people had a chance to clean the mud off after falling into the water at the Tarzan swing while everyone forged on ahead covered in mud. After a ring traverse we were turned into mini ninjas on the pod hop and ramp walls. Again, there were three walls of varying levels of difficulty to allow people to pick which one they attempted.


The reward was a deceptively fast slip and slide followed by a short run back to the festival area for the final obstacle – the slant wall. Half covered in black plastic with water and mud to make it slippery, it proved to be a great final challenge. This is where teamwork was put to the test as people slid in the mud whilst attempting to get their friends up and over the wall.

The unofficial obstacle of the day involved playing a game of ‘don’t get hit by a tourist on an ATV’. We ran by people as they gave us strange looks and wondered why there were hundreds of crazy people running around the ranch covered in mud. Luckily we avoided all vehicles and finished the challenge in one piece. We received our awesome medals and beer tokens and went off to join the party.


This wasn’t my first time doing an OCR at Kualoa Ranch, but it was by far the most fun. The festival area had a great live band and people danced whilst enjoying their free post-race beer. We all got lepo (dirty) and had an incredible time in the process. Mahalo to the organisers and volunteers for putting on an awesome race. I’ll have to come back to Oahu to run it again sometime!

Tough Mudder Dallas – Where’s the mud?

It’s 7am on a chilly Saturday morning in Dallas and the sun is just rising behind the distant clouds. While some lay asleep in their beds, several thousand excited people descend on a residential estate in Arlington, Texas, ready to get down and dirty. This can only mean one thing – it’s Tough Mudder time!

After a two-year hiatus from Tough Mudder, it was time for me to return and see how the American Tough Mudders compare to Australia’s.


The energy was electric as 500 people followed Coach’s warm up routine in the warm up zone before climbing the walls to get into the start corral. I was disappointed at the lack of Tough Mudder pledge but Sean (Tough Mudder Emcee) still managed to get us all pumped up and ready for 5 or 12 miles of fun.

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:

          I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.

          I put teamwork and comradery before my course time.

          I do not whine. Kids whine.

          I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.

          I overcome all fears.

On Sean’s “Go” everyone ran along the banks of Lake Viridian towards the first of 20 obstacles (10 obstacles for the Tough Mudder Half folks). The first few obstacles were old Tough Mudder staples – an inverted wall, cargo crawl, kiss of mud (barbed wire mud crawl), berlin walls and hero carry.


The first wave of the day is often the least muddy as thousands of people haven’t yet had a chance to turn the dirt into epic amounts of sludge. After Kiss of Mud, we were all still clean, but that all changed as people approached the mud mile. Teamwork was key as we pulled and pushed our fellow Mudders up and over the mounds before rinsing off in the lake.

Pyramid Scheme turned Mudders into human chains as people leaned against the slip wall and others climbed over their backs to get to the top. Some people got up successfully the first time while others slid back down into the water. Shawshank saw people crawl through mud and under barbed wire before pulling themselves up a tube and finally dropping down into water below.


The Blockness Monster (a new obstacle for 2016) required plenty of teamwork as two people held on to the block while their fellow Mudders pushed and pulled them over. The volunteers were offering advice on how to complete the obstacle along with yelling support at all the muddy people.


Those who went through the middle of Birth Canal found it challenging to crawl through dry dirt with the weight of hundreds of litres of water pushing on their back, but eventually everyone made it through. After conquering Tough Mudder’s oldest obstacle, Everest, the full Mudders said farewell to the Half Mudders as we continued on for another seven miles of fun.


King of Swingers was the first obstacle that only the full Mudders got to conquer. I watched as people stood atop a 15’ platform and jumped onto a swinging bar and attempted to hit a bell before dropping into the water below. I may have been a bit chicken initially, but after doing it once I wanted to go again and again.


The first half of the course had taken us around Lake Viridian and involved running along footpaths, wide trails and grass before getting back to the festival area. The second half of the course led us past new houses which were being built, then along the back of the housing development area before going into the bush and along some fun trails.

We were all thankful for the sunlight after sliding into the coldest Arctic Enema I’ve ever encountered. Luckily there were no kids around as there were some profanities coming from people’s mouths at that obstacle!

Legionnaires (those who have run a Tough Mudder before) were in for a treat when arriving at the Backstabber and Rain Man. Both obstacles had two similar lanes, one with an easier version of the obstacle for first time Mudders, and one for Legionnaires. The Backstabber was a peg board and required some assistance from the ground, whilst Rain Man sprayed water in your face as you dragged yourself backwards through muddy water.


I was glad to see the monkey bars changed up at Funky Monkey 2.0. First Mudders had to go up ascending monkey bars, reach for a bar and swing to a long pole which would take them safely to the other side of the water.

After receiving a new Legionnaire’s headband, we were directed to High Flyers Club whilst first-time Mudders were directed to Electroshock therapy. High Flyers club involves jumping off a high platform, hitting a bar that matches the colour of your headband, and landing on an inflatable pillow. I could hear the zaps from Electroshock therapy as I jumped off Frequent Flyers Club and was thankful that I no longer have to get zapped!


