It had been over a year ago when my friend first orchestrated getting a group of college buddies together to go to this event. Two weekends ago I finally ran the Warrior Dash in the mountains of Windham, NY. The event is an outdoor 5K race through a mountainous and muddy path and comprised of various obstacles along the way, but also a day of fun and challenge to enjoy and share with friends, family, and total strangers.
Why did I decide to run the Warrior Dash?
As a practicing martial artist, I am continuously discovering how my body physically moves and have been improving my performance and technique over time. Once I began to become consciously aware of what I was doing, I have been wanting to see what kind of limits I could push myself outside of martial arts. A friend of mine invited me to participate in this fun event with him, and I saw this as an opportunity to see how my training has affected me in my overall physical fitness. Growing up, I hardly did any physical activity at all, was very out of shape, and could not even run a quarter mile without feeling winded.
Doing a self-evaluation of own athletic level gave me confidence that I would be to tackle the obstacles, but I greatly lacked (and still do) any running ability. When I had researched other obstacle course mud races, the Warrior Dash seemed “easiest” for me to establish a baseline of how well I could run. To me running was the biggest obstacle, one that I wanted to train for more than anything. If anything, I knew I could (somewhat easily) walk the course if I had to resort to that. Above all, I just wanted to try something new and different and have fun with some old friends of mine.
What happened during race day?
After checking in at registration and stowing our personal belongings, we lined up at the start line where an announcer would pump up a wave of people ready to go and and then release them every half hour.
The race began at the bottom of a ski slope which quickly became a steep climb up the side of a mountain. Walking up the mountain was really the most difficult part of the race. Not running, just walking. With so many people rushing up the side of a mountain, there was not much choice but to follow behind the masses as they slowly moved upwards.
Various obstacles were placed throughout the entire course which included wading through mud pits, crawling under barbed wire, walking across rope bridges, jumping over fire, and climbing over walls. In total there were only about twelve obstacles, most of them being a slight variant of another one. Waiting times were at least 10 or 20 minutes to get past a single obstacle, because so many people were lined up waiting to go though none were required for race completion. The bottlenecks gave some people a break to recover, but it definitely impacted the final completion time for the race (for those who were interested in racing competitively).
As long as you’re in some reasonable physical shape and can cover 5K, most obstacles probably will not present a huge challenge. Training your legs and lower body will definitely help. The barbed wire is high enough that crawling under it will not scratch you. Unless you lack a lot of arm strength, the walls are also very easily scalable. If a 7-year-old girl made it up the 20-foot wall, so can you. Some parts of the course were very steep and having mud and rain didn’t help. Going up and down the inclines felt like they posed more of a physical danger than the obstacles themselves.
Regional thunderstorms also hit the mountain while we were running. That only added to the entire experience of traversing the grass, mud, and rocky terrain of the course. Our motivation to finish the race became stronger once we began seeing lightning off in the distance. However, it was far away enough for everyone to stay out of harm’s way. The skies cleared up and the sun came out shining right after we finished the race and helped ourselves to food, showers, and free swag.
Despite a huge lack of running to train for the event, I had made it through the entire course without much problem. The first mile straight up the mountain though was not something I had anticipated. Barefoot shoes were perfectly fine for this type of event, but something more cushioned might have been preferable. The impact on my body eventually led to aches in my ankles (mainly from running up and across the mountain), and I had to stop at one point to recover from a cramp in my calf from running and jumping so much. Other than that, I was able to maintain a very light and slow jog throughout the race after the initial incline, which is much better than I had expected of myself.
Why did I decide to run for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital?
I have been involved with community service in various capacities since I was a student in high school. That is where I met someone who started a Youth Program in the volunteer department at a large organization which has grown tremendously over the years. That person has also been a big influence on my life, she is a huge proponent of youth activism and empowerment, and also happens to be my martial arts instructor. Giving back to the community is something I learned over the years in knowing her, an idea also reinforced by my parents who have always been very selfless, taking care of other people and providing for them no matter who they were.
Patients at St. Jude never have to pay for the care they receive, and it is one of the world’s leading centers for researching and treating pediatric cancer and other child diseases. I knew running the Warrior Dash would be fun, but when I learned about the charity aspect, I knew I couldn’t pass the chance to make a difference. The event itself already carried meaning for me, but running for a cause made it even more meaningful, and that is something I hoped that everyone else would support.
After months of talking and e-mailing, I was able to meet my own personal goal and raise $3000 dollars for the charity. All the friends and family who have contributed deserve a huge thank you not just from me but from the organization as well for opening up their hearts. Up until the race day, I had been the top fundraising participant, singlehandedly raising more than any individual or team, and I could not have done it without everyone’s help. Though the race is over, you can still contribute to my Warrior Dash run at donate to support St. Jude’s mission by visiting the link below.
On a side note, Bicycles.SE moderator freiheit and frequent Fitness Chat user, will be participating in the Climate Ride event this coming September. He will be cycling 320 miles along the coast of California and through its valley to raise money to support sustainable solutions and bike advocacy. He is very close to reaching his fundraising goal, and it would be awesome to help him reach his final amount. You can make a donation to his campaign at the link below.
Where am I going from here?