Located just 20 Miles North East of Portland Oregon, Washougal Motocross Park in Washougal Washington was the site for the Reebok Spartan Race Sprint Championships. Many well known elites were present (Hobie Call, Andi Hardy, etc) as well as the New England Spahtens. The PacNW course was a typical 3.5 mile sprint which contained 21 obstacles and three aid stations. Terrain was varied and technical, read on to see how this Sprint fares against others.
Festival and Logistics
Spartan Race did a great job communicating in advance of the event as to directions, spectator requirements, limitations on parking etc. Spartan even provided two digital highway signs making sure traffic was not a disturbance to the small Washington town. The venue was in a great location, with massive on site parking ($10) which was managed by local staff who typically work the venue.
An elevated festival area provided gorgeous views of the surrounding river valley. Spartan Race stuck with a now typical festival layout. Upon entering you are presented with the “Bib Wall” to find your bib if needed. At this stage you proceed to the waiver table (again if needed) and finally on to the registration/bib pick up lanes which are sorted by bib number. Volunteers and staff were able to rapidly check in participants and spectators, it is at this time that the heat verification system is added to your registration. From here you entered into the festival area which contained food, dining tent, and a segregated beer garden. To the left you were presented with bag check, (walled off) restrooms, shower area and changing tents. Directly in front was the merchandise tent (some items differ from each coast events) the local vendors and constant sponsors, the gladiator chute, finish line, timing area, pro-team and future race registration tents. Finally, to the right was the start coral (located directly behind the finish line and timing tents, as well as the kids course. Once again Spartan Race used a hub system to allow spectators unprecedented views of the event. In the case of Washougal, being a Motocross course, numerous spectator options existed and didn’t require much planning to utilize or limit fan interaction/disregard for boundaries. These spectator areas covered all of the key obstacles that are traditionally in spectator zones, as well as some of the more unique obstacles for this location. The entire time the course was well marked (including accurate mile markers), there is no complaints as to the preparation the team put into this course.
Spartan Race set out a challenging 3.5 mile course (unofficially 3.72 miles on both of my runs) which used steep long hill climbs, short hill bursts (both uphill and down hill), lots of mud, some motocross track, back woods trails, and 21 obstacles. The race started with a .5 mile uphill climb which had military hurtles at .3 miles. Due to the climate and recent weather, natural mud was not a factor on this course, but it was very dusty, which in some cases made the steep rocky descents just as slippery as if mud was present. As a competitor, almost the first 2 miles were out of spectator view, focusing on trail running, hill climbs, and some of the obstacles less likely to draw spectators, i.e. Tire Flip, Over Under Through, Inverted Wall, Tractor Pull (incidentally this had the same twist as the Mid-West Super, as it was the same build trucks present), Hercules Hoist (also same equipment as Illinois (which I failed in Illinois but completed in Washougal)), cargo net, etc.
Coming out of the woods at approximately two miles, Spartan Race presented competitors with the Atlas carry, and then into one of two signature obstacles for this course, a fast 4 lane 300 foot Slip-n-Slide down the motocross course into a deep pool. Spectators had a fantastic view of this obstacle as they were able to sit at its base as well as both sides due to spectator tunnels in place for motocross events. The slip and slide was then followed by the Sand Bag Carry, which was over twice the distance of the Slip-n-Slide and immediately back to the base.
The second signature obstacle was then presented to competitors in the form of a REQUIRED (no option to “Burpee out”) quarter mile Uphill Barbed Wire Climb. As the name suggests, this was not a standard barbed wire crawl, yes the wire was about 18 inches off the ground, but this was a long slow climb (think 20-30 minutes alone) on a 40 foot wide path that was slick immediately. The Barbed Wire Climb featured multiple tiers, hey bales, ditches, fire hoses, ropes (only for the last 60 ft) and amazing spectator access in which you could very easily follow a friend or family member all the way to the summit.
