GOLD HILL — A huge rush of last-minute entries and spectacular weather combined with some big-name athletes to make the Rogue Valley's first Atlas Race a big success Saturday at Estremado Ranch.
"It went amazing," race vice president of operations Lance Landers said. "It was better than we thought. People just started showing up and registering. It exceeded our expectations for sure."
Landers and other organizers of the extreme obstacle racing series event were hoping for about 500 participants heading into race day but he estimated that about 1,000 men and women ended up signing up for the roughly four-mile competition.
Brakken Kraker of Milwaukee, Wis., won the elite individual competition in 40 minutes, 40 seconds, while John Ricardi of Seattle, Wash., placed second (41:15) and Chad Trammell of Yakima, Wash., third (42:03).
Lauren Ho of Kailua, Hawaii, became the first woman to place when she crossed the finish line in 54:20, good for eighth overall.
Also showing up unexpectedly was Max King, one of the top distance runners in the nation who has seven Pear Blossom championships under his belt. King placed fourth in 42:40 and helped the Atlas Pro 3 team capture the Elite Team title with a combined time of 2:05.59.
King was not slated to join the Atlas team prior to race day, but when he showed up they made it work.
"You kind of make special arrangements when someone of that caliber shows up," Landers said. "I had no idea. That was his first (Atlas Race) ever and he said he'd be back for more."
Atlas Pro 1 — made up of Ho, Rose Wetzel of Seattle, Wash., Valerie Weilert of Soquel, Calif., and Brittany Oregan of Portland — won the Women's Elite Team title.
King wasn't the only runner who made the most of a last-minute decision.
According to Landers, Kraker, 26, who has also won the Lake Geneva Gladiator Assault Challenge and the Tough Mudder Wisconsin, didn't decide to throw his hat in until Friday, at which point he flew across the country just in time to crash the party.
The top 25 placers all finished the course in less than an hour, an impressive feat considering the obstacles they faced throughout the run.
There were 26 obstacles in all, including zigzagging, elevated log balancing beams, gorilla bars (monkey bars set at an incline for about 25 feet) and a 200-foot uphill crawl under barbed wire.
Landers said the team competitions were especially popular. It called for four competitors to team up, with the top three times counting toward a team score.
"We're going to continue with the team aspect," he said. "We have to do the team thing for sure (next year) — it builds camaraderie among the athletes."