Surviving the Warrior Dash

Cathy Murphy Warrior DashCathy Murphy

If you enjoy running 5K races, there are lots to choose from these days. They have become a popular fundraiser for any organization from those raising money for a high school cross country team to those finding a cure for a particular disease. Even though these fundraising 5Ks are very popular because everyone likes to help out a good cause, many avid runners are now flocking to 5Ks with a twist. Probably the most popular 5K twist is the mud run, like the Warrior Dash, where many obstacles are stationed throughout the 5K to make it more challenging. What grown up doesn’t want to play in the mud like a kid? Another draw to these kinds of races is the camaraderie of helping each other through to the goal of completing the race. It is not about who wins but the challenge of finishing. So, when my sister asked me if I would run the Warrior Dash with her, I said, “Sure!” since it looked like it not only would be a lot of fun, but also challenging. In fact, the experience turned out to be both fun and challenging.

We signed up for the last wave of the day. I was hoping to be able to see the other participants in earlier waves doing the obstacles to get a better idea of the best approach for each one. Unfortunately, we were not able to see any of the obstacles as spectators except for the last two (jumping over the fire and the final mud pit). However, my brother in-law ran in an earlier wave and gave us some helpful tips for some of the obstacles.

When it was time for our wave to start, we anxiously line up in the starting shoot. It was quite a scene with people dressed up as super heroes, groups with matching shirts, and even a group that had blue paint on their faces, arms, and legs that closely resembled the Smurfs. The starter tried to get the participants pumped up before the countdown. Once the race started, flames shot up into the sky from out of the top of the starting line. As we ran through the starting line, we could feel the intense heat from those flames.

A half mile into the race, we approached the first obstacle. We rambled down a slippery, muddy bank into some ankle deep water and then back another slippery, muddy bank on the other side. There was a guy in front of me that slipped climbing the bank back out of the water and did an unintended belly flop in the mud. Luckily, I did not fall, but I did notice how much more slippery the straw on the course was with water-logged shoes.

The next obstacle was called “Barricade Breakdown.” It consisted of a series of three foot walls to jump over followed by a bar with barbed wire above it that we had to crawl under. There were probably 4 or 5 of these sets to jump over and crawl under. After this obstacle, I was starting to feel dehydrated from baking in the sun for the last few hours waiting for my wave to start without any hydration. Thankfully, up ahead were the first of two water stations. I would not normally think of stopping for water in the middle of a 5K run, but then again this wasn’t a typical 5K. I was very grateful to have both of the water stations in this race.

Now that we were a mile into the race, the obstacles started coming up much quicker. The next obstacle was the “Teetering Traverse.” It consisted of planks of wood with ridges to give better traction as you travelled across them. The first plank was at an incline, then onto a decline plank, followed by another incline and ended with a decline. I have always had pretty good balance, so this obstacle was not too difficult for me.

Unlike the slippery planks, the next obstacle looked deceptively easy, but most certainly was not! We had to cross a cargo net suspended a couple of feet above the ground. This obstacle took a lot more strength than one would imagine. After completing it, I heard another participant tell her friend, “Being skinny does not mean you are able to complete this race.” I just smiled and thought, “I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggled with that obstacle.”

Next up, “The Trenches” consisted of a square tunnel-like area dug into the ground with wood planks over the top. We had to crawl down into and through these tunnels on our hands and knees. Then we climbed to the top of the “Great Warrior Wall,” which was a wall with a few ledges built in and a rope hanging down. The backside was set up like a ladder to climb back down. This was the obstacle I was dreading before the race; however, I personally found it to be much easier than expected. I guess my years of climbing pyramids on water ski show teams really prepared me well for this particular obstacle.

Warrior Dash Medal

The next obstacle was “Hell’s Hill,” where you run down a slight hill at first, then straight up a very steep hill, and finally back down the steep hill on the other side. Once I got down to the bottom of the hill, I tripped. My feet were still trying to go downhill even though the ground below my feet was at a nearly imperceptible incline. I landed flat on the ground with scraped up knees and palms for my efforts. Luckily, the next obstacle was in cool water which felt good on my battle wounds. We entered the water by either walking or swimming (at this point I could still reach the bottom of the pond), and climbed over a narrow strip of plastic floating barriers. Then we had to swim to the next row of floating barriers, since our feet could no longer touch the ground. There were underwater ropes extending across the pond going across under the water to assist runners in getting across, but I found that swimming was easier. After climbing up and over the second set of plastic barriers, we swam and walked up the bank on the other side. This area may not have been so slippery earlier in the day, but with so many waves going through the racecourse, they were quite slippery now.

Next up were the muddy moguls. There was an option to walk around this obstacle, and I was surprised that quite a few people decided to skip this one. Yes, you exit this obstacle completely caked in mud, but you are already wet and dirty and anticipating the end of the race in a mud pit. We took on the muddy moguls, and with the help of my sister I avoided another fall on the slippery banks on the way into the water. We waded through the muddy water, and then climbed a muddy hill only to slide right down into the mud on the other side. Now that we were completely caked in mud, we slogged back out of the mud to continue on our way. The much needed second water station was finally here!

The final stretch of obstacles began with “Storming Normandy,” a course of crisscrossing barbed wire that we stooped down to crawl through without difficulty. However, the guy behind me commented, “Being tall definitely has its disadvantages on this one.” He actually had to military crawl on his belly to get through.

The “Cargo Climb” consisted of a cargo net we had to climb up and back down on the other side. I was taking my time on this one to place my feet securely to avoid slipping, since we were already full of mud this late in the race. It became a little more difficult when I was just about to reach the top, when we were ambushed by a couple of guys racing each other over the obstacle. Their reckless speed made the cargo net swing much further than when I started up the net.

On the “Warrior Roast,” there were two rows of fire that was stoked and fueled throughout the day. As we approached, the flames were low enough for us to simply jump over. After rounding the corner, we reached the final obstacle, the mud pit. Due to the barbed wire strung across the obstacle, we were forced to fully immerse ourselves in the mud (except for our heads). Once out of the pit, dripping with mud, we stumbled twenty feet further to cross the finish line.

After the race, we took a dip in the Warrior Wash pond. As fun as it was to get so incredibly dirty, it felt equally good to rid ourselves of the mud so we could feel relatively comfortable for the car ride home. Despite the trials and battle wounds, the Warrior Dash was a really fun and challenging race that I would love to do again in the future!