IF YOU GO
* What: Chattanooga Challenge, extreme urban 10K.
* When: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. March 23.
* Where: Start/finish line is at Ross's Landing, Riverfront Parkway.
* Admission: $45 single entry; $160 team entry; festival is free to attend.
* Phone: 757-6505.
1. Village Volkswagen Car Crawl. [Start: Ross's Landing, Riverfront Parkway.] Shortly after the start, race participants will approach the Car Crawl, where they will navigate their way under slightly elevated Volkswagen vehicles.
2. Coca-Cola Carry. [The Boathouse, 1459 Riverside Drive.] Participants will maneuver around, through and carry giant Coca-Cola products in order to continue.
3. Ace Hardware Dare. [Scrappy Moore Field, University of Tennessee/Chattanooga Riverwalk.] Participants will be confronted with obstacles such as ropes and tires and must run, swing, push and crawl before moving on.
4. Sports Barn Marine Hurdles. [First Christian Church, 650 McCallie Ave.] Expect a bit of a fight to overcome these giant hurdles.
5. CTFP Newspaper Mountain. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 400 E. 11th St.] Racers must find their footing and clamber up and over a mountain of newsprint to carry on.
6. Chattanooga Choo Choo Climb. [Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.] In honor of Chattanooga's locomotive history, racers must get past a train car draped with a net or be stopped in their tracks at the race's halfway point.
7. To be decided. [Get Built CrossFit, 301 W. Main St.] Event organizers haven't settled on which obstacle to stump racers with, but climbing a Jacob's Ladder -- a 20-foot-tall, free-standing ladder -- is likely.
8. Stadium Climb. [Finley Stadium, 1826 Carter St.] Prepare for a run up to the nosebleeds before making a quick descent back to the field and the final quarter of the race.
9. Building Climb. [To be determined.] Elevators are for softies. Participants can expect to climb and descend every flight of a downtown building, from lobby to penthouse.
10. The Penguin Plunge. [The Tennessee Aquarium, 1 Broad St.] Runners may wish they hadn't burned off all that fat by the time they brave a shallow pool of water kept at around 42 degrees, the same temperature preferred by the aquarium's Gentoo and macaroni penguins.
11. Rock City Barn. [Finish: Ross's Landing, Riverfront Parkway.] Before they can say they've conquered the Challenge, participants must scale this giant replica of the See Rock City barn. Organizers say multiple options for doing so will be available.
During the Chattanooga Challenge, spectators will be able to watch would-be challengers assail obstacles via live video feeds from a dozen challenge sites. These will be transmitted to a screen on stage at the Ross's Landing finish line.
Major sponsors and many other local vendors will have booths on site at Ross's Landing. Concessions will be available, and Big River Grille will host a beer garden with locally brewed suds. Part of each racer's goodie bag will include beer tokens, according to event organizer Sarah Bass. Entertainment will be provided by a handful of local artists and a national headliner.
• 4-4:30 p.m. Eight Knives.
• 5-5:30 p.m. Jordan Hallquist.
• 5:30-6 p.m. Jennifer Daniels.
• 6-6:30 p.m. Jennifer Brumlow featuring Callie Harmon.
• 6:30-7 p.m. Sidecar Special.
• 7-7:30 p.m. Soul Mechanic.
• 7:30-8 p.m. Smooth Dialects.
• 8 p.m. Kat Graham (headliner), star of the hit show "Vampire Diaries."
After Graham concludes, the stage will be repurposed as an outdoor movie theater to screen films for the inaugural Lookout Wild Film Festival, which will showcase outdoor-based films.
To many people, simply thinking about trudging up multiple flights of steps is enough to make them break out in a sweat and look for the nearest elevator.
But for participants in Chattanooga Challenge -- the city's first "urbanathlon," or obstacle-filled 10K -- reaching the top floor of a downtown building the hard way will be just one of a dozen challenges they will face before the finish line.
The race, set for March 23 at Ross's Landing, follows a course through downtown, Southside and along the Chattanooga Riverwalk. Along the way, participants will overcome obstacles ranging from the stair marathon and climbing over a See Rock City barn to wading through near-freezing water in the Penguin Plunge, a frigid contribution inspired by the Tennessee Aquarium.
"When you get to [each obstacle], you'll have to figure out how to do it," says Ken Radley, director of Scenic City Multisport, the event manager of the Challenge.
"Some of the obstacles are relatively easy, and some of them are ... not," he cryptically adds, laughing. "Some of these obstacles are just going to be fun -- so much fun."
The Challenge is being presented by Get Out Chattanooga, an outdoor enthusiast magazine published by the Chattanooga Publishing Co., the parent of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Proceeds from the event, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 participants, will be funneled to the Chattanooga Times Free Press Foundation, a recently founded organization focusing on charitable community outreach.
Radley says event organizers modeled the Chattanooga Challenge on the Men's Health Urbanathlon & Festival, a three-event series with obstacle-filled 10Ks in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco.
The variety in these races is a refreshing change of pace from traditional street races and trail runs, Radley says.
"Running is fine. It's great fitness and is fun, if you're fast, but if you can break it up and do something different, that's what makes any type of multi-sport event so popular," he says.
In its November 2012 issue, an article in Outside Magazine reported that participation in obstacle race series such as Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Urbanathlon and Spartan Race has exploded in the last two years. In 2010, these race series drew about 41,000 participants, according to the article, and by 2012, more than 1.5 million were tackling them.
Challenge Chattanooga is the Scenic City's latest obstacle race, but similar, smaller events were organized in 2012, including the Chattanooga Mud Run and Moonshine Mud Run, which benefited Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga and United Way of Greater Chattanooga, respectively.
Scenic City Boot Camp fitness instructor Clarissa Seales, 28, has participated in about half a dozen obstacles and adventure races in the last few years and also will be participating in the Challenge. She purposefully has avoided looking at the race map or reading descriptions of the obstacles. Part of the fun, she says, is not knowing what's in store.
"I think it takes away from the fact that it's supposed to be a challenge or an adventure when you totally know what's going to happen," Seales says. "Because I teach fitness, I need something that pushes me really hard."
During the race, participants will wear special badges and, if they choose to register with a compatible program, their progress automatically will be uploaded to their Facebook and Twitter profiles as they pass each challenge.
Runners' finish times will be recorded, but the event has no time limit. Completing the 11-challenge gauntlet should take an estimated 1 to 2 hours, organizers say. The stair climb, for instance, will take longer than clamboring over a train car at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The obstacles themselves were selected because of their iconic status in the city, both to residents and tourists.
"When you think of Chattanooga, what are some things you think about?" says Times Free Press wellness coordinator Sarah Bass. "If you brought your grandma in from out of state, where would you take her?"
Kari Krouse, 31, an academic coach at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School in Walker County, has been prepping for the Challenge through a regimen of prolonged runs, high-intensity aerobics and light weightlifting. She says she hopes to climb over the final obstacle, a See Rock City barn, and cross the finish line in just over an hour.
And the other 11 obstacles in the way?
"I'm excited," she says. "Bring on the challenge."