Event Spotlight: Civilian Military Combine – a totally different breed of obstacle race



CMC Americas race

With Civilian Military Combine’s season about to kick off with their upcoming Poconos, Pennsylvania event we wanted to get to know a little bit more about this hybrid event that is one part fitness test, one part obstacle race and all parts max heart rate. Keith Gornish, CMC’s CEO and cofounder was nice enough to give us the inside scoop on their unique segment within the obstacle race industry.

M+A The obvious: What is the Civilian Military Combine (CMC)?

CMC America’s Race is the word’s fastest growing community of hybrid athletes, combining 4+ miles of obstacle racing with our revolutionary first challenge, The PIT – the most badass fitness battlefield.

M+A What’s the “Military” connection?

CMC At CMC, we believe that Patriotism is our Country’s common denominator, and that belief serves as the basis for our mission: to create life-changing fitness experiences that demonstrate Patriotism through Athleticism. We support military programs like the Travis Manion Foundation and Navy SEAL Foundation through our partnership with One Team One Fight and The 31 Heroes Project, and our races and obstacles are all military-inspired. We use every event as a platform to honor the men and women who protect us.

M+A How many participants do your events normally see? What’s the sweet spot number to keep things flowing smoothly yet set the tone for an energized atmosphere?

CMC CMC has experienced incredible organic growth in the past year. Our events normally attract 2,000+ athletes plus family/friends/spectators. Fitness is fun to watch!

Because of the way CMC events are designed, our sweet spot is really flexible. The PIT, which is the revolutionary 5-minute workout that every racer completes BEFORE starting the course, naturally moderates heat size and totally eliminates bottlenecks. That means no waiting for the people ahead of you. We have some teams that are so large, they have their own entire heat in the PIT! They all start and end the race together – it’s an incredible experience.

M+A Who is behind CMC and what are your backgrounds? How did you guys first meet?

CMC CMC runs a lean shop with 4 full-time employees, loyal friends and family, and the best 3rd-party partners in the business. Matt Keller, Sean Rogers and I have been friends for years long before CMC. Our fourth partner, Niko Venev, was an intern turned event and race industry guru. Matt, Sean and I all have extensive Wall Street backgrounds with a passion for fitness and people – we love what we do because of the people – we’re inspired and humbled every day!

M+A How did you guys get the idea for CMC and how did it start off?

CMC We are life-long athletes, fitness enthusiasts and social extractors – we love being around positive, inspiring people! Early adopters of everything fitness and social related. We took our fitness regimen to the next level by taking up CrossFit in 2009 to prepare for the first Tough Mudder in May 2010. Sean was focused on his abs. As memorable as the feeling of having our chests pressed up against the starting line of the first heat of the first Tough Mudder was, the parking lot is where the vision of creating a hybrid event combining the best of functional fitness and obstacle racing, heavily influenced and motivated by the love of Country and Patriotism, was born. Beers, protein bars and cramping always help with creativity.

M+A What has changed since CMC started and the current format (if anything)?

CMC The biggest change has been implementing 4 divisions in The PIT – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. CMC appeals to this incredibly diverse range of athletes – from CrossFitters to runners, weight lifters, and recreational athletes….and everything in between! And we wanted everyone to be able to crush The PIT, in their own style. So these four new divisions are all-encompassing: Alpha appeals to athletes that excel at bodyweight movements, Delta attracts athletes that can really move a barbell and their bodies, and Charlie and Bravo cover everything in between. We’ve gotten great feedback not only from new Combiners, but from our diehard fans – they love the challenge – so we’re pumped about the new divisions. It’s go time May 17th at the Poconos!

M+A I’ve never done CrossFit before. Am I going to look silly or risk hurting myself in the Pit?

CMC Only if you attempt to climb on the DJ’s stage! CMC appeals to a wide range of athletes. While CrossFitters make up 40% of Combiners, they are still just one segment. We’ve also got runners, weight-lifters, boot-campers, recreational athletes, and a ton of crossover athletes who don’t subscribe to just one definition of fitness. CMC is a community of HYBRID athletes.