At this point in the course you were tired, but presented with the inverted wall and a moderate run down the MX course which featured ruts from competitive races (RedBull sponsors national finals at this course). Racers then confronted low barbed wire mud hills, there were approximately 20 in total, and were low, perhaps only 2 ft up and then down into a mud puddle, additional track running and then the infamous Rolling Mud. At PacNW there were 4-5 in quick succession with steep inclines and deep pools, however the hills did degrade during the day and allowed competitors to just trudge through without any climb.
Spectators then were able to see amazing views of competitors as they faced 7 rapid fire obstacles. Rope climb was first, into the Spartan Race favorites, the Spear Man and Horizontal Traverse Walls, then into a tire drag, Rolling Mud complete with barbed wire, and low wall forcing you to go under water (this was a photo opportunity), Slippery Wall and finally down the Gladiator Chute.
Saturday vs Sunday
Saturday had far more competitors who were there to compete, Sunday was lower in attendance and also the more social group of runners. Obstacles did show some wear and tear on Sunday, built up mud on some, more bent spears, more ruts/trenches in the .25 mile climb but the mud was also more slick, shallower mud that was more sandy, Rolling Mud had thicker mud and less inclines to the hills, etc. Course times for me varied by 20 minutes between days, but that is not a factor of the course so much as Hurricane Heat, my two heats, and on Sunday I ran with a first timer (my brother) with my CamelBak in case he felt he needed it. Due to this, Sunday’s time was not intended to be fast, just a completion and I was more than impressed with the course and that it was challenging but not so hard as to scare off a first timer. Both days I did incur 60 Burpees due to two failed obstacles, my brother had 90, where we did not overlap on fails also added time.
Have you ever wanted to be a Spartan Race Volunteer? Get unprecedented access to the inner workings of what it takes to make a Spartan Race happen? Earn a free race and possibly even some free swag? Do you have questions of what it takes to be a Spartan Race Volunteer? Read on and sign up. Volunteer with Spartan Race.
Volunteering with Spartan Race is an amazing way to work with the talented staff that helps make your hobby possible and to see all the thought and execution that goes into making an event possible. Sure, you do get benefits in the form of free lunch, free race(s) and the possibility of free merchandise, but that isn’t why we do it. We volunteer because we love what Spartan Race has to offer, we love how it has changed us, both emotionally and physically, we love the bonds it has formed and the joy we feel when we cross the finish line under our own power and can safely say with pride “I did that!”
Building a course will give you a similar feeling of pride, while running you can approach an obstacle and see potentially hundreds of Spartans hurl themselves over the 8ft wall you put up, or nail a spear throw while you man an obstacle on race day, smile for years to come when they look at the medal you placed around their neck, or wear the shirt you sold them at the merch tent. There is no end to the impact you will have on a Spartan’s life, and what is the cost to you? With just a few hours of your time, you can change someone’s life.
Volunteering is different for each company you work with, I intend to focus on Spartan Race in particular, but that doesn’t mean you wont have equally great experiences with other groups.
How to sign up?:
Spartan Race has a custom page on their website dedicated to the volunteers. Please go to Be a Volunteer and select your event from the drop down list. The process varies at this stage based on how far out you are from an event.
Far Out – If your event is in the distant future you will be able to pre-register. What this does is put your name on a list of people interested and when the Volunteer Coordinator (VC) opens up the event you will get an email asking you to sign up for a shift. At this time the process will reflect the “Short Term” instructions.
Short Term – If you are just signing up, or received the email telling you to choose a shift you will be presented with a list of dates, times and positions that are available for your event. Upon filling out the form and signing up for a shift you will receive a confirmation email and you are successfully registered, remember your commitment and follow any instructions your VC sends you via email.
What are the requirements/Who is eligible?:
Almost anyone can volunteer but the basic requirements are as follows:
Be at least 14 years old. Under 14 is permitted, but they must be accompanied by an adult and will not be allowed to be a part of the build or break down crew. Under 14 is only allowed on event day.
Sign a volunteer waiver which will be emailed to you and is also on the Spartan Race website.
