Submerged in muddy water up to my shoulders, I crawled under rows of barbed wire. Escaping from prison? Nah. Looking for a little diversion from my mom duties, I was steps away, more accurately, a few belly lengths away, from completing my first Warrior Dash on New York’s Windham Mountain.
For the uninitiated, Warrior Dash is a 3-plus-mile race with obstacles, and takes place at over fifty locations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. What sets the Warrior Dash apart from other endurance events is its attitude.
At check-in, you’re given your race bib, your chip timer, a race t-shirt – and a fuzzy Warrior helmet. Costumes are encouraged. You’re told you’re going to get dirty, and boy, do you get dirty. At race end, there’s a free beer and a Henry VIII-looking turkey leg waiting for you. There are outdoor showers if you want to rinse the mud out of your nose and ears. Even if you don’t, you can still enjoy live bands, food, drink, and hanging with your fellow Warriors in all your muddy glory. Awards are given for the top finishers, of course, but also for the most ridiculous costume and best Warrior beard. I know, pretty fantastic, right?
As I lined up for the Dash, next to me were four guys wearing Kiss-inspired wigs and zebra spandex pants. Joining us were Smurfs, a ballerina, men in kilts, a guy in an adult diaper, a woman in a tuxedo and Obama mask, and what seemed to be a Chariots of Fire reunion. A horn signaled the start – as did the giant flame-throwing machines flanking the starting line. And we were off!
Windham’s course began with a brutal uphill climb. Once we hit the first obstacle, I quickly realized what gives the Warrior Dash its heart: the camaraderie of tackling those obstacles together. There were a ton of Warriors – every half hour up to 650 people start the course, 20 waves in all – so there were lines at each obstacle. But no one rushed anyone. Instead I was surrounded by Warriors who waited patiently, shouted encouragement, and offered a helping hand to those that struggled.
We had to jump over rusted cars and scale cargo net walls, balance on beams and slide through water-soaked trenches. My favorite obstacle was trudging through chest-high muddy water and rolling over floating logs. The logs were so slippery that mounting them meant you were either going to be thrown forward or backward – or both. Some didn’t leave it up to the log and instead dove over, completely going under in that swamp. Afterward, plenty were wringing out their shorts, kilts, and capes on shore.
The second half of the course was downhill, including some treacherous trail running and leaping over fire. And it was all exhilarating. Especially for the guy who caught fire while doing a body roll through those flames. (He quickly extinguished the fire himself.) After crossing the finish line, I was handed a Warrior Dash medal. But the real thrill was I had finished in under an hour. And I still had all my teeth.
The Warrior Dash attracts an enthusiastic, mostly athletic, adult crowd but is family-friendly, too. You have to be 14 years old or older to run the race so while the older kids are racing, the younger ones can have a blast jumping on supervised trampolines, listening to music, and enjoying all the costumed revelers. Everyone was encouraged to bring their old sneakers and donate them to the charity GreenSneakers. Windham also had a ski lift open, which provided spectacular views of the mountain and the Warrior Dash in progress.
So while I’m savoring my first Warrior Dash, I’m already thinking about signing up for my second. Leave your responsibilities for a day and join me. The mud beckons!