2019 Race Season Preview: Savage Race

It’s 2019 and that means it’s time to start planning another year of racing. What better way to decide which company gets your hard earned dollar, then by taking a look at what all of the major players will be offering participants in the coming year.

This is the second preview in a 4-week series looking at the 2019 obstacle course racing season.

Savage Race

When you talk about OCR brands, there’s always a conversation about “The Big 4”. And those four are Spartan, Tough Mudder, SAVAGE RACE, and well… the fourth spot is interchangeable. But if there is one race that is primed to challenge for best OCR experience in 2019, it’s Savage Race. Why? Well let’s look at the east coast based powerhouse that is Savage Race

Obstacles

Piece of Queso. Colossus. Shriveled Richard. Chopsticks… and so much more. The obstacle names are just as creative as the obstacles themselves at Savage Race. Want innovation? Want creativity? Savage Race is swimming in it, being awarded “Most Innovative” and “Best New Obstacle” in 2018. Savage isn’t afraid to bring monstrous obstacle builds with them wherever they go. Staples like Twirly Bird, Wheel World, and Davy Jones Locker ensure that Savage tests your body and mind with every race course you step foot on.

Savage was also one of the first companies to put the obstacles at the forefront of their customer experience. Want to see what you’re in for? They’re all on the website to check out. You can see them all listed here. They’ll even list the completion rate for them!

Look for more new obstacles coming in 2019 as well. Savage is constantly upping the bar with obstacles year after year.

Savage Blitz

In 2018 Savage Race announced the addition of Savage Blitz. An obstacle-packed 3-mile version of the Savage experience. The rollout and availability of the Savage Blitz in 2018 were, as all things Savage, slow and methodical. Or in OCR industry terms… smart.

For 2019, the Savage Blitz course has been added to EVERY event weekend now. Savage Blitz is a fast, heart pumping, quad burning all-out sprint through Savage’s signature obstacles with its own custom finisher shirt and medals. And the Blitz counts towards your Savage Syndicate achievement – more on that shortly.

Savage Pro & Blitz Pro

I’m not entirely sure why Savage Race doesn’t get more credit for it’s Savage Pro wave because they are dishing out cash faster than Bob Barker in a Showcase Showdown. Every Savage Race event and every Savage Blitz now offers incredible Podium Awards:

1st Place: $1,000; Gold Medal; The Savage Axe (Yes, an actual mounted Axe)

2nd Place: $500; Silver Medal

3rd Place: $250; Bronze Medal

Age Group awards are offered as well, which don’t carry a cash prize, but do offer Gold, Silver or Bronze medals to the winners.

Savage Pro is mandatory obstacle completion. Which means you’ll get to re-try any obstacles you fail, but you can not continue in the Pro Wave until you complete them. Can’t do it? Give up your band, and you’re done for the day. But for Savage Race veteran Yuri Force, the Pro Wave has been a great way to stuff some money in his pocket. And with 13+ events in 2019, the total purse across all Savage’s events tops $45,000.

Medals & Finisher Tees

It’s worth mentioning again that Savage Race has already taken home a handful of awards – those awards are Best New Obstacle; Runner Up – Best OCR Race Director, Bo Burton; Best North American Race Series; Most Innovative Race Series; and Best Mid-Size Race Series. Why they also didn’t win Best Medal is beyond me. Look at these things:

As if the Savage Race and Savage Blitz races in matte black and blue/green weren’t good enough, you’ll also get a sweet mirrored finish Savage Syndicate medal once you’ve completed any two events on the year. You’ve got Savage Axes, coins for additional races, and a ton more glorious looking bling to take home from your Savage experience..

Summary

Savage Race is doing OCR right. Their methodical approach to growth, use of community feedback, and incredible obstacle design have helped Savage position itself as a strong competitor in this industry. We didn’t even mention their partnership with GORUCK at certain events! I can only say good things about Savage Race, the event, the obstacles, and the community.

I’ll be at the Maryland event in early May this year, so if you’re in the area and you want to watch me shake with fear and cry atop Davy Jones’ Locker, you know where to find me.

