By Jess | November 19, 2013
A whistle blared through my ragged breath. “Tracker-jackers!” someone screamed.
I sank to the ground in exhaustion. The other tributes danced around me, flailing their arms and legs from the tracker-jacker stings. Could I pull myself up again and do the same?
Competing in the Hunger Games wasn’t supposed to be easy, but I was in dire need of some aid from my sponsors… or at least a water break.
The arena (or, in this case, Turf Field #2 at OSU’s Adventure Rec Center) was basically an adrenaline-spiked, nonstop sweat-fest. With another shrill whistle, my competitors were released from the tracker-jacker dance and darted back and forth down the field, some precariously balancing their partners on their backs and others army-crawling toward the cornucopia.
In case you were wondering, this was not a crazy dream.
Let me start at the beginning. OSU Rec Sports hosted a Hunger Games Fitness Challenge in early October. You and a partner volunteered to enter the arena and conquer a series of HG-themed exercises, rounded off with an archery lesson.
It sounded like the perfect amount of nerdy fun to me, and I signed up immediately. With the release of Catching Fire fast approaching, I figured that it was time to share my own arena experience with the world.
I awoke early on the morning of the games in order to have adequate time to prepare, which included watching the first hour of the Hunger Games movie as a pump-up and securing my hair in the Katniss braid. After completing these all-important processes, my roommate and I set out after being bade that the odds be ever in our favor.
We jumped off the campus bus at the ARC and spotted the “arena” for the first time: a turf field littered with traffic cones, jump ropes, medicine balls, and the like. At the far end was our own cornucopia, a table stacked with bananas and water bottles. While not quite the gargantuan, otherworldly arena of the books, it was close enough to thrill me with possibilities.
Though we had of course requested to be the District 12 tributes, we ended up being assigned District 7 (the little-known lumber district). With no axes to speak of in order to properly represent our district, we stretched with heads down in shame.
Suddenly we were called to order by game masters. “Heat two to the archery field!”
Filing out into the ARC’s side yard along with the other 22 tributes in our heat, we checked out our competition for the first time. Our competitiveness really emerged as we came upon 3 targets and the piece de resistance, 3 quivers of arrows and 6 large bows.
I took one in my hand – it was light and made of plastic unlike the weighty wooden bows I had envisioned. The arrows had a slit on the end that stabilized it on the taut string, and the ends were rubber tipped.
Six of us lined up to take the first shots. I grasped the bow in front of me, secured the arrow, and raised the bow to eye level. Eyes on the red center of the target, I drew the arrow back, squinted, and let the arrow fly.
With a thwap, the arrow sailed through the air and landed near the right outside edge of the target. We cycled through the groups so that everyone got a chance to shoot three times, and each time I watched my arrows sail closer and closer to that middle section, but I don’t think I quite reached Katniss-level skills.
After gathering up the arrows for the last time, the other heat of tributes emerged from the turf field, panting heavily between swigs of their mini water bottles. We passed them uneasily, wondering what was in store for us.
On the end of the field were 12 traffic cones. Each pair of tributes lined up beside one in order of their district and shuffled around uneasily. The game masters briefed us on the challenge – 12 stations, each set of tributes assigned to complete them in a different order according to our tribute sheet, with a few surprises thrown in – we readied ourselves for the first whistle.
The tribute pairs were supposed to run the length of the field down to the cornucopia, pick up our tribute sheet, and sprint back to our starting positions before beginning to complete the challenges. Poised upon the goal line, the whistle was blown and with a sudden burst of adrenaline I booked it down the field.
Our first task was to “brace ourselves as the ground spun beneath our feet” a la the clock arena from the second book. We did this by each grabbing the end of a jump rope and spinning around ten times, followed by 10 burpees.
This sort of thing continued, like when we had to carry our “injured” partner on our back while running around the perimeter of the field or when we slammed medicine balls down to fend off approaching Jabberjays.
And then we had moments of (unpleasant) surprise like the aforementioned tracker-jacker invasion, where we had to stop the task we were doing and complete a crazy-looking, flailing exercise that was the supposed result of a sting by those pesky mutants.
I was just about exhausted by this time, but then we realized that we had only one more task on our list before we were done – the army crawl through the poisonous fog. Speeding through the task with newfound energy, we reached the other end of the field, tapped the goal post, and sprinted toward the cornucopia – we had won!
As Hunger Games champions, we received Mockingjay pins and bragging rights. I plan on wearing my pin to the midnight premier next week and enjoying another trip to the crazy world of Panem – one without any pushups involved, hopefully.