What does volunteering entail?:
Volunteering is a simple process. You will receive instructions via email on where to be and when as well as what to bring. For build and break down, all tools are provided. You will need to bring a signed volunteer waiver with you and be ready to have a great day helping on site with some amazing staff members. Based on your role and day you are on site you will be assigned a staff member who is trained in either the construction of an obstacle, setting up Bag Check areas, etc as well as being paired with multiple other volunteers who will assist on a task. On race days these staff members are referred to as “Zone Leaders”, they will cover multiple obstacles, bring you to and from your station, are your point of contact to the company should you need anything, and they will provide you with the radio training you will need as well in case of a medical emergency.
It is advisable to wear comfortable footwear and clothes appropriate for the task you have signed up for and the pending weather, hot days means shorts, cold days mean coats. Water station staff may get splashed inadvertently and for cold weather events you would want to have planned ahead for this.
Build crew will need to be mindful of whether they feel jeans or shorts are more appropriate. All build and break down teams will be given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) this includes a hard hat and safety glasses. They are to be worn at all times or you will be asked to leave the site.
What “Jobs” are available and what does each do?:
Build Crew – This position begins upwards of 10 days in advance of an event, you can volunteer for one day at a time. You will be paired with a staff member and additional volunteers, you will be tasked with bringing materials to build sites, building obstacles, or setting up remote aid stations.
Assistant VC – In this position you will work to assist the VC with checking in volunteers, ensuring they have their volunteer shirts, have been made aware of snacks and available lunches, etc.
Gladiator – You will BE the last obstacle that a participant faces. This position is a coveted one, and comes with its own set of rules, if you violate any of them you are removed from your duties. This is a hard position as you will face hundreds of runners over the span of your shift.
Obstacles – In this role you will be out on course, it will be your job to ensure that runners know the rules of an obstacle, follow them, and are subsequently completing burpees if they have not completed the obstacle. You will also be responsible for calling in any injuries to the medical staff until they are on site and assisting. This selection also includes aid stations, where you will be filling cups for racers.
Festival– This position covers a lot of various areas, this could mean ensuring that bottled soap is available in the shower areas, that trash is removed from receptacles. You may also be tasked with handing out medals and shirts to finishers, or checking for heat jumpers at the starting gate.
Registration– Here you will check IDs of runners, provide their packets, write heat times on supplied bracelets, register “day of” runners or mark competitors with their numbers for photo identification and tagging.
Packet Stuffing– This job is preformed before the event, typically the night before, and is as it sounds, you will stuff bibs, timing chips, etc into supplied envelopes and box for use on event day.
Sponsorship Set Up– This role will assist various event sponsors assemble and stock their displays, this could be Zico Coconut Water, Weetabix, Air National Guard, Snap Energy, Etc.
Merchandise Set Up – This task helps stock merchandise and stage over stock for event day sales
Merchandise Sales – On event days you will help process transactions and ensure that displays and inventory is managed to provide the highest quality merchandise to customers and that we are adequately stocked to provide those items to customers.
Spectators– This role will help provide an amazing experience for the guests of Spartan Race and its competitors. Many friends and family come to see our competitors and it is up to you to help them have the best experience possible, whether that is being knowledgeable about what areas of the festival have food, bathrooms, etc, or helping spectators understand what obstacles are where and how to get to them so they can get the best view possible.
Bag Check – This role is to properly tag and place runners’ personal items so that they can confidently embark on the course knowing that when they return their items have been taken care of.
Break Down Crew– This role is similar to build crew, however you will be tasked with disassembling obstacles, loading shipping containers and helping stage items for shipping to future venues. This role may include basic inventory tasks to ensure that all Spartan Race equipment has been accounted for (such as tools, or spare water cups).
What perks do I get (if any)?:
Free Shirt – Each volunteer is given one free shirt for each shift worked. Each shirt color is specific to a role that the volunteer plays at an event. Please see below for a description of colors and what each means.
Black – Build Crew – This shirt says “I helped build a Spartan Race” and is only given to those who help build course, and these positions are only in advance of and after an event, not on race days.
Red – Volunteer – This is the standard shirt that volunteers get, except for build and course marshalls, it reads “volunteer” on the back. These are given and worn on race days
Yellow – Course Marshall – This is a critical position on race day and requires training to be done in advance of the event (typically on the day before). The course marshall is responsible for ensuring that obstacles are completed by competitors as intended and enforcing accuracy. The marshalls are most important during the elite heats, and are replaced by standard volunteers for regular runners.
