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Chatting With Runners at the Warrior Dash, America’s Largest Mud-and-Obstacle Race Series

Last weekend, more than 18,000 wacky go-getters, many of them in costumes, gathered at Windham Mountain ski resort in upstate New York to run through mud, crawl under barbed wire, rope-climb up walls, and jump over fire. The Warrior Dash (motto: “Blood, Sweat, Beer”) is the largest mud-and-obstacle race series in the country, but at 3.2 miles it’s entry-level stuff compared to the ten- to twelve-mile Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race series, which has offerings ranging from the three-mile Sprint to the 48-hour Death Race.

There’s a charity element to the Warrior Dash, with some money going to St. Jude’s Hospital, and most of the muddy clothes and shoes ending up in a donation bin. All of these races, though, require participants to sign an injury and death waiver before starting, and indeed there was one woman who fell onto her back off one of the wall climbs on Saturday. Last year, two people died and one man was paralyzed at a Michigan Warrior Dash, while a Tough Mudder in Milwaukee, which included jumping over electrified wires, saw two dozen participants headed off to the local hospital.

So who does these events? What’s the appeal? And what do the participants’ costumes mean? (We met a Richard Simmons, a Wonder Woman, a bridal party, and a band of 24 friends doing a Civil War reenactment.) The Sports Section tried out the course (not so bad, except for a mile-long uphill run at the start and the lightning storm throughout), then accosted muddy finishers as they waited in line for showers and gobbled up the ample supply of giant turkey legs and beer.

Additional reporting by Lindsay Kassof.

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Photo: Nina Deka