Nick Symmonds had a fine line to walk when he was designing his “Impossible Obstacle Course.” Despite the name he’d given it, he wanted someone to complete it. He also just wanted to make it as physically challenging as possible (without making it actually impossible).
That’s why he threw in the hardest, most diverse obstacles he could think of: a pegboard, a set of monkey bars, a high jump, a 400-pound tire flip, a slackline, a warped-wall run, and a rope climb.
At the end was a box filled with $25,000 in cold hard cash: the grand prize.
Symmonds, a two-time Olympic track competitor, describes it as a part Ninja Warrior, part CrossFit obstacle challenge course. He designed it specifically to test every aspect of an athlete’s abilities. Anyone who wanted that box of cash had to be well-rounded and versed in balance, strength, dexterity, and speed. They would have to complete the course sight unseen, without ever practicing it.
“I wanted each obstacle to really test a different skill set,” Symmonds told GearJunkie. “Like, ‘OK, so you’re a great climber? Cool. But can you flip a 400-pound tire? You’re super, super strong. But can you run up a 40-foot warped wall?'”
It was part of his mission to find the strongest, most well-rounded athlete in the world. And, on March 22, 2023, Symmonds found his winner: Ben Wales.
“It was a surreal experience with lots of positive energy, excitement, and drama,” said Wales, after completing the Impossible Obstacle Course and winning the $25,000 cash prize. “The Impossible Obstacle Course was an amazing opportunity to showcase my skills, and Nick was a very gracious host. I fully support his mission of encouraging people to be more active and have fun with their fitness journeys!”
The Winner: Ben Wales
When Symmonds put the call out for competitors to come and try his Impossible Obstacle Course, he had no idea what kind of turn-out he’d have. He put an entry fee on the race to try and mitigate an overwhelming turnout. He said he expected maybe 20 people to show up.
Instead, there were 100 competitors who threw their hats in the ring.
“So it was somewhat chaotic,” said Symmonds. “But the people that showed up were just so positive and so patient. We shot for 5 hours to make sure that everyone got a chance to run it.”
But about halfway through that 5-hour shoot, they already had their winner. Wales owns The Wilderness Fitness and Coworking, a health- and wellness-focused workspace in Minneapolis, Minn. And Symmonds said he showed up humble and ready to rumble.
“When I announced this competition, I had all these athletes from all over the country, ninjas, parkour experts, NFL players saying, ‘I can destroy that course if you fly me out,'” said Symmonds. “[Ben] didn’t email me asking for special favors or paid appearance fees or anything. [He] literally just saw the opportunity, bought a plane ticket, showed up with the masses, and [he] won.”
Symmonds was blown away by the athleticism that Wales, and everyone else, brought to the table.
“I’m so impressed by them,” he said. “Their athleticism is so diverse and so, like jaw-dropping. It’s been really fun to see that.”
While Wales walked away with $25,000, he wasn’t the only one to complete the challenge that day. Lucas Cvitanich and Eric Middleton (ages 15 and 17, respectively) also finished the course. After Wales claimed the grand prize, there were still 30 or 40 competitors who hadn’t yet gotten their chance to try the Impossible Obstacle Course.
So he offered $1,000 to anyone who could finish it, from the remaining pool of competitors.
And Cvitanich and Middleton brought their game faces. Both walked away with $1,000 in their pockets — and the satisfaction of being one of four people to have ever completed Symmonds’ Impossible Obstacle Course.
Next Up: Who Can Be the Fastest?
Obviously, Symmonds isn’t stopping here. The YouTube fitness star is taking the challenge to the next level. Now that we know the Impossible Obstacle Course can be completed, he wants to see who can complete it the fastest. So on March 25, he’s hosting another challenge: a speed run to see what the fastest possible completion time is.
“I put another $10,000 out for the person who could run the fastest,” Symmonds said. “So now we’ve got elite athletes flying in from all over the country. And whoever runs it the fastest will win 10 grand.”
But the rules will be slightly different this time around, he said. Instead of having to try the course without ever having practiced it, competitors in the speed run will be able to try the obstacle course and practice before the competition. Which will up the ante and make for a wildly entertaining spectacle.
And Symmonds thinks that people will be able to complete the Impossible Obstacle Course in mind-blowing times.
“I definitely think we see someone run it in under a minute,” he said, pure confidence in his voice. “I wouldn’t put anything past [these athletes].”
The ‘Impossible-r Obstacle Course’
Symmonds said that once they’re done shooting the speed run, he’s going to put the Impossible Obstacle Course in storage and focus on other projects for a while. But down the road, when the time is right, he’s going to bust it out again. And he’s going to be adding onto it — making the impossible even harder.
“I’m already working on season two, and season two is impossible-r and twice the budget,” he said. “If we get the sponsors, we’re going to try to give away 50 grand.”
So if you missed your chance this time around, don’t worry. You’ll have another shot. It’s just going to be twice as hard — and there will be twice as much money on the line.
Check out the video of Wales’ successful run above. And keep your eyes on Symmonds’ YouTube channel to watch the speed run this weekend. The video will drop on March 30.