Surviving the Warrior Dash
What is the Warrior Dash? The Warrior Dash is one of a new breed of adventure races for people that are looking for something a little more exciting than just another 5k. Basically, you start with an offroad 5k, throw in some fun obstacles (like climbing over trashed cars, or climbing up and over walls), and stir in a party atmosphere with live music and a free beer for runners. Add to that mixture 10,000+ crazy people, many of whom are in costumes, and you have a really good time!
Truly competitive people can finish around 20 minutes, but many people turn in times 2-3 times that long. In the race I ran, I saw people as young as their early teens (no beer for them!) and one lady that was 80! The one thing you're guaranteed to not see in this race is strollers blocking the way.
What kind of obstacles can you expect? The creative sadists that came up with the race are always coming up with new obstacles, but there are two that appear to be constant: jumping over 2 lines of fire and a belly crawl through a serious mud pit under some barbed wire. In addition to those jewels, you can also expect a few wall climbs (with and without ropes), some cargo net obstacles where you either climb or traverse a cargo net or both, the aforementioned trashed car climb, and other similar challenges. The mud pit appears to always be the final obstacle, so when you come across the finish line, you're as messy as possible for the cameras.
If you are physically not up to the challenge of a specific obstacle, you can bypass it, but they are really not bad.
What do you get for running this crazy race? For the 2011 race I was in, all participants got a shirt, a fuzzy viking helmet, a metal viking helmet medallion thing on a necklace, and a free beer. Plus a decent party with true barbarian food like enormous turkey legs and barbecue. (The food, other than post-race bananas and such, was an additional cost.)
How do you prepare for the Warrior Dash? Obviously, you should be able to run a 5k. Walking is allowed, but you'll have a lot more fun if you can keep pace with the people around you. You do not need to be able to do a 6 minute mile! Just have fun! The majority of the obstacles require a reasonable amount of upper body strength, so hit the gym and do some pull downs or hop on the rowing machine if you're worried about it. You are not required to do so much as a single pull-up, so don't worry too much.
The Warrior Dash is tremendously popular and has now spread beyond the United States! Combined with more than 25 locations in the US, there is a good chance that you can find a race near you. Try it! I can tell you that I'll be doing it again next year.
Note: Do not wear anything that you want to keep. There is a good chance that the mud pit will ruin your clothes, and I saw it eat at least half a dozen shoes in a 20 minute period.