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Wissahickon Decathlon Challenges Philly's Fittest

Unite Fitness debuts Saturday at Wissahickon Valley Park.

Gavin McKay had one destination in mind when debuting a decathlon for the Philadelphia area.

"I personally have an affinity for the Wissahickon. It's the most beautiful natural spot in the whole area. It was natural idea for us to come here since we wanted to keep it close to the city," he said.

Presented by his company, the Unite Fitness Decathlon hits the ground running Saturday along Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park.

Through its 10 events, the Unite Fitness Decathlon strives to challenge both the strength and endurance aspects of the body.

"Our brand is all about smart, well-balanced training. So the decathlon incorporates strength training and cardio endurance," McKay said.

Formerly called Fusion Cross Training, Unite Fitness has studios in Mt. Laurel, NJ, and Center City Philadelphia. The studio created the decathlon as a way to challenge the area's fittest individuals, and McKay said he hopes it becomes a destination event.

"Our plan is to make this an annual event and make it a spread. We want people to travel here just to do the event," he said.

The decathlon itself plays off ancient Greek style track and field events, but adds a modern twist. Most events require minimal equipment, as McKay said it's predominately about testing the body.

Claiming to have "reinvented" the decathlon, the event actually combines 10 fitness challenges with a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) trail run along Wissahickon Creek from Blue Bell Picnic Area toward East Falls.

Each event sets out to challenge a different physical attribute. The box jump targets explosion; the bench dips work on speed; and the rope pull tests determination. The grueling hill run closes the race.

Although intended for physically active individuals, McKay emphasized he didn't want people to be intimidated.

"It's not necessarily harder than other races. It's just well-rounded. Plus, if people can't get through an event, they can move on," he said. "It's less about who finishes first, second, or third, and more about just being able to do it."

Find out more about the inaugural event by visiting its website. The Oct. 6 decathlon goes from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and starts at 850 West Walnut Lane.

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