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Preparing to be Gladiators

Local runners train for obstacle challenge

May 13, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

They'll slog through mud, scale nine-foot walls, climb through pipes, and run five miles through the woods with little idea of what's in store along the path.

They are the two teams from Fort Dodge who are heading to Boone on Saturday to complete the Iowa Gladiator Assault Challenge. To prepare for the event, they've been holding workout sessions twice a week.

Jared Smith, assistant principal at Phillips Middle School, leads the team called "Gym Class Heroes," and helped organize the weekly workout sessions.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Mary Kay Daniel gets a little bit of time in the air as she jumps over exercise partner Jen Sibbitt during a recent workout with the Gladiator Challenge team the Gym Class Heroes in Snell-Crawford Park. Local teams the Gym Class Heroes and Team Struggle Bus will compete Saturday in Boone at the Iowa Gladiator Assault Challenge.

He said it all started when some members of a Fort Dodge Rec Center fitness class began talking about how much fun it would be to attend the five-mile obstacle course coming to Boone.

"I started going to work, to see who would be interested," said Smith. "Before I knew it, on our team alone we had around 32 people. People started getting really excited."

Smith joked about holding team training, but then learned people would actually do it.

"Anybody who knows me knows I like to work out, like to be outside. I was thinking, OK, this is perfect."

Roughly 10 people converged on Dolliver Memorial State Park that first day to run the trails. Since then, 15 or 20 have met twice a week at Snell-Crawford Park and Dodger Stadium to run through a whole variety of workouts.

"We mix it up," Smith said. "We've done sprints, long runs, running through trails, strength work."

People bring their own ideas for workouts, he said.

"For exercise it's been pretty fun," said Mary Kay Daniel.

Daniel got involved in the process late.

"At first I didn't voluntarily sign up for it, but once you get into it, it's kind of fun. It's something different. As long as I come out alive, I think I'm okay," she said.

"I think three-fourths of the people at training I've never met before, and they're all from Fort Dodge. It's kind of cool that we're doing this and we're meeting new people," Daniel said. "We'll continue to meet after this, and train for some more races, so I'm sure our group is just going to grow."

Amy Black, Student Success Center coordinator at Iowa Central Community College, brought together the other team, called Team Struggle Bus. It's her first time doing something like this.

"I played sports in high school and college," Black said. "As far as races, I just started getting into that. I did the Hy-Vee 5k, the one for juvenile diabetes last month. This is the first time for all of us.

"It will be quite the challenge," she said. "It's all about finishing it. Not being the first to finish it, but just finishing it."

The teams will each take a bus to Boone on Saturday, Smith said. The Gym Class Heroes will begin their trip through the course at 11 a.m.

"The race starts about 8 a.m. and goes to 3 p.m.," he said. "Every 20 minutes it's a different heat, and there's at least 300 people per heat. I think in ours there's 500 people at a time."

Although the website shows a map and lists some details of the course, there are also plenty of mystery obstacles.

"Most of us haven't done a race like this. We don't know what to expect," Smith said. "Matt Cosgrove (of Webster County Conservation) is putting together a course for us out at Kennedy Park to do this Sunday with obstacles and water, to give us a realistic view.

"I wasn't sure how much interest there would be, but people are looking for stuff like this to do around here. It's a good way to meet new people, and really gets you motivated to work out.

"Some of us work out a lot, some not so much. It gets people inspired to make the effort to go and work out together. It's like, well, if I've got 15-20 people to work out with, I might as well go.

"This has turned into, now people want to make a running club, or a fitness club, where we do this a couple times a week all the time, not just leading up to this event. For me, I really enjoy fitness and have been a coach. It's really exciting to see this progressing into what it has become."

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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