We are the world’s second largest functional fitness competition, and we’ve developed our own, extremely stringent standards for protecting our Combiners against injury. Even when aggressive dance moves are attempted in The PIT. When you’re in the PIT, the Judge to Athlete ratio is 1:1. You have your own personal PIT Judge who is highly trained and certified by CMC to (1) ensure our stringent safety standards are met, (2) adhere to the movement and scoring standards, and (3) be your loudest cheerleader. In addition to your Judge, we offer detailed training videos on our website that can prepare anyone for The PIT, and each video is specific to The PIT division you choose. Dress appropriately, Paul. Combiners look good in The PIT. It’s game time.

M+A How much impact does the Pit, which is 5 minutes of AMRAP, have on the times in the obstacle race compared to say theoretically running the o-course fresh?

CMC Do military and first responders have the luxury of fresh legs when called into battle and saving lives? CMC gives civilians the opportunity to rise up and get the job done regardless of the circumstances. Strategy is a big part of CMC! Some Combiners are there to win it all, while others focus on improving their score from the last race or supporting their teammates. Some are there to build their dating pipeline. Combiners are beautiful people. There is a 2 minute transition between The PIT and the course. Combiners have hydration, protein bars, and energy drinks available to recover and prepare to crush the course. Mind over matter, though! Man up. The CMC was created to push your limits and up your game. Once you cross the Finish Line of a CMC you will never look at your fitness regimen the same. You will have raised your game!

M+A Do you have any signature obstacles? What factors, considerations and goals go into creation of the obstacle course?

CMC We have spent countless hours on obstacle innovation and creativity. It’s one of the best parts of our job. The Locker Room (aka CMC office) sees some pretty heated debates during these obstacle innovation meetings and on testing sessions! Our goal is to have a challenging yet fun mix of terrain, military-inspired, and “wow” obstacles that enhance what each unique venue has to offer. CMC is dynamic. We’ve been at aircraft carriers docked in Manhattan’s Hudson River to the Pocono Mountains. This year we’re PUMPED for a totally new experience – CMC: America’s Race at America’s Game. We’re honoring our Country’s finest by putting on a race before the Army vs. Navy Football Game. December 10th – watch out Baltimore’s Inner Harbor!!

M+A You have different divisions for the Pit, can have an overall winning pit score if they aren’t in the Delta division?

CMC The PIT divisions are created so Combiners can excel at a level appropriate for their training and athleticism. We have performed extensive studies (yes we’re data geeks) and are beyond excited at the PIT training scores we have seen across divisions. Yes – we are rolling out a Combine Championship point series. The Divisions will be weighted accordingly to declare an overall winner. Don’t be scared, Paul. You got this!

M+A any lessons learned you care to share with other race directors or those looking to get into the OCR and challenge event business?

CMC We continue to learn every day. It’s a humbling business! One important lesson we’ve learned is to listen to your audience. Racers aren’t shy and they have great input and feedback – good and bad – on the experience. And keep evolving….sometimes we feel we’re dating white boards regarding the amount of time we spend ideating on obstacle innovation to PIT workouts to apparel designs. CMC loves whiteboards.

M+A Where do you see CMC headed long term – idealistically and realistically?

CMC Bold question. Respect. By 2015, athletes across the country will have the opportunity to experience CMC. And by 2016, we’ll be international. You’ll see much more CMC training content, coaching athletes on how to perform across all terrains, and how to conquer anything The PIT and obstacle course hurls at them. You might even see your good looking face on TV!

Gone will be the days of sharing The PIT workout beforehand – you’ll find out what it is when you get to the race! But rest assured The PIT isn’t going anywhere, and we’ll continue to incorporate feedback and input from the military and the functional fitness industry’s brightest and most creative minds.

In the near future you’ll be able to compete in the Combine Championship Series – where civilians, military and first responders put it all on the line. Technology will play a big role in helping Combiners train and track their CMC performance. Oh, did I mention our apparel line will include butt shorts and of course cool socks? Game-changing socks.

Save on CMC with discount code MUDANDADVENTURE



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