Free Race – For volunteering for a complete shift, you (or spouse/child who volunteered in addition to you) are awarded with a free race. During the sign-up process you were able to choose if you wanted to race the day of the event, or at a future date. If you selected run at this event, you will have a bib and packet prepared for you. You will pay the $14 insurance on site, sign a waiver and be able to run in one of two designated volunteer heats. If you are scheduled for a morning shift, you run in the afternoon and vice versa, or you may also choose to run on the opposite day of your shift during a two day event. You may transfer your race to another runner (as outlined below) or you can save your free race entry for up to one year, at which time you can register for any posted event at a 100% discount (you still pay for fees and add-ons) with the exception of the Ultra Beast. Your free race registration will also override sold out heats, what this means is that if you want to sign up for a sold out heat of an event, you can, because you gave your time to Spartan Race, they give back and ensure you can run in your preferred heat. The only exception to the heat override is the “Confirmed Start Time” and “Elite” heats, you will have to pay extra for admission if space exists but if the “Confirmed” or “Elite” heat is sold out you will not be able to be added to it.
Volunteer Hoodie – This hoodie is only given if you work a full day, either on race day or build/break down. The design of the hoodie may change throughout the season as well.
Free Lunch and Snacks
How do I redeem my volunteer benefits?:
Day of event – When signing up for a shift you are asked if you would like to run on race day. If you check this box, a bib and packet will be created for you and you will run in one of two designated “volunteer heats” based on your selected shift. You will need to pay your $14 insurance fee at this time.
After the event – You will email your event VC after the event and indicate the exact race and wave range you would like to run in. In approximately 1-2 weeks you will receive a custom VIP email from Spartan Race that asks you to register for the event. The registration process is then identical to standard registration. You may choose itabs, confirmed start times, elite waves etc at an additional cost. Upon check out, the initial race entry fee will be discounted 100% leaving you with the $14 insurance fee, $1.33 transaction fee, and any additional add-ons selected.
Can I transfer my free race?:
Yes, your race entry can be transferred if you desire (or that of a spouse/child who volunteers with/for you). An email is all that is needed to initiate the process and there is no transfer fee. You will email your VC after the event and indicate the name and email of the runner, exact race and wave range they’d like to run in. In approximately 1-2 weeks they will receive a custom VIP email from Spartan Race that asks them to register for the event. The registration process is then identical to standard registration. They can choose itabs, confirmed start times, elite waves etc at an additional cost. Upon check out, the initial race entry fee will be discounted 100% leaving the $14 insurance fee, $1.33 transaction fee, and any additional add-ons selected.
What else should I know?:
Please be patient with Volunteer Coordinators. They are a limited resource at Spartan Race and are often scheduling for their next two to three races while simultaneously wrapping up with prior volunteers for their contribution.
The race entry process can be time consuming when used for future races. The more warning you can give a VC the better. Spartan Race sends out free race entries once a week, if you miss their e-mailing day, you will be delayed a week. Please plan on at least 3 weeks before an event. If a VC is at an event or addressing hundreds of emails from a prior event your email may be delayed.
If you sign up to volunteer and cannot make it to your selected time, contact your VC ASAP so they can reopen that slot for another volunteer.
If you race on a free volunteer entry and do not complete your shift you will be black listed. The next time you volunteer your name will be flagged and you will not be allowed to do so.
Regardless of if you volunteer for a sprint, super, beast, or stadium sprint, you can race free at any of those distances. The exception is the Ultra Beast which you can apply your credit towards and pay a difference.
Two intrepid Spahtens took on over 32 hours and 2200 miles of driving for 8 amazing, grueling miles in under 3.5 hours. Marseilles Illinois was the setting on a sunny and hot (Mid 90’s) weekend in July for the Spartan Race Mid-West Super event. Drawing in over 5,000 racers for the weekend from all over the country to compete in a technically challenging setting.
The venue is also home to a permanent course (Spartan Race only used one obstacle from this course), which houses training sessions and monthly races.
