The winners receive a gym membership so exclusive, you can't even buy it.
Credit: Equinox

Last week, my colleague Ivan asked if I'd be interested in trying the Equinox Goldrush Challenge. I had never heard of it, so naturally I began a Google search to see if I could find any clues as to what I would be doing. It turns out that Equinox, the luxury fitness club chain, would be holding an intense fitness contest where the winner would receive an Equinox Gold membership—a type of membership that's so exclusive, you can't even buy it. It includes 24 personal training sessions, 12 private Pilates classes, a monthly massage, $1,000 to spend at their clothing store, and more. (As members of the media invited to try this event, we were participating just for fun—not that we would have won anyway, since we had not trained for it at all.)

Equinox does not announce what the fitness test will be before the event. All I knew beforehand was that Ivan and I would be working in pairs, and that the Challenge would be a test of strength. When we arrived at around 6 a.m., we learned that competitors would be running gold-colored bricks back and forth from a 2,000-pound pyramid to a scale for 90 seconds. The winner would be the team that transferred the heaviest load.

I thought 6 o'clock was an early enough start time, but it turns out that many of the one male, one female teams had been there since 3 to prepare. I could tell that there were nerves and excitement, as well as strategizing the most efficient way to transfer as many gold bars as possible.

There were many different ways people ended up carrying the gold bars. Some teams had the female load bricks in the guy's arms and then carry a few herself. Other teams went as fast as they could with two or three bricks at a time. Still, others tried carrying bricks halfway and stacking them on the ground. The slightly uneven cobblestone ground of the South Street Seaport led to a few spills (I was afraid I was going to be one of them).

Pairs watched what worked and what didn’t, and the score to beat kept going up; by 8 a.m., around 40 teams had gone, and that number was up to 470 pounds, which proved to be the winning number. Only one other team came close.

By the time it was our turn to try out the course, the rest of the competition was over and the hot sun was beating down, adding an extra element to the test that many of the other competitors didn’t have to face.

As they set the course up for us, I got very nervous. What if I can’t even lift a brick? The other people in this challenge are so fit. When I grabbed my first two bricks, I thought, don’t fall don’t fall, don’t drop the bricks. I didn’t fall, but I did smash my right index finger as I was setting the bricks onto the scale—one thing I had not thought about. With cheers from the crowd, and thinking of how everyone else powered through the challenge, even after falling, I kept going. We ended up moving 396 pounds, which felt pretty good considering the winners moved just 74 more pounds than us, and some teams moved less.

Next year, Ivan and I want to give this a try again—but maybe we'll actually train for it next time. The female winner, Tsiang Pham, told me after the event that although she didn't do any specific training for the Goldrush, she and her partner are both prepping for marathons. "That helped with the endurance, agility, and cardio aspects of the challenge," she says.

If you're interested in competing yourself, you're in luck: There are two Goldrush events left for 2016, both in California. Learn more at