Imagine an overgrown playground for big kids sprawled out over 3 miles of a Yogi Bear-themed campground in the Pennsylvania wilderness.
Imagine that the final mile of that playground winds through two ponds and forces you to splash through a swimming pool of mud covered by barbed wire before you leap over two fire pits.
Now imagine that you’re running through this playground alongside 500 people, many of whom are dressed in battle-ready costumes. Among them, Roman soldiers, knights, barbarians, and Vikings. Included in the mix is a guy dressed as a Wheaties box, a pair of friends as Mario and Luigi, and dozens of dreamers in homemade superhero outfits.
Oh, and at the start of all this, you’re running directly behind a guy wearing assless chaps.
This is the Warrior Dash. A 3-mile adventure race billed as “the craziest frickin’ day of your life.”
To properly embrace the spirit of the event, I considered wearing a costume until I decided that a flowing mane of facial hair would suffice as a costume. As suggested by the Warrior Dash’s web site, I’d been growing a beard for nearly two months. And thanks to the results of a vote on this blog, I shaved my head the night before the race.
I had hoped to get some advice on how to be a warrior from the Ultimate Warrior, but he never got back in touch with me, so Carie and I did our best to train by going on trail runs. None of our training runs, however, could prepare us for the sea of humanity that awaited us at the start line.
Since we arrived with less than five minutes to go, we started from the back of the pack, where so many people were crammed together that we couldn’t even run across the starting line—we shuffled. After a half-mile scamper through the woods, we approach our first obstacle.
Obstacle No. 1: Tunnels of Terror
We crawl through a 30-feet long pipe. Fortunately, we’ve already passed the guy in assless chaps.
Obstacle No. 2: Tanker Trouble
This is more than an obstacle; it’s a traffic jam. We climb over abandoned trailers, but the course is so narrow that we have to wait a few minutes while the hundreds of racers ahead of us funnel through this obstacle. When it’s finally my turn, I accidentally slam my left leg into the top of the first trailer. My shin is screaming with pain, so I take it easy over the following three trailers.
Obstacle No. 4: Hell’s Hills
We bound over huge mounds of dirt.
Obstacle No. 5: Hay Fever
We scale a hay bail pyramid.
Obstacle No. 6: Cargo Climb
We climb a cargo net. Now that the racers are scattered, there’s finally some running room. I decide to run ahead of Carie.
Obstacle No. 7: Unnamed obstacle
We weave through a forest barricaded by a spider-web of bungee cords.
Obstacle No. 8: Walk the Plank
This isn’t as cool as it sounds, as no pirates are involved. We simply run over a ditch on a wooden plank.
Obstacle No. 9: Unnamed obstacle
The next half-mile of the course is a trail run with dozens of downed trees.
Obstacle No. 10: Blackout
We climb through a covered trench.
Obstacle No. 11: Breathless Bog
Finally, an obstacle that makes us get dirty. And wet. The trail leads directly into a waist-deep pond lined with logs, forcing racers over or under the logs. I choose to go over them, but I fall off one of the logs, dunk my head, and accidentally swallow a drink of the freezing cold water. Gross.
Obstacle No. 12: Warrior Wall
We throw ourselves over a series of chest-high walls.
Obstacle No. 13: Slithering Swamp
We splash through another body of water. This time, without the logs.
Obstacle No. 14: Unnamed obstacle
We climb up a mud-soaked hill. I almost fall near the top, but save myself by pulling on a root.
Obstacle No. 15: Muddy Mayhem
Probably my favorite portion of the course. We crawl through a swimming pool of mud, covered by barbed wire, which empties immediately to…
Obstacle No. 16: Warrior Roast
We jump over mini walls of Duraflame fire logs. They’re not that high, but it’s incredibly warm.
About 35 minutes and 4 seconds after I started, I cross the finish line. Thanks to the Muddy Mayhem obstacle, my face is covered in filth and I can barely see. I can taste dirt. I get a soaking from a hose and look down at my soon-to-be-bruised shin. It looks like I’ve got a baseball underneath my skin.
Carie runs in just a few minutes later in a respectable time. But while our race may be complete, the day is just getting started for the Warrior Dash. Our heat of 500 racers is just one of about 12 heats. And this is already the second day of the race. And it’s just one of 10 regional Warrior Dashes.
When you consider that we paid about $75 to enter this race, and that we paid $10 to park, and that we also paid $6 a pop for turkey legs after the race, it’s pretty obvious that the true warrior in all this is Red Frog Events—the company that organizes the Warrior Dash. They’re robbing us all blind.
As for me, it was fun pretending I was a warrior for the past few weeks, but I don’t think it would work for the long haul. For starters, I’ve never been a big fan of plundering and pillaging. Plus, after I got my warrior shower (courtesy of the local fire department), a few drops of mud splashed on me minutes later and I wished I could immediately take a real shower.
Then, after eating my turkey leg, I was disgusted by the greasy bits of turkey on my hands. Also, I really wanted to floss. Seriously, I could have killed for a piece of floss. What kind of warrior wants floss?
The kind who runs behind another warrior wearing assless chaps. That’s who.