There was a construction detour off of the major highway to get to the event site, did this pose a problem? Not one bit, Spartan race knew of this detour, and rather than allow its participants to be misdirected by GPS, Spartan was proactive and informed them via multiple avenues including the website, email and even highway alert signs welcoming Spartans to the region.
Parking was a reasonable $10 and on site. The lot and attendants did a good job avoiding bottle necks by filtering cars into multiple “lanes” to collect parking fees and subsequently parking in a grass field.
Porta-potties were provided before entering the registration/festival area (approximately 20).
Festival and registration were broken into two distinct locations which made complete logical sense. Volunteers, Registration and Number Marking were all located up front and center. This area directed spectators and competitors towards the festival area which was located behind a small tree line, providing a “big reveal” of sorts.
To enter festival, spectators were subject to a bag inspection by security while competitors were not. I chose to have my bag inspected as it was not immediately clear as to if it was a universal check or not. I found security to be incredibly pleasant and helpful in the check process which took only a matter of seconds.
Upon packet pickup you were given a wrist band that was marked with your predetermined heat time, this later would be used to ensure that you did not heat jump.
This event featured the headband bib numbers, a nice feature which is rapidly becoming a norm for Spartan Race (traditional bibs were also included).
Number Marking was optional, and due to the new photo format, almost unnecessarysince your photos are not directly tagged with your bib number and are instead done by zone on the course and the times you would’ve gone through a given photo point.
Immediately upon entering festival there was a bank of additional porta-potties (located behind fences for privacy, but very clearly labeled as restrooms).
A large map of the course and spectator areas was visible on a central podium. This is a nice feature for spectators and the curious runner. Being a fan of the secrecy of Spartan Race, I avoided the course map until after completion, had I been there to watch someone, the map would’ve been a great resource.
Festival included many standard items we have come to expect, showers, food and beverage (with covered dining area), sponsor tents (Weetabix, Air National Guard, etc), the kids course, well stocked merchandise tent, Largest Team tent, etc. One Nice new feature was a “Meet the Spartan Staff” tent, where you could sit and talk with the Pro team as well as some key players in making an event happen. One additional item that has been spoken to in the past is the paid bag check, in Marseilles, a $5 bag check also provided a $5 merchandise coupon.
Due to course design the festival area served as a fantastic central hub for spectators. The course had many out and backs, or multiple obstacles in the same general area but on different legs of the course, allowing spectators to see a significant number of obstacles, return to festival, view a different set of obstacles, etc. all while still having the standard obstacles visible at all times within the festival area (Gladiators and Spear Man for example).
Spartan Race has never been bad at picking terrain to push its competitors to their limits, and yet again, they have delivered. Although not particularly hilly, and lacking a major hill like the Amesbury Sprint employs, this course was technically challenging. Totaling 8 miles with over 20 obstacles (some new, some staples we’ve come to know and love, even some unique twists on obstacles we have seen before), 4 aid stations, and multiple river crossings Spartan Race has set the bar high for any future Supers I run.
The key landscape features were lots of rapid steep declines into ravines that were filled with slick clay based mud (due to Mother Nature’s contribution of rain Friday night) which bound to your shoes while adding weight and reducing traction, only to immediately have to turn on a dime and ascend a steep incline, short in distance many times, but made difficult by grade and lack of traction.
Multiple short runs through a shallow river (upstream each time) provided relief from the clay that clung to shoes
Spartan Race was able to deliver a sprint experience by using many of the same obstacles you see in a sprint that are standard Spartan obstacles, Monkey Bars, Spear Man, Over Under Through, Gladiators, Horizontal Traverse, etc. However they set the bar high by modifying a few of those obstacles, Tractor Pull involved a log carry as well, Hercules Hoist got harder because they switched the pullies, or the cargo net which is no longer rope, but webbing. It was the new obstacles and terrain that truly made this more than a sprint for me, the inverted wall posed a challenge, and the tire drag (although not particularly tough) was an added touch. I must admit though I was disappointed to not have a log hop, the flat sections that allowed spectators great views could’ve held this obstacle.
