- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By DICKSON MERCER
This is your chance to be a kid again without losing any of your adult privileges. Dress up like a Ninja Turtle if you want to. Go barefoot, if you please.
At the finish line of the 3.11-mile race known as the Warrior Dash, there is a 100 percent chance you will be covered in mud from your head to your toes. You will have leapt over fire. You will have rappelled down a ravine; climbed over a tower of hay bales; waded through waist-deep water filled with floating logs; gotten over “Hell’s Hill;” run like a wild animal through a forest decorated with tires hung from tree limbs; and crawled on your hands and knees through a mud pit topped with barbed wire.
And, after all that, if you’re inclined and of age, you can have a free beer (one; the rest, like the turkey legs, you have to pay for) with your friends and swap Warrior Dash stories at a post-race party with live bands.
“It seems pretty wild,” Jonna Jones, 38, of White Sands, said.
That, in short, is the appeal.
In 2009, Red Frog Events, a company founded by Joe Reynolds, the creator of the also-popular Great Urban Race, helds its first Warrior Dash. That’s all it took for the event to catch fire.
In 2000, Red Frog held 10 more, drawing more than 100,000 participants. This year, Red Frog is hosting 35, including races in Australia and Canada. All told, Red Frog’s Alex Yount said, this year’s Warrior Dash events are expected to draw about 650,000 participants. This weekend’s event at Budds Creek a motocross course in Mechanicsville the only Warrior Dash held in Maryland this year, is expected to draw 23,000 participants, Yount said.
The Warrior Dash is not the only extreme race series out there. The new Tough Mudder, for one, which bills itself as “Ironman meets Burning Man,” offers contestants 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses of the sort designed by British Special Forces. Despite the differences in format, both events have tapped into what appears to be a previously unanswered demand in the actions-sports market for an endurance sports experience that is challenging and hard but not so focused on one’s finishing time and place.
Of the Warrior Dash, Yount said, “It’s all about having fun, and it’s all about challenging yourself.”
Registration for the Warrior Dash at Budds Creek has closed. The early registration for the event was $65 for Saturday and $55 for Sunday, a fee falling somewhere in the middle of what it generally costs to race a city 10K or half marathon.
On Saturday and Sunday, waves of participants will start every half hour between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Racers will be chip timed. At the end of each day, prizes will be given to the top three overall male and female finishers and age group winners. An additional prize will be awarded to the creator of the “most ridiculous” costume as well as the owner of the “best warrior beard.” Everyone, meanwhile, gets a T-shirt, medal and a warrior helmet or, as Jones more aptly puts it, a “furry hat with horns.”
Jones will run the race with about a dozen people, including her friend, Amy Werking of Lusby, the only one in her group who has run a Warrior Dash before. They have been training since November.
“We plan to stay together and get each other through it,” said Jones, who has run a couple of 5Ks and trained for the Warrior Dash by running and doing extra calisthentics. “We’re not worried about beating any time.”
Finishing times for most Warrior Dash race events, which are usually about 5K, range from about 20 minutes for the winner to more than an hour for the pack of the pack. Thirty to 45 minutes is a fairly average finishing time, said Yount, who has finished a handful of Warrior Dashes himself.
“I think one of the most rewarding things is the camaraderie,” he said. “There’s no shortage of high fives out there.” (Participants can receive help from fellow competitors, just not from noncompetitors.)
Running the race as part of a group seems to be a fairly common practice. Stacy Buster, 45, of Hollywood will lead a group of clients from her new business, Fit U Boot Camp and Personal Training, which for now is based out of her home. The core of Buster’s program, she said, is maximizing the 30 to 60 minutes, at best, that average folks can commit to working out per day, or several times a week. Her clients have been doing fast-paced circuit training combining cardio and weights.
Leonardtown’s Hans Welch, 54, a member of Pax Velo, a local cycling club, said he wants to have fun but also see how fast he can finish.
At the same time, the finisher of 100-mile bike races and marathons said a strategy for this weekend’s event is not an easy one to develop.
This is new territory.
“I have not done anything like a Warrior Dash,” he said.