Warrior Dash is always going to have a special place in my heart y’all… Why? Why would an entry level obstacle race be so special among all of the more “hardcore, badass, kill em dead” races?
Because it was my first. My first love. The Warrior Dash is where my passion for everything OCR related took off. During the summer of 2012, I began to make permanent changes with my nutrition and fitness- cleaning up my eats, and lifting heavy shit. In the meantime, I watched from the sidelines as friends participated in Obstacle Course Races… it looked like so much fun, and struck a chord with my inner rebel. But could I do it? To find out, I signed up for a smaller, lower octane (5k) race- The Warrior Dash. Obviously, that race was a wild success and has resulted in a subsequent 18 race finishes to date. I had the opportunity to race for a second time in the Georgia Warrior Dash this past Saturday… and guys… I renewed my vows to all things OCR. 😉
The Warrior Dash has branded themselves as the event for “Mud, Sweat, and Beer”. In essence, a little race and a lot of party. As I made the gorgeous drive out to the Northeast Georgia mountains for this race- I was anticipating an easy terrain, some fun obstacles, and some music and beer.
My first experience with Warrior Dash in 2012 was in Warrior, Alabama (I kid you not)… and I do recall that the race designers made excellent use of creek beds to “create” some elevation on that course… but it was mostly an easy jog. The Georgia Race was held Mountain City (again, I am not joking)… and elevation certainly played a part in the first mile or so of the race. In fact, the starting line was literally a little 20-30 yard hill sprint! The scenery was beautiful, and the trails were enjoyable- however, we were put out on the road for the last half mile or so… which was a first for me in any OCR. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the running portions of the race.
Out of the dozen or so obstacles- two really stood out. The first shocker was a swim across a small pond of water. Sounds simple- and on paper it was. However, once I was submerged I realized that this pond was very, VERY COLD. My brain just didn’t want to operate. I half swam, half doggy paddled, and full on cussed the whole way across that pond. The second unique obstacle was a suspended balance beam (maybe fifteen feet in the air or so?) with a rope about waist high on either side to use for support to get across. So you HAD to look down to see where you were going… and how high up you were. Many people bailed on both of those obstacles, which is not a problem at Warrior Dash. One of the many reasons that I refer my clients to try this course is precisely for that reason… it’s for fun, not to be penalized for missed obstacles, and that’s a great attitude to have when you are starting out into the world of OCR’s.
The festival was well organized and easy to maneuver through. All tents were well labeled and staffed. Normally packet pick-up and gear pickup/drop-off can be a major pain in the ass to staff elegantly and move people through- Warrior Dash had no trouble with either. The Beer Tent and the adjoining Music Stage and party area were arranged in a way that made sense too. Warrior Dash did all the things right- plenty of staff, organized parking and entry, free pictures, and free gear drop. This is why this series has been around for the last 7 years (which is a lifetime in this industry it seems)… they have their market pegged, they know what they are good at, and they deliver.
I know that entry level races like Warrior Dash get the snub for not being as “kick ass” or “hard core” as other races (hell, I was once a race-snob-asshole too)… But coming back to Warrior Dash reminded me of the best part of the OCR sport that sometimes gets lost with the higher-octane races: the people that come and their stories. I met two inspiring women in particular- one that had lost 180 pounds and kept it off for the last 5 years(!), and a 62 year old marathoner woman who only started running a few months ago. They were both getting their OCR start at Warrior Dash, and had totally been bitten by the OCR bug- looking to do more races this season. And for that- we should all be thankful that events like Warrior Dash have been loyal and faithful to their “entry-level” status- because they welcome new athletes to our beloved sport at each event.