The course design was phenomenal and the obstacle progression made their completion that much more rewarding, or failure that much more devastating. An example of this is a muddy ravine trek, into the inverted wall, into a steep sandbag carry or coming out of the woods at festival (just after the halfway point) a racer was presented with a 150 ft swim (the only permanent obstacle used) up a muddy slope and immediately onto the slippery wall, once over the wall you turned and had to rope climb, then into Spear Man before disappearing into the woods again. This progression temporarily reduced arm strength and made the Spear Man harder to complete. Having failed Spear Man I thought that this was planned, and that I needed to train harder for my next race, all while a 12 year old Corn Fed Spartan gave me a verbal reminder by asking simply “what is harder, the obstacle or the burpees?” the obvious answer was bupees, he then responded “well then try to get the obstacle right next time.”
Spartan Race has again put on an amazing event, reinforcing their position as the best obstacle race company. Production, build, and execution were all flawless in my mind, Hitting the sweet spot between a Sprint and a Beast.
Warrior Dash 2013 – Barre, MA – Light on Upper body, but well produced.
The Warrior Dash is a perennial favorite amongst obstacle racers, many of us having “cut our teeth” at a Warrior event, myself included at Amesbury 2011, delivers a course that although not the best, lived up to its ability to entice first time runners.
My initial score 7.5 out of 10, Does it stand up after 2 days of reflection and comparison of what was promised and what was delivered?
This year’s Warrior Dash took Place on Saturday June 29th in Barre Ma. Located in North-Central Ma, most questioned the location, on a small dairy farm, almost half an hour away from any major route/city (Worcester, Springfield, Mass Pike, etc.). However, Warrior Dash had stiff competition on the 29th with Civilian Military Combine in Amesbury; they had to find an alternative venue (I see this becoming an on-going issue in New England). Having grown up just 10 miles away, I knew that they’d be able to get a decent course in, maybe lacking massive hills, but still, Warrior dash could make use of the land. My main concern, as many also voiced, was that traffic would overwhelm the area. I can say that by arriving at the venue at 8:45 and running 9:30, while leaving around 11:30 that the traffic was managed quite well for being only a single lane dual direction road. Weather called for rain but we had an overcast or sunny day with comfortable temperatures, perfect running weather.
A constant concern is the parking situation and especially when heavy rains prevailed for days in advance of the event. Warrior Dash 2011 was plagued with fields that swallowed cars, in 2013, Warrior dash was very vocal about the benefit to carpooling and using a 4WD vehicle. Parking was a reasonable $10, however, many local residents (within ¼ mile) opened their land for $20 parking, and I chose this route, parking just one house away from the venue. This choice allowed me to walk just a short distance and avoid bus issues that other events have had. From all accounts though, the buses were not an issue at Warrior Dash this year, I saw at least 4 buses picking up runners to return to the parking lot.
The festival area was recessed approximately ¼ mile from the bus drop off and main road, this allowed the organizers to be atop a hill, rather than in a small valley, making tents and the event visible at a distance. This also made the race have its own area separate from farm operations once the event had moved on. This layout afforded spectators (Free) a view of the fields and course that made up the last .3 miles of the course. This view also included the finish and the preceding 3-4 obstacles. In true fashion the obstacles visible to the public are crowd favorites. These included (not in order) The “Fire Jump” which had two consecutive jumps, a Mud Pit with barbed wire forcing competitors to crawl, and a cargo net climb, the possible 4th visible obstacle was a horizontal cargo net. The festival was well staffed by both staff and volunteers, amenities included tables for the dining and stage areas, local vendors, over 40 Portable toilets, etc. Each tent that was a part of the event was labeled very well, with high flags, each with appropriate titles, such as I.D. Check, Registration, Bag Check, Waiver etc.
