Unique 5k challenges runners of all skill levels

The sign says it all. This is the first Victory Challenge 5k race in what Straw and O'Hara hope becomes an annual event. The sign in the parking lot says it all: Victory. The ability to bear pain.

The Victory Challenge 5k at the Mont du Lac ski resort in Superior, Wisconsin took place on Saturday, but this was not your average 3.1 mile run. Weaving through the steep ski trails is challenging enough, but combined with 16 obstacles, the race challenged runners of all skill levels, just as race coordinators Matt O'Hara and Victor Straw intended.

"Matt's a police officer and I'm a former U.S. Marine," Straw said. "We wanted to tie a little bit of our trademark of working out into the 5k instead of having it just be a mud run or just a 5k, so we added a little adventure to it and some obstacles to it."

Obstacles included cargo nets to climb, concrete tubes to crawl through and barriers to hurdle, among others. So why have obstacles on the run?

"The simple answer is that everyone has done the same 5k, a five-miler, or a 10k, and that's fine, but we wanted to be different," Straw said. "Plus, using the ski hills, those are obstacles bad enough, but then even adding a little more flair to it to make more upper-body obstacles where you don't just use your legs the whole time."


Straw said that although the idea of using obstacles in a 5k is not new, typically they are used on a mud run, which the Victory Challenge is not. Race participant Derek Falter, 36, of Superior has ran in 5k races with obstacles before, but said his biggest concern wasn't the ladders or balance beams.

"Right now, it's the hill," he said. "Not (the obstacles) yet."

"I don't know what else they have yet," added runner Casey Sears of Orlando, Florida, "so I'm just staring at that hill."

Both Falter and Sears say that they have ran their fair share of 5k races, but Falter says that he really likes the obstacle course runs.

"It's a little bit different," he said. "It's not quite as boring."

Falter and Sears both said that the strategy changes for obstacle course runs, as pacing becomes a much bigger factor.

"Pacing is a hell of a lot different," said Falter. "You're not just blasting through it, you kind of have to pace yourself because the last mile and a half, two miles, you feel a lot more winded."

Straw voiced those same concerns for runners of the race.


"If you take off right out of the starting gate, you're not going to have enough gas by the end of it," he said. "A typical 5k you can probably go pretty hard right from the start, but this one is going to be a little different, because everything is gonna slow you down a little bit."

A portion of the proceeds from the Victory Challenge will be donated to the Marine Corps Veteran Association, as well as Law Enforcement United Team Minnesota, two organizations that are important to O'Hara and Straw.

This is the first Victory Challenge 5k, but Straw believes that it will not be the last.

"This is the first one of this level," Straw said. "Hopefully the first of many."



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