Running truly is a beautiful thing on so many levels. For me, the power running has to bring diverse groups of people together for a common goal can’t be matched. The amazing group of friends I’ve met through running continually challenge me, encourage me, support me, and bring a smile to my face no matter how bad they day might have been. I’m especially thankful that the group of friends I run with are so willing to step outside of “normal” and find new and interesting ways to enjoy each others’ company and find new ways to experience the joy of running.
Over the past few years, one of my best friends has organized an adventure race of sorts for our group. She deemed it the “Vardo Amazing Race”, and sent us on a variety of challenges across town, running in between them of course. We were put into teams, usually with folks we didn’t know as well, and we had an absolute blast along the way. Not only was it a fantastic workout, but a great team-builder as well, and something we continue to find ourselves talking about years later. This year, she invited me to help plan the event, and I couldn’t have been more excited!
The full-fledged “amazing race” will take place in the spring, so we decided to plan an entertaining fall event. I was remembering back to my care-free childhood and the wonderful evening games of capture the flag I played with the other children in my neighborhood. It had been quite a while since I had last played, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity. As it so happens, the city of Ames and the Ames Lab were once home to a nuclear reactor, the fuel of which was used in the first nuclear chain reaction or atomic bomb detonation. Research conducted at Ames Lab played a large part in the Manhattan Project, and the teaching reaction was finally decommissioned in 2000. The reactors may be gone, but the sight remains, surrounded by a lushly wooded area in the middle of town, complete with some excellent trails. Obviously, “reactor woods” was the perfect place for a game of capture the flag.
We met everyone on the outskirts of the woods, explained the rules of the game, and went for a warm-up run to show everyone the boundaries for play. Then we broke everyone up into two teams, and sent them off into the woods in opposite directions. They had ten minutes to set up their flag anywhere on their side of the wooded area, and guard it appropriately. After the ten minutes, the game was afoot! It was absolutely hilarious watching both teams strategize, sneaking back and forth into each others’ territory, trying not to get caught along the way.
After about 45 minutes, both teams emerged from the woods with flags in hand, mere minutes apart. Both teams were told that they would not be victorious until the other teams’ flag was in one of our hands. We made the rounds, running up and down the middle of the course, so inevitably, it game down to a bit of luck. The winning team placed the flag in our hands less than a minute before the other team. We sounded the horn and called everyone back. People emerged from the woods, and you would have thought some folks had been lost in the wild for days based on the scrapes on their legs, and the dirt and burrs hitching a ride back with them. It was fantastic!
At this point, folks may have thought the competition was over. However, we had more in store, in the form of some friendly competitions!
1. First came the mileage totals. Teams were awarded points based on the total number of half miles they had run and recorded on their GPS watches.
2. Next came the push ups. Everyone paired up with a member of the opposite team prior to knowing what they were about to do. We had them face each other, and drop to the ground and start doing push ups. The first person to stop was out, and the other team was awarded a point. Needless to say, we have some competitive spirits in our group!
3. Last, but certainly not least came the food challenge. Previous amazing race events have included strange food challenges, such as consuming random canned goods (labels removed), drinking entire 2-liter bottles of pop as a team, and taking jello shots embedded with raw anchovies. The jello shots are still being talked about years later. However, we upped the stakes this year with 100-year old duck eggs, otherwise known as century eggs, or pidan, and 2-liter bottles of aloe juice!
At this point, you are no doubt asking what on earth is a 100-year old duck egg. Well, imagine peeling a hard-boiled egg to discovery it is black/brown and semi-gelatinous. Now imagine biting into it and being convinced that someone had fed you a handful of rotten fishing bait from the bottom of their bucket. Now you get a sense of the challenge everyone was up against. Eating them was option, but everyone had a chance to earn a point for their team by doing so, and we have some amazing sports in our group! The looks on people’s’ faces were priceless, and the experience is one folks will not soon be forgetting! Not even a nice dark lager could fully remove the taste of rotten fish.
All-in-all, it was a fantastic night, complete with some great trail running, excellent teamwork, and amazing memories. At the end of the night, my only regret was having never played capture the flag in the woods before!