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Warrior Dash thrusts reporter into mud, fire, folly at popular Lake Elsinore event

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYI1BC_QTA8[/youtube]

When I saw several vikings, Thor, Indiana Jones, ballerinas and zombies all stretching in running gear, I bit my lip and instantly felt my stomach turn into a cinder block. We were all preparing for our turn to prove ourselves as true warriors in the Southern California Warrior Dash.

The Warrior Dash, which took place near the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium April 10 and 11, was a grueling 3.08 miles of sandy and rocky terrain that didn’t simply require participants to be good runners. Would-be warriors also needed endurance, stamina and a wild personality to take on the obstacles and detours that were part of the dash.

It was the first time the event – which cost $60 to $72 per person to enter – was held in southwest Riverside County. Organizers said the high level of interest among area participants prompted them to add a second day at that venue.

The obstacle courses included the Junker Jump, a pile of cars that had to be crawled over; Walk the Plank, in which participants had to balance their way over rocks; and the Cargo Climb, several cargo nets that needed to be crawled over.

The run in itself was fairly easy for those who had prepared. Up to 500 individuals ran during each wave from morning to sundown. Each group had its experienced runners, the amateurs and those who were just looking for an excuse to put on their favorite warrior costume. Indeed, everything from men in kilts and people in drag to large groups with themed costumes showed off their creativity.

Some, however, took their roles too seriously. For example, one wannabe warrior actually pinned his race bib to his stomach skin, much to the extreme discomfort of everyone else.

The event started with a bang, flames and a battle roar from the runners. The obstacles, as intimidating as they were, were equalizers in the race. Those who had prepared by simply running were slowed down by the hay bale mountain, the tumbleweeds and the logs they had to jump and roll over.

The most intimidating and exciting elements of the race to me were the Breathless Bog, the Warrior Roast and the Muddy Mayhem.

The Bog – which consisted of rolling logs in the lake – managed to sink several runners in the murky water. Spectators got an eyeful as we rolled and dove over the logs, then hobbled out of the water to the next event.

The Warrior Roast was exactly what it sounds like: a two-foot blaze meant to be jumped over by any participant who was hoping to make their mark. The two individuals running the Dash with me shared nervous expressions, but we counted down and managed to leap over the flames with only minimal singes.

The Muddy Mayhem was the perfect way to end the race. After being singed, tripped, dipped in mud and drained of energy, the cool, slightly stinky mud was the perfect end. We had to crawl through the mud, ducking under barbed wire that I barely noticed. All I saw was the finish line.

At the end of the race, all of the participants were given a medal boasting their achievements. This, added to the warrior helmet and T-shirt given to us earlier in the event, made for a large bounty rewarding our efforts. As others finished the race, participants and their families gathered around a concert stage, feasting on turkey legs and enjoying their complimentary beer.

As the day closed, the fastest competitors, best-dressed warriors and those with the best warrior beard were named and cheered on by the crowd. While it was apparent everyone who participated was exhausted, it was a cheery environment.

While I may not have been as prepared as I should have been, the experience of being one of thousands trying to prove their warrior status is something I won’t forget any time soon.

For more information and photos on the Warrior Dash, go to http://www.warriordash.com.

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