Imagine running three and a half miles in the dust, over hills, on a trail studded with giant piles of steaming horse crap. Imagine scaling walls, swimming through mud, and leaping over open flames. Imagine enduring this ordeal with thousands of other sweating competitors, some of them dressed up as batman, ninjas, or a banana. Imagine, doing this for fun.
Welcome, athletes, to the Warrior Dash!
When Anthony first told me he wanted to run in Warrior Dash with friends, I had only a vague notion of the obstacles. I naively imagined him leaping over hurdles and high-stepping it through a checkerboard of tires. So I invited my friend Angela, who recently took up running as a hobby, to join us. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Anthony and some friends are going to run a race in October. It’s short and it’s supposed to be fun. I think it’s called the Warrior Dash. Wanna come?
Angela: Sure! Let me look it up online.
Angela: … This race involves jumping over fire.
Angela: Yeah. And a lot of barbed wire. And a blackout tent, and a mud pit, and two piles of fire.
Me: Oh. Well, do you want to come and watch? I’m not running, obviously.
Angela: No, I’m still interested in doing it. I’m just a little worried about the fire.
And that, folks, is why Angela is BAD. ASS.
The Warrior Dash is so popular that heats are scheduled on the hour all weekend long and each heat hosts five hundred people. They sell out fast, so while Angela registered for the noon heat, Anthony and our other friends had to sign up for the heat that started an hour later. When we arrived there were already thousands of people there, some covered in mud that was already beginning to crust and dry in the arid heat of the late summer sun. It was hot, hotter than usual for the foothills and hotter than it had been previously that week. It was only eleven in the morning and we were working up a sweat just standing there. The runners signed up for later in the day were going to have a rough time of it.
What sets the Warrior Dash apart from other obstacle course challenges is the light-hearted spirit of the event. Many runners wore elaborate costumes and everyone who participates earns themselves a t-shirt, a Viking hat, a medal and a free beer. It was a physical challenge, no doubt about it, but the emphasis was on fun. When I saw someone get stuck at the top of a 20-foot wall, the paramedics were arranging a way to get her down when she conquered her fear of heights and climbed down on her own. The crowd cheered for her ecstatically. This is what I loved about the Warrior Dash. The crowd could have looked down on her for getting scared. Instead, they cheered her victory.
After the race, mud-soaked competitors were invited to donate their shoes to a charity that would clean them up and send them to third-world countries where they were needed.
Before we even parked the car we started spotting costume after costume. Groups of people signed up to run the race a team all sporting themed costumes. Our friend Jaime, Alicia and her boyfriend all going to dressed in homemade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes. For whatever reason their heat was filled with people dressed as TMNT, despite the fact that none of the other heats seemed to have not so much as a non-mutant turtle costume. While I waited for Anthony and Jaime to run by I kept my eyes peeled for turtles and became disappointed each time that another competitor, dressed as a turtle, ran by.
I have to admit a small amount of jealousy for the mud-soaked competitors. Not that I wanted to be soaked in mud, because, uh, no thanks. But the race, as hard as it was, looked undeniably fun. Justin and I came along for picture-taking, bag holding, and moral support, and even he talked about running it with Angela next year. Just attending the event was hard enough for me. The standing and the walking was enough to make me stiff and sore and arthritic for the next two days. No Warrior Dash is in my future.
After watching the runners start the race flanked by plumes of fire, we waited for them in the spectator area where we could watch them scale two obstacle walls before witnessing the leap through fire and the slog through the mud pit. Angela climbed the rope wall with no problem. I saw many people skip this obstacle entirely.
Then she scaled the net climb with no difficulty.
I regret to say I have no photos of her leaping fire or treading through mud. The timing of the heats meant I had to leave in order to watch Anthony’s heat, but Justin followed her and got pictures, including this one, that I shamelessly stole from her twitter stream:
Afterwards, she cleaned up with a hundred other people in the one shower provided: a fire truck’s hose. She managed to change her clothes, but look at her hair:
While waiting for Anthony’s heat to run by we spotted some amusing costumes.
The 80s Aerobic group:
Fred & Wilma Flintsone… an amazing couple in their sixties:
A lady dressed as Mario:
A ripped bunny-dude:
A bunch of bananas:
Reno 911 and whatever she is:
Two Ghost Busters:
And my personal favorite, Colonel Sanders and a flock of chickens:
We kept spotting Waldos all day long, also:
Anthony’s group was at the end of line since we wanted to wait and watch Angela go by.
After seeing dozens of turtles run by (and I’m not just saying this, but their TMNT costumes were by far the best of the day), we finally saw our guys.
After they scaled the net wall Angela, Justin and I had to literally sprint all the way to the fire pits in order to watch them jump the flames. We barely made it in time for me to snap one of Jaime.
The fire truck shower kept reminding me of that Weird Al movie UHF, and the children’s show where Michael Richard’s character kept telling kids, “You get to drink from… the fire hose!” blasting the lucky kid right off the stage.
It’s a good thing that day was so hot, because the water was reportedly ice cold.
After we ate and everyone cleaned off we stopped Casa de Fruita for some pomegranate wine and miner’s hats and called it a day. The end.