You’ve seen probably seen the pictures. Your Facebook friends or Twitter pals are posting them constantly: They’re wearing athletic gear, slathered in mud, and beaming at the camera. If you've ever wondered why your various social media buddies are suddenly filthy, it's probably because they were doing what I did last weekend: The Warrior Dash, an event wherein adult humans willingly decide to bedeck themselves in liquid filth, all in the name of fun, athleticism, and new Facebook pictures.
The Dash, along with other events like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race combines distance running and an obstacle course in what’s essentially an adult version of Double Dare. The five kilometer run takes participants over hills and through obstacles while constantly slathering the would-be warriors with a steady stream of gooey earth-juice. Last weekend I, along with my girlfriend and two of our friends, were some of those would-be warriors slathered with a steady stream of gooey earth-juice, and while the Warrior Dash isn’t necessarily the SUPER XXXTREME SPORTS ENDURANCE TEST that it hypes itself as, it’s still pretty damn fun.
More after the jump!
I didn’t quite know what to expect as my team and I jogged past the finish line. The initial part of the Dash reminded a good deal of my high school cross country days of jogging through the woods, and for a while the Warrior Dash didn’t seem all that demanding or odd. There were woods. We were all jogging. Some people were dressed up in tutus or hoplite gear. That was it. I like running okay, but was a little disappointed that we didn't have to endure any weird stuff right out of the gate.
(A bit about me: I’m moderately fit, but by no means a dedicated athlete. I commute by bike, have a day job that requires a good deal of walking, and I work out between two to three times a week. Running a 5k isn’t really a challenge for me, but I’m not going to be slamming down a marathon anytime soon. With that in mind, take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt.)
After about ten minutes of running the path got muddier and we were soon trudging up an incline. The ground churned, mud sloshed onto and into my shoes, and soon the herd was simply trudging up a hill. When we got to the first obstacle, though, I got into it. The muddy ground sloped downward dramatically into a pool of water, and for my first task I and my companions would have to wade through a lake of filth, climb onto a floating thing, run on said floating thing, dive back into the aforementioned lake of filth, and then swim to shore. It wasn’t difficult, but it was cold and unsettling.
After that we had to negotiate several pools and mounds of mud. My entire lower half was caked in water and earth, and the accumulated mess on my shoes and legs did slow my pace. However, even while being weighed down by mud remarkably few people started walking. The crowd, for the most part, seemed remarkably dedicated to the actual “dash” part of the warrior dash. A pessimistic part of my brain thought that I and my team would be surrounded by half-assing power walkers and we were, refreshingly, not.
We clambered over and through several more obstacles, most of which had to do with climbing. We went over walls, balanced on beams, and climbed no shortage of things, usually with the assistance of ropes. One memorable obstacle was a large sloped wall that participants had to scale using footholds or a rope or both. Everyone got to the top just fine, but a more than a few people froze when they got to the apex, unable to swing their leg over to the opposite side. The crowd was immensely supportive to the folks who were afraid of heights, cheering encouragement at them and then applauding when they made their way down the other side of the wall.
Barbed wire, despite being prominently displayed on the event’s logo, only figured into one obstacle. There was also fire, but in such a small quantity that it really wasn’t all that intimidating. The final obstacle was a swim through waist-deep liquid mud that more than a few people were deliberately swimming in, like it was a schmancy spa or something. I slogged through, slid down a muddy slope on my butt, ran a few more meters and finished up. I was a bit tired, but by no means spent, and not nearly as exhausted as I thought I was going to be.
The Warrior Dash will not transform you into a Mjolnir-chucking badass. It won’t suddenly transform your flabby, beer-bloated body into an iron edifice of purest athleticism. It’s not even all that hard of a workout, really. Do you bike or run regularly? Well, there you go. You could probably run five kilometers through a messy jungle gym and be just fine. But while it’s not the kind of thing that will transform you into a rock-hard Norse god, it is the kind of thing that a rock-hard Norse god would do before breakfast to get ready for the day, and as a way to feel rough and tough and awesome with other people, it certainly succeeds. At the end of it, I was amped on exercise and hugely happy.
I have hugged hippies at Burning Man and felt nothing. I’ve danced in styles swing and ballroom and tango and others, and it’s left me cold. I’ve moshed and headbanged and it’s just been okay. At the Warrior Dash, however, I actually did feel a spirit of togetherness that other people seem to get from music or dancing or drugs. Exercise really does, for lack of a better term, get you high, and the Warrior Dash is a novel and unusual high that you experience with a whole lot of other similarly-minded humans. It's not extreme, but it is weird. It's not difficult, but it is satisfying. It won't turn you into a badass, but it is fun. And sometimes, fun is enough.