The Bone Frog Challenge has more authenticity than your typical obstacle course racing event; a New Englander who also happens to be a Navy SEAL created it in New England. If you are looking for an event that focuses on a challenging course and a great experience instead of commercialization then the Bone Frog Challenge is for you.
The Bone Frog Challenge is coming to Berkshire East for the 3rd time on May 16, 2015. This is an obstacle course designed for serious athletes and there is something special about it, which is why it attracts top tier OCR competitors, racers from all over the United States and over 30 racers from Europe.
I recently spoke with Brian Carney, the founder of The Bone Frog Challenge, to find out what makes this event stand out from all the other OCR events. Brian grew up in Deerfield, MA and joined the Navy in 2000 where he spent 13 years as a Navy SEAL. He saw 7 deployments with many of those to Afghanistan and Iraq.
The first thing that stands out is the Bone Frog Challenge course, which awaits racers on the steep ski slopes of Berkshire East Mountain Resort. Unlike some other OCR events; this is a course that has more bite than bark. It is 10.2 miles long with 54 obstacles and over 6,000 feet of elevation gain. If you ask me then the sum of all those numbers equals a big challenge.
The obstacles include everything you expect from a hardcore course such as rope climbs, monkey bars, mud, fire and barb wire; it is a full body workout. The intensity of these obstacles is amplified because racers need to take them on while they ascend and descend Berkshire East’s black diamond slopes.
Brian, and his fellow Navy SEALs, personally designed this course with inspiration from the hardest obstacle courses on Earth that they trained on for years. A lot of other OCR courses can claim to be tough but very few are built, designed and managed by actual Navy SEALs. If this sounds too tough for you then you can try their 5k “Sprint” course that takes place on the same day. This course is 3.5 miles long with 20+ obstacles and 2000 feet of elevation gain. On top of that spectators can use Berkshire East’s chairlift to observe racers taking on the course.
Another thing that stands out about the Bone Frog Challenge is its focus on racer experience. The event is totally racer funded which means that the course is not littered with the sponsor logos that you might find at other events. Brian told me that he designed the course to maximize the racer experience and not the sponsorship dollars. This is why he will cap attendance to prevent lines at obstacles. This should sound like music to your ears if you are one of those people, like me, who has waited in an obstacle line for over 30 minutes at other OCR events. This might be why 85% of Bone Frog Challenge racers return to the event the following year.
Berkshire East Mountain Resort, located in Charlemont MA, is another thing that makes the Bone Frog Challenge unique. Berkshire East is my favorite ski area because it defines New England skiing with all of the steep slopes and amenities that you expect from a big mountain but its still small enough that you can usually walk from your car to the course. Most obstacle races come into a venue, setup and leave without a trace. However the Bone Frog Challenge and Berkshire East have formed a long-term partnership, which will allow the course to grow and evolve along with Berkshire East. This is something you just don’t see very often in an age when many ski areas and OCR events are run by corporations who just want to improve their profit margins. I am sure that the Bone Frog Challenge and Berkshire East both want to make a profit but it is clear that they want to do it in a way that benefits the region.
During our discussion I realized that Brian, the event’s founder, is one of the most extraordinary things about the Bone Frog Challenge. For one thing he is a Navy SEAL so he has done a great service to the country and he has seen his share of obstacle courses. He is also a local who grew up skiing the slopes of Berkshire East. When he got out of the SEAL Teams he could have gone anywhere but he chose to come back to his roots in New England. He founded the Bone Frog Challenge because he was passionate about obstacle course racing and he felt that the slopes of Berkshire East could create a course unlike any other. It does not get more authentic or more New England than that.
The Bone Frog Challenge exists because of the passion of its founders and the amazing outdoor resources that are found in New England. Authenticity like that can be hard to find these days. Events like Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder or Spartan Race have their place but I think that the Bone Frog Challenge takes it to another level.