Barber Beast Virtual 5K

Posted on July 29th, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Barber Beast on the Block

The Beast will be back – but with a whole new look for 2020.  The region’s largest obstacle challenge has changed to adapt to current safety rules and guidelines while still providing a fun group fitness experience.

Barber Beast on the Bay will become a virtual 5K physical fitness challenge that can be completed at the participant’s own pace, location and time.

The new event, Barber Beast on the Block, can be undertaken in neighborhoods, favorite parks or any location where participants can walk, run and complete fitness challenges.

“We really struggled to find a way to still hold our original event but as we got deeper into summer, it became apparent that would not be possible,” said Laura Schaaf, director of giving at the Barber National Institute.  “Our first consideration had to be ensuring that the adults who usually participate in our adapted course, as well as our 10-mile participants and volunteers, would not be in a situation that could expose them to health risks.”

Schaaf said that organizers tried to preserve the sense of fun and camaraderie that the Beast events are known for while giving participants options for safely completing the event in their current situations. The event, originally set for Saturday, Sept. 12, is transformed into a virtual 5K that participants can customize anytime between noon on Friday, Sept. 11 through noon on Monday, Sept. 14. 

Registrants will receive a link to a recorded virtual course that challenges the listener to fitness exercises and challenges.  Participants can adapt the routines to do at their own pace.  “If you are an elite athlete, this recording will be a challenge,” said Schaaf.  “But if you aren’t thrilled by multiple sets of burpees or a timed sprint mid-run, you can easily adjust the pace.  Take the recording and make it your event.” 

The recording will feature motivational music and auditory “cheer zones” to encourage participants in a way similar to the live event.

Register for the Barber Beast on the Block

Schaaf expects that many people who might have been intimated about tackling a 10-mile obstacle course like the original Beast would be interested in participating in an event that they can individualize to meet their fitness levels. “We are hoping to have people not only around Erie but in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland and other cities doing their own Beast,” Schaaf said.

Although participants might be disappointed in the loss of the original event, organizers hope they will be open to trying something new that better meets the current circumstances.

“Honestly, with more than 850 participants registered by February, we believed that we were on track for a record setting year,” said Schaaf.  “But the ultimate goal of the Beast has always been to support the work that the Barber National Institute is doing for children and adults with disabilities and behavioral health challenges.  And that is even more critical in the current situation.”

Schaaf explained that the Barber National Institute has incurred significant unanticipated expenses to ensure that staffing, supplies and technology are available to continue essential services.  Costs relate to providing 24-hour-a-day operations in its 95 group homes, computers and smart phones for telehealth therapies in Early Intervention and behavioral health programs, and alternatives in education for students from 24 area districts attending the school.

Participants who have already registered for the 2020 10-mile course or adapted course can choose to defer their current registration to next year’s event on Sept. 11, 2021, transfer registration to the new event, or consider it a donation to the Barber Foundation.

The registration for the 2020 Barber Beast on the Block is $25 and includes the recorded event, as well as a commemorative t-shirt and face covering, a template for printing race bibs and a virtual medal to use on social media.

Face Covering Virtual Medal Finisher Shirt Printable Bib Beast Podcast



2020 Finisher




 “The current situation is causing all of us to adapt and alter our plans,” acknowledged Schaaf.  “We have always been able to count on our Beast community to come together in support of our mission, and we need that support now more than ever.”

Information and registration is at