Challenge accepted!
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    By the end of the year, we often find ourselves in a comfortable routine: jogging along the Lakefill for exercise, doing a difficult problem set and eating that same burrito at Plex every Thursday. If you want to break away from the ordinary and recapture that excitement you had on the first day of freshman year, take part in one of these challenges in the Chicago area to test your brain, brawn and belly like never before.

    Illustration by Andrea Schmitz / North by Northwestern


    Warrior Dash — June 16 and 17, Channahon, Ill.

    You could unwind from finals by staying in bed and catching up on Netflix, or you could become a warrior. The Warrior Dash is a 3.19-mile trek through some extreme — and borderline dangerous — obstacles. Be prepared to rappel down a ravine, navigate through a junkyard of decaying cars, balance on a tightrope over water and leap over fire. If it sounds a little too intense, do it for the live music, fuzzy warrior helmet and a free beer that are promised to all finishers — or should we say, warriors.

    Challenge Level: 5 out of 5

    Columbia Muddy Buddy Ride & Run — July 21, Gilberts, Ill.

    If you’re seeking the ultimate bonding experience, look no further than the Columbia Muddy Buddy Ride & Run. You and your pal will experience a test of endurance and friendship. Competitors can register for either a 4.5-mile run or a 7-mile combination bike and run race, but it’s the obstacles that will prove the strength of your camaraderie. Climbing walls, a maze, steeplechase hurdles and a horizontal log weave are just a few of the objects you’ll encounter along the way. And it wouldn’t be an adventure race without a mud pit. If you and your partner are still speaking after crossing the finish line, enjoy two free beers and the glory of being muddy buddies.

    Challenge Level: 4 out of 5

    Great Urban Race — July 21, Chicago, Ill.

    The best workout stresses several body parts at once, and the Great Urban Race takes that philosophy to a new level. The race exercises major muscles and the brain by providing clues that lead participants around Chicago. The challenges are physical as well as mental, so be prepared for riddles, anagrams and crossword puzzles. And if you haven’t been logging miles on the treadmill, no need to worry; the Great Urban Race allows participants to use public transportation to finish the challenges within the five-hour time limit. But the best part? While you discover Chicago, you’ll also benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.

    Challenge Level: 3 out of 5

    GORUCK Challenge — Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, Chicago, Ill.

    Think your books are heavy? Try trekking through Chicago with bricks in your backpack for 8 to 10 hours. The GORUCK Challenge is no joke — take it from the Green Berets that designed and lead the 15-mile journey. In each city, participants form a single team under the guidance of a “cadre” witha military background, and rely on interdependence and physical endurance to complete challenges such as lifting bulky objects and swimming through choppy waters. But if you make it through the weekend when Chicago hosts the event, past participants promise you’ll never forget the experience. And if you don’t survive? Well, there’s a death waiver included on the registration form.

    Challenge Level: 5 out of 5

    Spartan Race — Oct. 27 and 28, Marseilles, Ill.

    If you watched 300 and dreamed of kicking ass like a Spartan, then this race is for you. The Midwest Super Spartan Obstacle Race tests competitors’ strength and agility with more than 20 obstacles spread throughout eight grueling miles at Cliffs Insane Terrain Park in Marseilles, Ill. Mud, fire and barbed wire will stand between participants and the finish line, but race organizers are tight-lipped when it comes to exact details about the obstacles. If you can survive this military-inspired hell haul, you’ll get a shirt, medal, live entertainment and — if you’re a Spartan over the age of 21 — free beer. And if you haven’t had your fill, the top finishers receive free entry in the next level of craziness: the Spartan Beast race, a 12-mile obstacle course in Vermont.

    Challenge Level: 4 out of 5

    Illustration by Andrea Schmitz / North by Northwestern


    Trivia fundraiser for the Special Olympics Illinois — July 13, Bobak’s Signature Events and Conference Center, Woodridge, Ill.

    Love trivia and altruism? This trivia night fundraiser will test your knowledge of various topics — sports, TV, movies, video games — to teams of 10 over multiple rounds for a first place award. All proceeds will go to Special Olympics Illinois.

    5th Annual Chicago Class Championships — July 20 to 22, 601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, Ill.

    Although this event requires ratings for the Master and Expert Sections, there are six classes open to chess players of all levels. With a $20,000 prize fund, this championship — organized by the Continental Chess Association — runs for three days at the Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel. Attend or register to see some of the most impressive chess moves in the Midwest.

    Traitorous Monday — 153 E. Erie St., Chicago, Ill.

    Visit the T.G.I. Friday’s in Streeterville for mental exercise and celebration of deceit. Act as a villager or werewolf in Ultimate Werewolf or infiltrate The Resistance as an imperial spy. These games, while not played on a board or deck of cards, require a masterful poker face and strategic mindset. Embody Sherlock Holmes on the last Monday of every month. The treachery begins at 7 p.m.

    Scrabble Night at The Coffee Studio, 5628 N. Clark St., Chicago, Ill.

    Do you have the A-B-I-L-I-T-Y? This event, hosted by the Chicago Scrabble Meetup on the first Wednesday of each month promises uninter-rupted Scrabble time with players of all skill levels from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for $1. Bring that favorite set of word tiles and test your wordsmithing skills against other Scrabble-savvy Chicagoans. Organizers only ask that attendees bring a Scrabble board if they have one available. Seating is limited, so interested participants should RSVP on their website to save a spot.

    Illustration by Andrea Schmitz / North by Northwestern


    The Big Mel, Dos Diablos, 15 W. Hubbard St.

    The Big Mel is a 3.5-pound monster chimichanga packed with sour cream, your choice of salsa and plenty of cheese. Oh, and it’s served with rice and beans. Finish this colossal chimi in less than 20 minutes, and your meal is on them.

    Challenge level: 2 out of 5

    The Bacon Bomb located at Paddy Long’s, 1028 W. Diversey Pkwy.

    It’s a mix of ground sausage, pork, beef and spices, wrapped in a brown sugar bacon weave, weighing in at a whopping 5 pounds. It takes 30 minutes to prepare this big guy, and it technically serves six to eight people. But if you finish the Bacon Bomb, in addition to a large side of fries by yourself within 45 minutes, you get the Bacon Bomb for free and a T-shirt. Your photo will live on forever on the restaurant’s wall of champions.

    Challenge Level: 4 out of 5

    Lucky’s Challenge, Lucky’s Sandwich Company, 3472 N. Clark St. and 717 Maxwell St.

    Your choice of three different sandwiches from the following: Roast Beef, Capricola, Cajun Chicken, Salami, Pastrami, Smoked Turkey, The Fredo, Corned Beef or Ham. You have one hour to finish all three, including all toppings, to receive the third sandwich free, a T-shirt from the restaurant and a photo on the winners’ wall. Finish all three in less than half an hour, and the other two sandwiches are free, too.

    Challenge Level: 3 out of 5

    XXX Hot Wings, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, 41 E. Superior St.

    The XXX Hot Wings at Jake Melnick’s are made with a raw chili pepper known as the Bhut Jolokia, or the Ghost Pepper. It’s the hottest known raw chili pepper in the entire world, which is probably why they make you sign a waiver before they serve you the XXX Hot Wings with cooling agents and a complimentary fire hat. Just ordering the XXX Hot Wings gets you a spot on their illustrious Wall of Flame.

    Challenge Level: 5 out of 5


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