The location was definitely an odd choice for Tough Mudder as it was at a residential development. This meant that a lot of muddy obstacles were followed closely by a water-based obstacle to get people clean again. They hit the nail on the head with the toughness, but there was a distinct lack of the ‘mudder’. I was happy to see so many water stations and bananas available out on course. Overall it was a great event and the sunny weather meant everyone stayed back and enjoyed a cold Shocktop beer after the event.

Photo credit: Vanessa Letts

Savage Race Dallas

Since my first OCR four years ago, I have completed over 75 obstacle races, faced about 1500 obstacles, and covered around 560 miles (900km) of terrain. I’ve done everything from the Spartan Ultra Beast, to small 5km mud runs in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia, and everything else in between. But there was one race that was still top of my list of races to try – Savage Race.

I’d heard only positive stories about Savage and the promise of the best obstacles and the perfect distance certainly had me interested. A quick look at the Savage website cemented my decision to try the race as I laughed at the list of what was included:

  • A BEER

Any race that promises mud in your undies is a race that I can support! So I checked my calendar, penciled in the Dallas race, booked a plane ticket from LA and before long, I was on my way.

The festival area was ready for the 2000 participants, and the music was pumping as OCR fanatics got ready to race, and their friends looked around nervously as they wondered what they were getting themselves into.  There were no fancy speeches at the start line, just Emcee Matty T encouraging everyone to jump, yell and crowd surf. He yelled ‘SAVAGE’, we yelled ‘RACE’ and as the blue smoke was let off, we started to run.


The first section included tried and tested OCR obstacles – barbed wire crawl, ladder wall, 7’ wall, slant wall and a muddy swamp walk. The first proper water-based obstacle was Thor’s Grundle which resulted in some hilarious faces as people realised what they smelt like after immersing themselves in the brown water.

After meandering through the sunflower fields, we were met with Slippery Incline (incline wall) which is another OCR staple, except this one was damp from the previous night’s rainfall, which actually made it a challenge.

Next up was one of Savage Race’s featured obstacles – Sawtooth. Take your normal monkey bars, put them on an upwards and downwards incline, then chuck in a few different height bars in the middle and you’ve got Sawtooth. It proved to be challenging with many falling at the peak of the obstacle, but it seemed to be one of people’s favourites.


Pole Cat is a new obstacle for 2016 and involves walking your hands and feet across parallel bars whilst holding a downward dog yoga position. Normally in OCR being tall can be disadvantageous, but in this instance, height was a major advantage.

There were more walls (5’ and 8’) and a traverse wall with rock climbing grips, before grip was put to the test at Wheel World. It’s good to see OCRs like Savage Race are taking a leaf out of American Ninja Warrior’s book and creating some awesome new obstacles. Here they’ve taken monkey bars, but put them into 5 spinning pentagons, and called it Wheel World. It’s designed to test grip strength and body control as you try and make your way across the bars without spinning uncontrollably in the wrong direction. The failure rate was high but everyone had a smile on their faces whilst attempting it.

There were more OCR staples including a log carry, muddy crawl, and the coldest ice bath ever – Shrivelled Richard. To anyone who has been in an ice bath and thought it was cold, I dare you to try Shrivelled Richard! I don’t know what would have been warmer – jumping into that ice bath or going swimming in Antarctica. There was also a short but sweet mudslide that helped us get mud in our undies!


Davey Jones’ Locker made even the bravest go weak at the knees as they were faced with a 15’ drop into the water below. Some people did flips, whilst others simply shook their heads and walked past it. It may not be a physically challenging obstacle, but for some it was a mentally challenging one.


Everyone turned into inch worms at the Teeter Tuber, which required you to enter a diagonal tube and climb upwards until you hit the tipping point and then slide out the other side. It was much more fun than just crawling through a horizontal tube, but anyone with claustrophobia may disagree.

After another wall called the Big Cheese (it’s a wall that looks like a huge block of holey cheese) came Savage Race’s most famous obstacle – Colossus. This thing was like a quarter pipe on steroids! The people at the top were cheering and waiting to hoist others up and over the edge. All you needed to do was to get a good run up and then trust a stranger to help pull you over the ledge. The reward? A huge waterslide! It’s obstacles like this where you see the true spirit of OCR come to life.

Two new obstacles were then put to the test towards the end. On The Fence saw people attempt to scale a fence sideways and really tested grip strength, whilst Tree Hugger allowed people to accidentally practice their pole dancing skills. I saw some people spinning uncontrollably around the poles while others tried to move forward without realising that there was a pole in their way. The key is to get your body on one side of all the poles in order to avoid crashing straight into a pole! Both were awesome and innovative obstacles and ones that I’d be keen to do again.


Last but not least was the Savage Race Multi-Rig. Those who still had grip strength left got through, whilst everyone else tried their best.

The festival area was still pumping as they handed out awards to the top three male and female finishers in each age category and to the biggest three teams.

I have to take my hat off to Savage Race. Their signature obstacles are innovative and challenging, and they squeezed in 25 obstacles over a 6-mile course. They certainly lived up to their tagline of ‘The Best Obstacles. The Perfect Distance’! I will definitely return to do a Savage Race in the future, and would encourage anyone looking for a great challenge to sign up and experience it for themselves!