Registration was smooth, I had to fill out my waiver on site, despite having been emailed the form in advance, this was my fault, but I was able to locate the tent, fill out my form and return to the registration tent with ease. Warrior Dash adequately anticipated the need for on site forms and handled the whole process well. Number packets were picked up based on last name, and there was little delay. Each runner then received their first packet of “Swag” (I left mine in its package until after the race, but it included the classic warrior hat and the free T-shirt (Note, Warrior Dash provided a Male and Female shirt). an envelope was also provided with bib, safety pins and timing chip which doubled as your free beer token. The ship was easily secured to your shoe by tying into your shoe laces. The chip design is standard to what I saw in 2011, however if I had run in my Solomon’s with the Speed Lace, I likely would’ve had to improvise attaching my chip.
ID Check was also smooth, and could be done before or after the race, I chose before so that I could place my ID in my bag at the bag check and not have to grab my bag after the event and carry around the festival. The Bag Check was free, and based on your bib number. This allowed you to easily find the row your bag would be stored in. The volunteers were very helpful, able to lift heavy bags, and advised you that even if you lost your bib, there was an easy way to get your number to retrieve your bag.
Merchandise was all high quality Reebok gear with multiple options for men and women, as well as unisex items. Items included beer mug, sweat bands, sweat shirts, Long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, sleeveless shirts, yoga pants, kilt, shorts, technical (lightweight) running sweat shirts, etc. Each Item was also reasonably priced, most shirts being between $15 and 30 depending on material and cut, sweatshirts were $45-55, etc.
Saint Jude’s research hospital also had a tent, which was a VIP area of sorts, based on paying extra on registration or raising money for charity. The beer and food area was located off to one side, but were easily accessible to the stage as well. Results had their own tent which had a pillar in the middle with 4 widescreen TVs that were linked to the internet showing a scrolling list of times (delayed 15 minutes).
At any given time the festival area had 1500 to 2000 people, but at no time did I feel crowded, I felt I had adequate space and that there had been thought put into the flow of people to minimize claustrophobic feelings.
The start line was located to the left of the stage. An email Warrior Dash send in advance indicated that there would be a two corral starting system that would let waves of people go every 15 minutes, in actuality however there was only one corral. There was no heat time verification, either at registration or at the starting corral, this fact allowed me to run at 9:30AM rather than 4:30PM as I had registered for. This does bring up a Pro and Con, first, it is a major flaw of an event like this to not allow team registrations, thereby making a team spread out across the day, however, the pro is that you can just show up and because they don’t check, you can run with teammates.
The race began, and approximately 200 runners shot right for the woods. There was an instant bottleneck going through the start gate, and then into the woods, there was a small mud puddle and people attempted to avoid this, therefore causing a backup. The course was then a sprint through the woods which turned out to be more of a slow jog, the course was crudely cleared with chainsaws, leaving rough brush on a lane only 6 people wide, this is manageable but made it hard to pass other runners. Mud and rocks abounded in this section. I view this first leg as a design flaw however, you begin with an immediate bottleneck, people do run for time, the course was fairly level, but not wide, and this allowed the 200+ runners to stick together in one big ball. There was NO equalizing obstacle, nothing to thin out the crowd based on ability, as an example, Amesbury Warrior Dash in 2011 and Spartan Race in 2011 both used the dirt access road Hill Climb as an equalizer, if you were fast you got to the top and continued in a small crowd, the average runner was in a slightly bigger crowd, and the slower competitors had a thinner crowd as well. For downstream obstacles this reduced delays and allowed passing zones even when a course was 4 people wide.
