Sandlot JAX: The Event that Made Jacksonville, FL “The Fitness Capital of the Universe”

by Brook Benten Jimenez on May 25, 2022 in Lifestyle, Sports, Wellness,

Outdoor activity is the #3 fastest growing trend in fitness.

This statistic is according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2022 fitness predictions. GORUCK founder and Sandlot Technology CEO, Jason McCarthy, saw an opportunity to create an anti-virtual event to bring people together with world-class speakers, sponsors, and outdoor fitness challenges.

April 22-24, 2022 commemorated the inaugural Sandlot JAX. McCarthy and his team got the entire city involved, including major involvement by Visit JAX. Their intentions were clear: to “make Jacksonville, FL the fitness capital of the universe.”

Sandlot JAX is a fitness festival “proudly 0% virtual.” McCarthy and team believe “The People Make the Party.” Courtesy photo

Jacksonville, FL: Fitness Capital of the Universe- What, Why, How?

Sandlot JAX presented a well-rounded fitness festival that had never been done before.  Fitness conventions, like SCW MANIA, offer regional fitness opportunities for fitness professionals to earn Continuing Education Credits. Outdoor events, like Spartan Races, offer opportunities to compete in outdoor obstacles. TED Talks offer extraordinary speaking engagements by global leaders. But, where can you get all three in one place? Sandlot JAX.  

For that reason, perhaps, if even for a fleeting weekend, Jacksonville, FL rose up the rungs to the “fitness capital of the universe.”

Workouts Led by Legends

There were no shortages of all-class workouts at Sandlot JAX.  Whether taking a strength and power circuit by CrossFit World Champion, Jason Khalipa; a yoga session by Whole30 founder, Melissa Urban; or a military-inspired Sandbag squat to sprint sesh provided by Travis Manion Foundation, the sweat equity was primo.

NCFit workout led by 2008 CrossFit Games champion, Jason Khalipa, included strength and partner work. Courtesy Sandlot JAX

Savage Race Urban Obstacle Courses

The anchor of the Sandlot JAX outdoor adventures was the obstacle course. Imagine “American Ninja Warrior” for 40-somethings. A fall wasn’t going to break your knees and a pass was going to mean more agility, grip strength, and guts than 99.9% of other people your age. The DJ had Snoop Dogg and Big Tymers booming from the speakers. Sandlot JAX knew exactly the crowd they were vibing: middle-aged “still-got-its.” And anyone who scaled that wicked warped wall definitely still had it!

The Savage Race Urban Obstacle Course was the anchor of Sandlot JAX. Courtesy photo

Something For the Kids

Part of the appeal of Sandlot JAX is that children are welcome, too. A smaller obstacle course with kid-friendly challenges (the feats were still challenging– nothing is handed to you out here).

But the siren call to kids of this generation was Pokemon Go Community Fest. Niantic was the title sponsor of the Fit Talks at Sandlot JAX. That made this event a prime opportunity to draw Pokemon hunters, young and young-at-heart, to the event by hosting it in conjunction with #CommunityFest. 

Children receive complimentary registration to Sandlot JAX. Courtesy photo

Fit Talks

Michael Easter, author of The Comfort Crisis, was the emcee for the speaking engagements at Sandlot JAX. Speakers included several Green Berets, authors, world-renowned speakers, and Niantic CEO, John Hanke (creator of Pokemon Go). From Google Earth/Google Maps to Niantic, Hanke has an impressive CV, but he’s also an altruistic human being, passionate about getting people- especially children- outdoors and physically active. 

All 30 Fit Talks from the inaugural Sandlot JAX will be available, in time, at Courtesy photo


GORUCK is a company founded on the premise that people thrive by being outdoors, doing tough things, lifting heavy stuff, and being together in community. The primary piece of equipment that GORUCK sells is a rucksack, a virtually indestructible backpack. The secondary piece of equipment is a ruck plate: a cast iron, rectangular, piece of metal that slides into the rucksack. For GORUCK events, people under 150 lbs carry a rucksack with a 20lb plate. People over 150 lbs carry a rucksack with a 30lb plate.  Participants in these events walk, climb, push-up, run, get into water, press overhead, and almost inevitably have a 40-100lb sandbag tossed on top of their already heavy rucksack to make the event more physically and mentally challenging. There are plenty of opportunities to pay to play in these sorts of events. 

If you were at Sandlot JAX 2022, you may have participated in the inaugural GORUCK Games. This two-day event began with a trek into the St. Johns River, wearing a rucksack. It went on to include miles of running, walking, carrying an American flag, holding heavy sandbags overhead, performing the Savage Race obstacle course, and- ultimately- a grappling match. Here’s a recap of GORUCK Games.   

GORUCK events are always led with the American flag in front. Courtesy Sandlot JAX

The bigger JAX Picture

Visit JAX is a great place to start planning your itinerary of eat, drink, arts, culture, river cruise, parks and play vacay. With more than 800 square miles packed with pristine beaches, majestic riverfronts, the largest urban park system in the country, and a bustling downtown, there is much to see and do.

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville was where we recommend you hang your hat at the end of the night. It is located at the heart of downtown Jacksonville on the St. Johns River. Hyatt Regency Jacksonville boasts a rooftop pool, on-site restaurants, and newly renovated meeting spaces. Its convenient location is walking distance to nearby museums and over 90 restaurants, breweries and distillaries.  

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville is located at 225 E. Coastline Drive, just a smidge over a mile from Sandlot JAX at Metropolitan Park (1410 Gator Boulevard). Courtesy Hyatt Regency

Although camping on site is offered on the Sandlot JAX grounds, when a hot shower and comfortable accommodations are available, walking distance to the event, you’ll feel better rested to take on the physical challenges of the event after a cozy night at the Hyatt Regency.

GORUCK and Sandlot JAX are two parts of the same pie, providing nourishment for social, physical, and environmental wellness. Courtesy photo

Registration is already open for next year’s Sandlot JAX, April 21-23, 2023. Book your event and book a room at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville at 904-588-1234.

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Cover photo courtesy Sandlot JAX

Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed. is a fitness expert based out of Austin, TX.  She was named “Austin’s Fittest Fitness Professional,” 2012.  After suffering a running injury in early 2022, which sidelined her from running, she began rucking. She will begin leading GTX RUCK, weekly rucking + strength training clinics, in Georgetown, TX beginning July 2022.