Now I know what you’re thinking West Coasters: “Why hasn’t Savage Race come out west?!” Well… because the founder, Sam Abbitt, knows what he’s doing. He’s not going all BattleFrog on us. Trust us when we say, a trip to a Savage event is well worth your time and hard-earned dollars.

Take it from Sam. I mean just look at this guy.

Savage Race PA 2017: Push it real good

I’m a competitive racer, and an unashamed elitist. I don’t care about medal shape or weight, t-shirt material or how much mud there is, and I don’t drink beer. That doesn’t, however, prevent me from understanding what the majority of recreational OCR runners are looking for. They are the bread and butter backbone (wait, that doesn’t work) of the industry and need to be taken care of.

Savage Race is one of the very few organizations that keeps challenging competitive racers by constantly but ever-so-slightly increasing the difficulty level, while also catering extremely well to the huge majority of people simply looking for a good time.

I ran a Savage in Chicago in 2016, and really liked it. Flat, fast running and fun, spectacular obstacles made for a good combination, but I found the obstacles to be on the easy side, compared to European races and that now-defunct frog-themed series. They kept showing new and more exciting ones on their very well-run social media, however, so I was eager to try another one to see how things had evolved. I wasn’t disappointed.Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-RegistrationAs always, check-in only opens at 8am, creating a queue of eager SavagePRO racers (almost none of them being actual pros, but that’s a can of worms for another time) for the 9am wave. Registration was a piece of cake (I think I may be hungry) though, so the always electric Coach Pain sent us on our way right on time, as the fog lifted on a cloudy but dry morning.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-FogWhen Savage described the terrain as “wooded”, they weren’t kidding! Most of the running we did was in the forest, dodging trees on soft, technical, unstable terrain with moss, rocks, branches and even the occasional plastic pallet. This slows down the track speedsters and is much more entertaining than just running on flat trails. A good thing too, since the first mile and a half was completely devoid of obstacles, with only a few thrown in until mile 3. Then things got properly relentless, packing around 20 obstacles in the last two and a half miles.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Tree-HuggerI’d say about half a dozen of these were challenging for most people, many were easy on their own but took enough effort to really make a difference when running fast, and a couple were psychological trials, especially for those with a fear of heights. Around half of the 29 obstacles on course were large, impressive structures, contributing to firmly establish Savage Race as a major-league race series despite “only” holding 13 events in 2017. The accumulation of obstacles also caught out many racers lacking adequate grip strength and smooth technique.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Mad-Ladders-ActionIt seems to me that Savage is using the same steady, progressive approach when developing obstacle difficulty as when expanding their event calendar. This is great because athletes don’t get discouraged, and get constantly challenged to increase their obstacle proficiency rather than giving up and going back to penalty-based races (SavagePRO uses mandatory obstacle completion). This is pushing the sport forward, making us better obstacle racers, not just better runners, and Savage should be commended for that.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Half-n-Half-Action

Savage added this new bonus hybrid obstacle

At the same time, the large number of easier obstacles leaves recreational participants with a sense of accomplishment as well as the desire to improve, come back, and conquer those that defeated them this time. I saw a lot of teamwork and assistance between racers, Tough Mudder-style, when observing later waves making their way through. Spectators could also enjoy lots of action as the course repeatedly looped through the festival area.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Colossus-Help

Something for everyone, then, as the generous cash prizes, challenging obstacles, age-group awards and well-run, fair racing brought in a slew of fast racers despite a Spartan Sprint being held in Boston simultaneously. Savage seem to be establishing themselves as a no-brainer option for obstacle lovers that value technique over brute force, fun & fast courses over sufferfests, clean racing over burpee controversies, and the solid race experience that comes with a professional outfit.

Oh, and the medal looks great, there’s a cool spinny Syndicate medal for repeat Savages, the shirt feels nice, there were plenty of port-a-potties, a free beer at the end, various food vendors (so hungry), a solid kid’s race complete with foam machine and a great atmosphere, especially with Coach Pain as the start line motivator. It think it’s fair to say that the 3000 racers on site got their money’s worth.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Foam-Machine

Kids were playing there all day!

Highly recommended.

YAY: Awesome obstacles, fun course, well run operation

NAY: They may not have a race near you (yet)

Photo credits: Sebastien David