The first obstacle was a short angled wall (with ropes) that you had to get up and over, directly behind it were two military hurdle walls that are 4ft high, and then a similar angled wall, only in reverse direction, causing you to slide down the back side. Most of the course was muddy, or had pockets of mud due to Mother Nature. The course was generally wide (6-8 people wide) rocky and at times on farm access roads. There were two short stretches on paved roads, but these were used just to direct you between larger fields. Much of the course was flat as well; as the course was cow farm and corn fields. Make no mistake though, there was NO disputing the fact that we were on cow farms, as the mud had very distinct scents…
Warrior dash provided 3 water stops, two on course and one at the finish. There also were at least 3 locations with professional photographers. The course came short of its oddly exact quoted distance of 3.34 miles. My GPS watch indicated 2.66 miles; however the course did have approximately 12 obstacles. the obstacles included the walls mentioned above, “Storming Normandy” which was meant to be raised barbed wire, but a net was used, a 16ft wall with rungs and ropes to get up and over, and a ladder surface on the back, ditches that were filled with water and meant to be covered by barbed wire, forcing you to duck (there was no wire), there was a hay bale climb, a balance beam over a deep pit of mud/water that had a climbing/descend section followed by a wall hop, and then another climb/descend (no mud or water in this obstacle, given the prior rain I was surprised). There were also standard obstacles such as a tire hop, short dirt mounds followed by mud/water pits and additional military hurdles. Warrior Dash did little things to break up the running sections with humor by placing signs with sayings (never distance markers) such as “this makes up for the other 364 days of the year” or immediately following the prior sign “or that time you watched Titanic”. As the course now approached the finish, you could see spectators and competitors in the festival area (at a distance). You were greeted with the final string of obstacles, a horizontal cargo net climb, like every prior obstacle; there were four lanes of travel you could choose. This obstacle was 16ft tall and had cargo nets secured at the top, but not bottom and you had to shift yourself sideways for 40 Ft, it was easier to climb to the top of this obstacle to reduce sway.
You then were in direct sight of the spectators and finish area as you climbed a traditional up and over cargo net, rounded a corner to do two fire jumps, and then a final mud crawl. This was surrounded by rolled hay bales, and was only about 2 ft. deep of thick mud. This obstacle was the only one on course (of three listed through on course signs) to actually have barbed wire. This crawl was 60ft in length with the last 20 having no barbed wire so you could stand and take an immediate right to cross the finish line with spectators all located to your left. This was this obstacle that I feel got me the muddiest, most others were dirty water, or just trail mud that didn’t get beyond my shins, Making me feel like this obstacle was more for show then difficulty.
Upon crossing the finish line you are presented with your medal, when taken off of the lanyard, it can be used as a bottle opener. I like the dual use aspect of this, it will make me think about my experience each time I use the opener. My only change to this however would be to make it a keychain as well, make it have three uses and easier to tag along to parties and you will drive the sentimental value of this medal even higher. One free beer was given to each racer over 21 upon returning their timing chip. These were 16oz Miller light cans. Each was given by a staff member wearing latex gloves to keep cleanliness at a high standard. The major negative factor of getting beer in a can was that there was no recycling option, only trash. Additional beers could be purchased, and I do not know if under 21 was given soda as an option.
Does the final score live up to my 7.5 rating, or was that just a factor of having a soft spot in my heart for Warrior Dash having been my first in 2011?
Sadly, No, Warrior dash did A LOT of things right. For example, a super detailed email sent in advance of the event describing everything that was critical to race day that was easy to read, a well laid out festival, knowledgeable volunteers and staff, cheap accessible parking, free bag check, free spectators with great views of key obstacle, quality merchandise at reasonable prices, used shoe recycling, Warrior Dash even notified local businesses and towns about the 8800 pre-registered runners and the possible impact to traffic, business sales, etc.
But ultimately the obstacles and distance variation pulled the score to a 6.
For Warrior Dash to provide a representative map and obstacle listing is nice, and not required, but this helps to attract first time runners, or people who have never run a Warrior Dash event before but maybe had run Ruckus. As a seasoned runner, I understand that obstacles can be site specific, or modified as needed to fit specific locations. However Warrior Dash missed the boat by overselling many obstacles that just weren’t at this event. Also the course would be a dream for someone unable to jump high or lacking upper body strength as obstacles were either low to the ground requiring you to duck, or were not hoisting/monkey bars/7ft+ wall climbs. There was no obstacle that couldn’t be completed by everyone who attempted it, and there was no associated consequence (see Burpees) if you skipped or failed an obstacle. And as mentioned above, the lack of a team heat really affected our ability to run together or take a true team photo as we were spread out across all heats.
Do I feel like I got my money’s worth? Yes
Would I run another Warrior Dash? Yes
Would I recommend other runners experience a Warrior Dash? Yes, I feel it is a great entry level event for people new to OCR.
If two events conflicted in schedule, would I pick Warrior Dash? It depends on the event…