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Becoming the 'Ultimate Warrior' involves mud and fire

When I saw several Vikings, Thor, Indiana Jones, ballerinas and zombies 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 occurred near the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium on April 10 and 11, was a grueling 3.08 miles of sandy and rocky terrain that didn’t just require participants to be good runners. Would-be warriors also needed to have endurance, stamina and a wild personality in order to take on the obstacles and detours that are part of the dash.

The obstacle courses included the Junker Jump, a pile of cars that must be crawled over; Walk the Plank, in which participants have to balance their way over rocks; and the Cargo Climb, several cargo nets that must 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 people in large groups with themed costumes showed off their creativity with their unique styles. Some, however, took their roles too seriously. For example, one wannabe warrior actually pinned his race bib to his bare 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.

Personally, the most intimidating and exciting elements of the race 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 with its 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 looked at me nervously, 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 which 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 accomplishment. This added to the warrior helmet and T-shirt given to us earlier in the event, and made for a large bounty for our efforts. As others finished their 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 had run was exhausted, it was a cheery environment.

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

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