Jogging is so ordinary. So safe. Dodging golden retrievers and Volvos blindly backing out of driveways may add a little spice to the morning route, but when was the last time you saw a jogger wearing a helmet?
However, a new breed of running events have cropped up where additional brain protection might be a good—no, a great idea. Go ahead and insert your brain scan joke here, but participants of these events don’t care. They’re having way too much fun.
The evolution was inevitable. With so many participants running so many 5ks, it’s only natural that people would start getting bored. Hence, the adventure race was born.
Picture a mass escape attempt from maximum security with the prisoners clad in moisture-wicking REI gear and you’re on the right track.
Depending on the event, participants ford muddy streams, climb Marine-like obstacles, carry out strange tasks or simply run mountains.
As a CrossFit-fanatic and seven-time marathoner, Bellevue Club graphic designer Garit Reuble tested his resolve and sanity at the Portland Warrior Dash this past year.
With obstacles like “Junkyard Jam” and “Muddy Mayhem,” race organizers describe it as “3.18 hellish miles.”
Garit thinks that’s a slight overstatement:
“To a nonrunner, maybe, but to a runner, no.”
Typically drawn to traditional marathons, Garit signed up for the Warrior Dash at the urging of his Seattle CrossFit group. Reflecting on the experience, he thinks the aquatic obstacles were the most difficult to handle.
“I think the hardest was the chest-high cold-water in the murky pond,” he says, laughing. To celebrate their survival, participants don fur-lined battle helmets and gnaw on medieval-style turkey legs at the after-party. Prizes for best costume are decided. Garit wore a rubber kilt with ski-mask goggles and knee-high boots.
This year, the Warrior Dash is coming to Seattle for the first time at Meadowbrook Farms in North Bend.
While many adventure races are grueling ridge-top runs, others have a whimsical element. The kind of stuff that you did in summer camp relay races as a kid—just scaled up for grownups.
One such example is the Winter Pineapple Classic in North Bend. Benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, teams of two or four make their way through a 5k full of 12-foot wall climbing, army crawling and cowbell dinging. And if that’s not enough, one person has to be carrying a pineapple throughout the entire race. Like the Warrior Dash, costumes are encouraged and hula skirts were seen in abundance.
Bellevue Club Fitness Instructor and Mercer Island Soccer Coach Mark Nicholson has competed in the event for four years.
“It’s a blast,” he says. “The event itself is so much fun because you get wild costumes and it’s kind of frantic.”
Keeping track of the pineapple could be the hardest part:
“There are obstacles where you have to throw the pineapple over a wall to your partner, and if you drop the pineapple, you better carry the pieces with you to the finish line.”
HOW TO PREPARE
Choose a costume.
Forget training, this is key. Match your costume to the race theme or branch out on your own. If you’re stuck, simply scan the latest news headlines and pick the pop celebrity of the month. Or just recycle your Halloween costume. Whatever you choose, make sure it can hold up to three miles of abuse. No cardboard or papier mâché.
You will get dirty, and who wants to get grime all over their leather seats? Most of these races take place in rural environments with minimal facilities, so bring extra towels and garbage bags to sit on. Plus, a couple of wet wipes to the face go a long way toward enjoying the after-party.
It’s a race. It’s a party. Rope as many friends as possible into these events for maximum enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to use manipulation tactics like “I came to your kid’s piano recital.” Mob mentality rules, so bring one of your own.
Remember it’s still a run.
You still have to plod through at least three miles between all the rope-swinging and mud-crawling. Make sure to give yourself at least two months of training beforehand. Ask your personal trainer or fitness instructor for some tips. A typical program includes a mix of distance and intervals for five days a week.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS RUN
Unleash your wild side at these regional romps:
Fremont 5k and Briefcase Relay: June 10, Fremont www.promotionevents.com/fremont
The Original Mud Run: June 18, Portland www.theoriginalmudrun.com
Urban Dare: June 18, Seattle www.urbandare.com/adventurerace.php
Beast Adventure Race: June 21 & August 9, Seattle & Redmond; www.beastrace.com
Firecracker 5000: July 3, Seattle www.promotionevents.com/Firecracker
Fueled by Fine Wine: July 10, Dundee, Ore. www.fueledbyfinewine.com
Warrior Dash: July 16 & 17, North Bend www.warriordash.com
Oyster Urban Adventure Race: July 22, Seattle www.oysterracingseries.com/Seattle.php
Ragnar Relay: July 22-23, Blaine to Whidbey Island www.ragnarrelay.com/race/northwestpassage
Muddy Buddy: Sept. 18, Portland muddy-buddy.competitor.com