For 99.9% of the public going to any Olympics is a spectator sport. However there is a Sports Festival that has 19,000 athletes participating in 50 sports and it is held every year in early March in Columbus, Ohio. Let me introduce you to the Arnold and show you how you can be one of those athletes.
The Arnold is named for Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes the actor and ex-Governor) and it started in 1989 as a venue to promote Body Building. Columbus, Ohio was selected due to business relationships and frankly a willingness to host the competition. Each year it gets larger and the sports include fencing, martial arts, gymnastics, archery, etc. Visitors are between 175,000 and 200,000 for the four day event. Body building is still the core of the festival with $300,000 in prize money. Mr. Schwarzenegger is still involved and attends every year.
So how does the run of the mill athlete get involved? First is the Pump and Run. This event was first scheduled in 2001 and its popularity has caused signup each year to expire after 30 minutes due to the demand. The rules are simple. Bench press a certain weight based on your current weight and age and for each rep up to 30 you get 30 seconds off the subsequent 5K time. The lift is accomplished between 7-10AM and the race is run at 10:30AM. The bench press is monitored by the US Marines so no slop is allowed. If you want to compete be aware that the male winner’s time was 27.7 seconds (30 bench press repetitions and a 15:27.7 second 5K) while the female was 3 minutes.
However what if you are me and just a runner? At 9:15AM the Arnold Open 5K is run on the same course as the Pump and Run will be run later that morning. There is one key difference. The Pump and Run 5K is always started by Arnold Schwarzenegger personally every year. Also the Pump and Run 5K had close to 700 runners while the Open is slightly over 400.
Regardless each runner gets a wristband that lets you into the Expo/Judging area ($15 value) that opens after the race. Considering the race is $30 and you get a timed race, shirt, and medal the inclusion of the wristband is a real value. The Fitness Expo, with 900 booths, is considered the nation’s largest health and fitness exposition.
The Arnold 5K Race
The race itself is a downtown race with minor elevation changes with a few turns for a quick run. The early March timeframe can make the temperature variable (sunny to snowing) but the race is well monitored and controlled.
Arnold 5k Go Race Rating System grade: 3/5
Organization-3 (On time, well-marked, no traffic problems. It lacks a better scorebecause it is timed by chip and there is no starting mat.)
Course-3 (Standard 5K with a mix of downtown and old neighborhoods.)
Swag- 4 (Entry to the Expo is key since the shirt and medal are somewhat bland.)
After race Food – 1 (Only water)
Overall feel 4 (The race is an adjunct to the real reason to come, the Fitness Festival. If your interest is in any of the 50 sports and the winter needs a break, come visit my home Columbus, Oh and watch Arnold start the race.)
By Michael Reynolds – Running Correspondent for Runners On the Go
Michael Reynolds is a Dublin, OH runner who has completed more than 1,000 races.