Last Updated on September 27, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
I really, really, really don’t like posting negative reviews. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, and I really try to see the good in every situation…even a bad situation. But as a blogger who reviews products and races in order to provide others with honest, unbiased opinions, I’m going to get to the point: 5K Foam Fest was a huge disappointment.
Of course, there were certainly thousands of other things that I could have done with my time on Saturday that would have been far worse. I had fun, I laughed, I spent time with my family, and I got covered in mud.
The day was not a waste, in fact it was far from it. This is a first world problem at it’s finest. But from a consumer standpoint, the 2014 New England 5K Foam Fest was, unfortunately, a “fail” in my race ratings book. The 5K Foam Fest, owned by Round House Racing, is a national run event. In other words, this was not their first rodeo; I expected much more out of this race series. Let’s get the negatives out of the way so I can share the good stuff and end this thing on a positive note.
– We arrived to the offsite parking lot just over one full hour before our wave time, as instructed by the pre-race emails. Unfortunately, we waited in a line, in the parking lot, for one full hour just to get ON one of the buses. Then we had to sit on the bus for another 15-20 minutes before we actually arrived to the venue.
– Once we arrived to the venue (already missed our wave), the volunteers were very helpful in trying to get the registration process expedited. While standing in the appropriate line for my last name, I was instructed to go to a different line. Here the volunteer took my waiver, put it in a pile, and handed me a bib. I appreciate the fact that they were trying to get us moving, but there was no cross check to see if I was on a list, no ID check, etc. It would have been so easy to just sign a waiver and walk right in, without having actually registered for the race.
– The course itself was indeed fun…but sparse on obstacles. All of the inflatable, foam filled obstacles were almost identical to the one before. Now, don’t get me wrong, they were FUN, but it felt like the same thing over and over. I understand that the inflatable obstacles are possibly expensive and hard to maintain, so my suggestion is to throw some more “standard” obstacles in there. Maybe a few more walls, low crawls, tunnel crawls, etc to break up the inflatables and add more “fun” to the course. I understand that this is a very beginner friendly course, but I felt there was so much lacking by way of obstacles.
– The electric mud crawl? What was it supposed to be electrified? Because it was clothesline rope.
– The Monkey Business obstacle was kind of confusing. There wasn’t a volunteer around nor any instructions on the signage, so we all kind of guessed what we were supposed to do.
– Many advertised obstacles were missing from this venue. (Log Roller, Big Baller, etc)
-They ran out of medals. I LOVE medals, and call me silly, but it was a huge bummer to me that they had run out despite the fact that the race day wasn’t even half way over. I don’t understand how they were THAT under prepared, as there were hundreds of people left to run the course. I hate to play the “he said she said” game, but I read from a fellow teammate who ran much earlier in the day that the medal tent was not staffed, and people were just taking their own medal(s). This could unfortunately be why they ran out.
– The inflatable obstacles at the “festival” area cost about $2+ per child per obstacle. There was no mention of this in any of the emails or website (I specifically searched the “FAQ” ), so I was kind of taken aback that we had to pay.
– It wasn’t very spectator friendly…other than the slide at the end, there were no obstacles that spectators could see.
-The line for the return bus was worse than the line for the first bus. We stood in a field in the hot sun for over an hour. At one point, a police officer on an ATV came over and told us that the entire hired bus service had decided to take their 30 minute union-break at that time. Sure enough, for a good 45 minutes, not a single bus made an appearance. He also informed us that the reason we had to park so far away instead of at the venue (there was plenty of space) was because some neighbors had recently complained about the traffic. People were hot, tired, and disappointed, and the crowd was getting rowdy. Later, a man got confrontational with a volunteer, and a police officer had to threaten to intervene. It wasn’t pretty.
– This was indeed a VERY beginner friendly course: Geoff and I ran with his sister, mother, and step mom. His mother is recovering from a recent bout with Lyme Disease, and this was his Step-Mom’s first ever OCR. And she LOVED it, which is a win in my book. It was great to see so many first timers conquer fears on obstacles many of us more experienced racers probably take for granted, like the cargo net climb.
-The fun obstacles were incredibly fun. My favorite was this slide:
-Gender specific finishers shirts, and very nice ones in my opinion. Soft, fitted, and great logo design/placement.
– Free race photos
-Free bag check.
-Free for spectators.
-One free Mikes Hard Lemonade at the finish, a fun change from the usual beer.
-Protein bars at the finish line.
– Jumping around like we are a bunch of 5 year olds in bounce houses made for adults: hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing!
– They let my kids play in the starting line foam. MUCH appreciated!
-The volunteers went above and beyond. Not only were they super friendly along the course, but they kept coming by with water and protein bars for those who were standing in line waiting for the bus. They were so incredibly apologetic about the whole situation, which was nice, but not their place to take the blame.
I truly want to give 5K Foam Fest organizers the benefit of the doubt regarding the transportation issues. However, the lack of staffing, the lack of medals, the lack of obstacles, and charging for festival activities for kids left me feeling that this was just a money grab by another company looking to hit up the obstacle course racing world. Disappointed is the only word I have to describe my overall 5K Foam Fest experience. I have heard that others really enjoyed this race at different venues, so I truly hope that this is not the norm for this race series. As I mentioned earlier, it has the potential to be an awesome introductory race for first time obstacle course racers who want to get their feet wet (literally!). So I’m going to list this race in the “buyer beware” category…register and race at your own risk.
But all of that said, it sure beat staying home and folding laundry. A good time is what you make of it, and despite all of the disorganization and chaos, we still laughed a lot.
Have you run a 5K Foam Fest? Did you have a better experience? I’d love to hear that this was a one time fail…
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.