I am not now, and never have been, athletic. I would rather read a book about running than actually run. I am hoping to fall in love with running (like some people do) or even feel runner's high (like some people say they do). I'm not there yet. I run because I'm over 40 and I want to eat.
I'm not overweight, but neither am I in great shape. I've given birth to two children and I like brownies. I can't do a single Burpee or pull-up. But hey, if this old, out-of-shape mom can do the Warrior Dash, so can you! It even says on the Warrior Dash website that Warrior Dash is more about mental toughness than physical fitness.
What I do have going for me is my love of danger. When I was a youngster, I used to climb big rocks and ride my mountain bike down steep hillsides. I lived in Texas then, where they have such things as big rocks and steep hills. I live in Illinois now. No rocks. No hills. And of course I am a parent now so I can't really go putting myself in harm's way just for the fun of it.
Except that, last weekend I did.
I ran a 5K Warrior Dash, which they like to call "a mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme 5k run from hell. Warriors conquer extreme obstacles, push their limits and celebrate with music, beer and Warrior helmets." I skipped the music and beer but I did complete all of the obstacles and get a silly helmet.
Honestly, it wasn't all that dangerous, really. Yes there was barbed wire to crawl under and fire to jump over as well as lots and lots of slippery mud. But overall, the race was well-organized, well-monitored and a hell of a lot of fun.
If you've always wondered what Warrior Dash was like, or you're thinking of running one, here's my experience.
The hardest part was committing to do it. I decided to sign up in June. as it turns out, the Warrior Dash in Illinois was in June. I thought I better give myself some time to train, so I signed up for the Indiana Dash which was in August. I tried to get someone ANYONE to run it with me, but for some reason, no one else thought crawling through mud and climbing a cargo net wall sounded like fun. Losers. So I ended up running by myself.
Someone I know who ran a Warrior Dash told me this "in order to run Warrior Dash you have to be able to run 3.1 miles." I am here to tell you that's not true. Most people who run Warrior Dash are there to have a good time, raise money for St. Jude's, and get dirty. No one is trying to break the land speed record. If you ARE trying to break the land speed record, by the way, I recommend that you sign up for the first heat of the day. Otherwise, the wait lines at the obstacles will seriously slow you down.
I cannot run continuously for 3.1 miles. I walked a fair bit of the course. Partly because I had to. Much of the course was steep rocky ravines covered in slippery mud. Some of it involved waiting my turn to crawl through mud under barbed wire, or walking single-file over a rope bridge, or pulling myself up a knotted rope to scale a 90-degree angle wall. Some of it I walked because I was TIRED. That last mile was brutal.
If you're going to do a Warrior Dash pick something to wear that you are willing to throw away after the race. Lots of people wear silly costumes -- there's even a costume contest at the end! I saw people dressed as super heroes, a man dressed like Dora the Explorer, girls in tutus, men in tights, and men in nothing but tighty-whiteys and running shoes. I didn't have a silly costume so I just wore regular running clothes. Those clothes were so saturated with mud they will never be the same.
Also, wear your oldest, rattiest running shoes. After the race, strip them off and donate them. There will be a huge pile of muddy running shoes just for that purpose. I know some people like to run the race barefoot or in those Teva running sandals. And while I think that's allowed, the electronic chip that records your time goes on your shoe, so I don't know what barefoot runners do about that. I also saw a guy wearing Teva sandals get the shoes sucked right off his feet by the mud! So I recommend running shoes. Some people even wrap duct tape around their shoes to keep them on!
The one thing that worried me about doing the race alone was not having any help on obstacles. I didn't run with a team, but when I needed help, I got it! At one point, I was waist-deep in muddy water trying to scramble up a mound of slippery mud. I couldn't reach the rope and my knees just couldn't get any purchase on the slippery slope. So I asked the guy behind me to push me up. He obliged and I was able to grab the rope, and then he was able to climb up my leg to grab the rope himself. Teamwork in action! At another point, there was a swimming obstacle. I can swim just fine and made it to the raft. But there was no way I could pull myself out of the water onto the raft -- too short and not enough upper body strength. The guy just ahead of me said "you need a hand?" and pulled me up onto the raft. I'm not sure what I would have done otherwise.
The rest of the obstacles were challenging, but I never felt like I wanted to quit. There were mile markers along the way, along with water stations and volunteers cheering on the runners. I think that 90-degree wall probably intimidates people the most because there were about five people standing there shouting "YOU GOT THIS!" "YOU CAN DO IT!" And somehow, I did. The toe-holds helped -- not sure I could have done it if I had to rely on my arm strength.
I finished with a stunning time of 1:25:27 -- only about an hour longer than the winner (ha ha).
After the race, I really really really wanted a shower. I had mud in places I didn't even know I had! I have heard that the Warrior Dash party is pretty fun after the race, with music and beer, face painting and other activities. I didn't really feel like hanging around though. I just wanted to get back to our hotel and stand under a spray of clean hot water for about 1:25:27.
All-in-all, the Warrior Dash was fun and I would definitely do it again. In fact, I am already planning to sign up for Warrior Dash Illinois next June.
Now that I've finished the Warrior Dash and posted about it, I'm getting all these Facebook ads for similar competitions. I guess I didn't realize that adventure races were a "thing." Those others look like fun, too, but one thing I really like about Warrior Dash is their partnership with St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It's nice to know that the proceeds from the race go for more than just bands and beer.
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