Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shape Diva Dash 5k review

This race took place on September 12th and I've waited so long to write this review that I feel like I've forgotten a lot of it!  That should teach me not to wait a month before reviewing a race.  But I feel like I had a hard time finding a lot of information about it ahead of time so I'm still going to go ahead and write about my impressions.

First of all, this is an obstacle race 5k that is focused on women.  I didn't see a single male running the race.  I've never done an obstacle race before or a woman focused race so it was an interesting, and overall good, experience.  Really, the main downside is that it was raining that morning but that's not in anyone's control.

The race was at a farm in suburban Maryland.  I felt like the directions and signage were good.  We had no problems getting there and no problems parking.  That went really smoothly.  There was also no need for pre-race package pick up.  In fact, I really liked that one of the things they did was that all you picked up before the race was your bib and a buff, which you got instead of a shirt.  I loved the idea of a buff instead of a shirt as it was something different and most of the people I heard talking about it seemed to like it as well. And since this was all you got before the race, no need to go back to the car to put away a bag or anything.
Us wearing our new buffs

The other nice thing they did was separate people into different waves with different start times.  The waves were just based on sign up, not on speed.  We knew our start time was 9:45 and I think this helped reduce pre-race crowding and lines.  The waves were also spread out, so much so that there were people still starting by the time we finished.  This also helped with the congestion on the course.  Each wave seemed pretty small and that helped, especially as there were some portions of the course at the beginning that were really small. There was one location at the beginning that was so narrow you had no choice but to kind of shuffle along single file.  But thankfully that area was small and we could spread out soon after the start.

 Pre race photo ops without a lot of lines

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this race and I think part of that was because it was a low key, women focused race.  There seemed to be lots of groups of friends doing the race together.  I don't think I saw anyone doing it by themselves.  And there was a really supportive, collaborative environment both at the beginning and during the course. There were a lot of tutus, boas, superhero costumes, and just people having lots of fun together.

Pre-race group warm up dancing

As I mentioned earlier, the race was at a farm.  So this was not a road race.  There was varying terrain from grass, to gravel, to just mud by the end of the race since the rain was really coming down at that point. And the obstacles included things like giant, inflatable columns that you had to run through, something that looked like monkey bars that you crawled over on top of, a pit of giant inflatable balls that you crawled over on top of, little trampolines that you ran across, a stream that you had to run through (the water was a little over knee high on me), etc. None of them were too bad but the only reason I ran this race is that it was very clear that you could just skip obstacles if you wanted to.

I skipped two of them because I don't think they were meant for people my height (I'm only 4'11).  The first was kind of a strap suspended above the ground that you had to walk on (think like a tight rope) while holding onto some bars over your head.  The problem is that by the time we got there, probably due to the rain, the straps had kind of loosened and were hanging a bit low, so that I couldn't reach the hand bars.  My friend is a couple inches taller than I am and had a hard time with that one at the end too.  The other one I skipped was a set of bars you climbed.  I wouldn't have had a problem with the climbing section, but then at the top, there was a fireman pole you had to slide down.  The pole was located far enough from the bars that I was worried I wouldn't be able to reach it with my short legs!  So at both of those, I waited for my friend to finish and then we continued on our way.

They billed it as having a great finish line party but not so much.  The finish was definitely on the empty side, but I think that was probably because of the rain and maybe it would have been better otherwise?  As soon as you crossed, you did get a swag bag and also a photo.  I like that the race included free photos, always a nice little bonus. And the bag had a little mini luna bar in it, which was a good thing but there was no other food.  Well, there were a couple food truck where you could purchase food but no other freely available food.  I'm used to all 5ks at least having bagels and bananas but maybe I'm spoiled and that's not normal?

So overall, I really enjoyed this race and would think about doing it again, especially since I was able to sign up with a discount. 

Pros - atmosphere, fun obstacles but option to skip them, pretty location, well handled logistics
Cons - rain, mud, lack of post-race food