Since the reality game show series Wipeout hasn’t accepted my audition tape, I decided to grab a couple of my friends and sign up for the R.O.C Race, aka the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge Race, which models itself after the comically difficult game show, where contestants try to make it through a series of obstacles designed to knock them off or down in hilarious fashion. The untimed event is billed as the “Original Game Show Inspired Obstacle Run” and unapologetically falls into the let’s-get-costumed-up-and-do-a-5k category of obstacle course runs. They even sell colorful R.O.C branded tutus before the run.
We arrived at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds in San Jose with fairly warm weather clocking around 75 degrees and a crowd of the most colorful outfits outside of a circus. Check-in was done the day before, but you had the option of picking up your bib and t-shirt on the day of for an additional $5. I imagine that speeds up the whole race day process, but it is nonetheless annoying and unavoidable if you don’t live anywhere near the pick-up location.
Ready To Be Wiped Out
At the starting line, I realized, in the midst of getting ready on 3 hours of sleep and driving down from San Francisco, that I hadn’t had a sip of water all morning. Even though it wasn’t a timed race, we took off running, if only to get to that first water station. The first obstacle was a giant inflatable Moon Bounce, which brought back childhood memories of that time I bounced and laughed so hard I peed…nevermind.
We ran for bit longer and get to the Tight Rope Traverse. I used this as an opportunity to practice the Tyrolean Traverse and got across without using the bottom tight rope.
The course continued around a motocross field, providing unintended entertainment on the otherwise uninteresting terrain, to an 8 foot wall and a Tarzan Swing to round out the first mile.
We get to the Jump Balls and I recognize it from the show, but it’s not as daunting without the high drop into the water. As it is, we usually armchair quarterback when watching someone else fail miserably at an obstacle on TV and think that we have a better strategy or technique. We don’t. I didn’t. My friend Annie went first and slipped head-first right onto the next big red ball. Ball to the face. Singular. I didn’t fare much better on my first attempt and only managed to get across the other two balls by throwing my entire body onto it and hanging on for dear life.
Onwards, we passed everyone at this point since no one was actually running the course.
But at least they looked good not running.
Next up was another iconic obstacle, the Sweeper. The object is to run across a padded walkway without getting knocked off by the rotating arms. As long as you time it right, it was pretty easy to get across.
The next obstacle was a larger version of your playground monkey bars but with thicker bars wrapped in tape (presumably to help with grip) called the Gorilla Bars. We didn’t have any problems getting across, but the heat caused the adhesive from the tape to ooze out and I was left with sticky hands for the rest of the race.
Once we passed the 2-mile mark, I was actually a bit bummed that it was coming to an end. There was a bit of queue at the next obstacle, with runners waiting to grab an inflatable tube and making their way up to the top of the inflatable slide. We got wet for the first time here and it finally felt like an OCR race.
To entertain the masses, they saved the best few spectator worthy obstacles for last starting with a head-first dive down a slip and slide with a foam machine at the end and then the famous Wrecking Ball.
At the Wrecking Ball, we run into our first major bottleneck and the line looked long. With only 3 beams and everyone needing to put on a foam life jacket, the wait ended up being about 10 minutes. On the platform, I watched as a couple of lucky runners made it across. Mostly, it was a few steps and then a slip or a up close and personal encounter with one of the two giant red wrecking balls. Balls to your face. Plural.
I made it two steps and shockingly just slip off and into the water. I pulled myself out of the water and was greeted by the MC, a bearded up dude covered in only tattoos and a tuxedo speedo. Classy.
Then it was up a flight of stairs and a head first slide down the “World’s Largest Inflatable Slide” right over the finish line. Coolest finish line ever.
After the finish, I jumped around near the foam pit to “clean” myself off only to realize that there were no showers, leaving me walking around as a foamy mess until it disappeared. I think people were having too much fun here.
We had more fun than we expected and was really glad I did it with friends. I would have liked a few more obstacles since some were pretty minor, but you can’t have everything. There was a bit of a wait, but I don’t think anyone really minded since it was untimed and no one was in a rush. A rinse off area would have been nice. This type of event is not going to necessarily attract your normal OCR crowd, but it’s a fun friends and family type event designed to get people off the couch and out doing something active. It’s also a good excuse to put on your favorite costume or tutu. Overall grade: A-/B+
While race directors and course designers are looking for ways to make their race more challenging and demanding, the R.O.C Race is sticking with their inflatable water slides and moon bounces. It was nice to relax and take part in a “fun” run once in a while in between all my other brutal races. I would have had a beer to celebrate if I wasn’t signed up for my first marathon the very next morning. I instead settled for some authentic Vietnamese food just down the street. Not a bad Saturday.
If you want to do an R.O.C Race, check out their Epic Tour Dates page for upcoming races. There are runs coming in Sacramento, New York, Austin, and Phoenix.
As always, a thank you and shout out to my friends, Annie and Nick, who showed up on my doorsteps at 2 am from New York and came out to run and help me take these awesome photos.