Obstacle run for kids aims to help them have fun and learn from failure, too
It’s normal to fail in an obstacle course, Jeff Johnson emphasized.
JACKSON — There are many obstacles in life, and failure doesn’t have to mean giving up but instead, can be a learning experience or an opportunity.
That’s what Jeff Johnson hopes kids will learn from the new Youth Obstacle Challenge event, which will allow young people ages 5 through 18 to test their mettle against a series of age-appropriate strength, agility and endurance obstacles. If someone can’t get past an obstacle, they must instead complete some burpees as a penalty, but then they can go on to the next challenge.
“It seems far too many kids and adults are so worried about failing that they don't do it,” Johnson said. Instead, they can’t accept the failure, losing confidence and in some cases, even suffering from mental health issues such as depression because of it — amplifying struggles many students were already going through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s normal to fail in an obstacle course, Johnson emphasized.
For a long time, he’s been participating in endurance events such as marathons or even Iron Man competitions that include running, biking, and swimming. In the past few years, he’s been focusing on Spartan events, which include obstacle courses.
Since he helped start a triathlon in Jackson 13 years ago — the Sanford TriForHealth — he started thinking about having an obstacle course event in Jackson County too.
Then the Jackson County Fair Board contacted him about bringing a mud run or a similar event to the fair.
The rest of the story is more complex. Johnson’s son, Sam, now 19, and two other young men participated in an obstacle course together a couple of years ago, all of them failing at least one obstacle, and all of them enjoying the experience immensely.
One of those other young men, Holden Broitzman, died by suicide in 2020 at age 18.
“He was young, (he had a) very infectious personality,” Johnson said, recalling Broitzman’s musical talent and describing him as a leader who made friends everywhere. “Covid restrictions were really hard on him. He was such a social guy.”
Recognizing the many mental health challenges young people have faced in recent years, including the pandemic, Johnson wanted to focus the event on mental health awareness.
“I want them to know that it’s OK to fail,” he said.
Broitzman’s friends have gotten involved in the project too, helping build the obstacles for the event themselves, including Sam as well Clay Cranston, Cole Osterberg, Dan Eggink and Marcus Salzwedel.
Johnson emphasized the importance of getting physical exercise and spending time outdoors for people struggling with mental health issues, too.
Obstacles for the course will vary by age group, but may include small walls, inverted walls, slip walls, tire flips, bear crawls, balance beams, a water pit, and various lifts and carries. The youngest participants, age 5 through 7, will have a half-a-mile run with around six obstacles; the 8 to 10-year-olds will run a mile and face eight obstacles, and those age 11 through 18 will run 2 miles and face even more obstacles.
The event kicks off at 11 a.m. on July 30 at the Jackson County Fair. Registration costs $30, and Johnson said that while young people can register the day of the event too, they have a better chance of getting a T-shirt if they do so before July 27. To register, visit triforhealth.com and click on “TFH Obstacle Challenge” in the top menu.
Johnson thanked the many people who have made the event possible, including Terri Bargfrede, who helped secure insurance for the competition, as well as Tod Quiring and Doug Johnson of Jackson Motorplex, who are allowing the use of the old track area. TriForHealth is the title sponsor, and Positive Action Towards Health helped fund the event through a $6,500 grant. Boeketts supplied the material for the obstacles.
“I am so excited to have something for our youth to get rewarded for challenging themselves,” Johnson said. “I think all will enjoy this challenge.”