If cities are urban jungles, consider men like Kirkland resident Jon Ramirez an urban Tarzan.
Last month, Ramirez took first place at the New York City Men’s Health Urbanathlon, a race that blends running with obstacles found in urban environments.
A trainer at Elite Fitness in Bellevue, Ramirez first started competing in the Urbanathlon around seven years ago, which he said he did on a whim. Although he’s never considered himself a runner, the addition of urban structures throughout the 12-mile course full of buses, monkey bars and graffiti-covered walls was enough to get him hooked.
“I liked these obstacles and these particular races. And then they would have something, a wall you would have to climb over,” he said. “I was able to do that quite successfully and then of course get back into running. It was definitely breaking up the monotony. Just having that break up of some kind of obstacle definitely made it more entertaining and certainly added to the challenge.”
“When I came back I went to my bosses and I said ‘We need to do this.’”
Every year from then on they would take clients to Chicago, where the event is normally held, but not before training six months in advance.
“We build a gradual running base and we attempt to train as best we can and incorporate any obstacle stuff as we can,” he said. “I’ve gone as far as building a few hurdles and whatnot and put them around town when we go running.”
This year, however, they ran into a snag, first when the event was moved from Chicago to New York City.
“We were thinking, ‘We’re going to fly across the country, we’ll do all the same training and see how it goes,’” he said.
It was then they ran into another setback when the New York Mets played the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Whereas in Chicago the race had them run through Soldier Field, the New York route would have them run through City Field, where the World Series was taking place. As a result, the race was postponed for a month.
“We had already booked tickets and hotels and restaurants, not to mention all the training,” he said. “Money had been spent, so we still went to New York but they didn’t have the race. We made the most of it and did little fitness activities unique to the New York area.”
However, Ramirez couldn’t shake the urge to compete in the Urbanathlon, and when they returned home from the trip he decided he had to return.
“I waited a few days until I got back home, went on a practice run and that’s when I decided I was going to do it,” he said.
When he got to New York City for the second time, he found the course much more technical with more sudden turns that impacted running speeds. Running with the second wave, Ramirez said he had learned from past competitions not to race with the runners but to run strategically.
“The first year I definitely saw what I was lacking and I definitely figured out what I needed to practice,” he said. “I had a definite race strategy, a race plan and I try to have a race plan anytime I go into any particular race I’m doing.”
Soon, he had passed all of the other participants, except for one.
“We were side-by-side for the entirety of the race,” he said. “Every step was just right next to each other. I counted five or six times when we kind of touched elbows.”
Still, he said, he was determined not to chase after him.
“I did not want to run according to how the others were running,” he said. “I just followed just what my watch said.”
At the end, the other man managed to stay ahead of Ramirez and crossed the finish line about ten seconds before him.
The thing was, the man had started in the first wave before Ramirez, which meant he had actually finished 50 seconds sooner and won.