Dirt in your skirt blog

From Behind the Camera – Vermont, Shale Hill, and Viking Obstacle Course

Posted on September 24, 2014 by Margaret Schlachter

For the past five years I have been an obstacle racer, although the first year we didn’t know what to call ourselves. I have watched this sport grow from a bunch of what many would call weirdos running around in the mud to seeing a true new sport beginning to emerge with a competitive international field. Obstacle Racing and other non-traditional races are the fastest growing new sport and according to Runner’s World a few months ago over 6 million in the US alone will participant in a non-traditional race in 2014. Just a few years ago I had people calling the whole thing stupid and calling me crazy on a daily basis. When I quit my day job to pursue racing and my passion I was called, stupid, crazy, and asked how I would feed myself. But this post is not about me, really it’s not.

Vermont Spartan World Championships

This trip to the east coast has been different, for the most part I have been behind the scenes switching roles to the observer rather than the doer. I love Vermont and this was the first year I did not participate in the World Championships but instead was behind the lenses of a camera for the entire weekend. Being behind the scene was a new experience and gave me a chance to see the industry from yet another side. Standing side-by-side the NBC production crew, hearing the chatter on the radio, and racing to get the next shot was exciting in a new way. Observing the race gave me a chance to get some new takeaways:


1. Obstacle Racing and Spartan Race are truly global brands now. It is no longer an American thing, especially when the World Championship podium on Saturday included several countries.

2. Vermont just gets harder and is for the above average racer and that’s OK! Vermont is hard no doubt, it’s not a regular Beast, but it’s the World Championship course and people should expect it to be like no other race all year.

3. Wear all Black when filming. Learning to blend into the scenery.

4. You don’t need to race to have a great weekend in Vermont at World Championships. The sites, sounds and people are amazing.

5. Obstacle Racing is arriving. Looking down at the parking lot on Saturday reminded me of a holiday weekend in the winter. Parking lots packed, cars along the side of the road. It was just as busy as a normal winter holiday day with everything in full swing.

6. Norm Koch is the best course designer in the sport of Obstacle Racing but he has competition (read on).


Shale Hill and Viking Obstacle Race

Rob Butler the mastermind behind the Shale Hill Obstacle Course and also the course designer for the Viking Obstacle Race at Sunny Hill Resort is a very close second to Norm Koch on course designs. The past two days have been spent on his courses and they are both fun, hard, and will challenge mind and body.


Shale Hill is the “Field of Dreams” of the obstacle racing world. Butler started out building obstacles on his 160-acre farm in Benson, Vermont just to play around on. Today it is probably one of the best courses that no one knows about. Watch for more about it in a future episode of Obstacle and Adventure Weekly.


Viking Obstacle Race at Sunny Hill Resort is like a slice of Americana preserved and now updated for the next generation. The resort truly is a just like Kellerman’s from the movie Dirty Dancing only instead of practicing your dance moves you can run out on their 5-mile obstacle course while on your family vacation then hike up the links on their two 18-hole golf courses. Also look out for a future episode of Obstacle and Adventure Weekly.


This trip is nowhere near over and still am headed to BattleFrog in Pittsburgh this weekend. What I have learned so far on this trip is the industry continues to grow, change, and there is now sometime for everyone at every level in this sport and we no longer just have the big three but really now we have hundreds of great races out there, the next step is learning which ones are they are and organizing them into a schedule that lets us the racers enjoy it all.