When was the last time you saw a swarm of filthy, Viking helmet-clad, breast-plate-and Smurf costume-wearing men and women crawling under barbed wire, slip-sliding in mud and leaping over fire — just for fun?
Up until now, few could say they’ve witnessed such a spectacle in recent memory. But on Aug. 6, the extreme, extremely fun and downright dirty Warrior Dash race aims to rectify that lapse.
Imagine a gruelling, yet somehow fun three-mile cross-country running course littered with obstacles ranging from crossing simple planks and rope bridges, to scrambling in the mud beneath barbed wire and leaping over real fire.
You get to wear costumes, too.
“Warrior Dash got started in 2009,” said Alex Yount, media relations director for Warrior Dash. “Joe Reynolds, the owner of Red Frog Events who organize the competition, wanted to create the most badass day possible. But he also took inspiration from those good childhood memories of just getting dirty, scraping your knees and not caring about it at all.”
It’s an idea that seems to have struck a chord with people across the United States, and starting this year, it expands to the rest of the world, including Whistler.
“That first event in Chicago in 2009 sold out with 2,000 participants,” said Yount. “Then it just started taking the nation by storm. The next year, we had 10 races across the country with about 120,000 combined participants.
“Now for 2011, globally we have 35 different Warrior Dash competitions running, with one in Australia and a couple in Canada for the first time, with an estimated 500,000 participants.”
Whistler’s unique reputation as an extreme sports paradise, as well as its rugged terrain made it a natural choice for the race’s Canadian expansion, according to Yount.
“We look at a lot of locations, but we already had an idea Whistler would have what we needed, and after scoping things out, it did turn out to be the best place for us to have the race,” he said.
There were also fewer hurdles in bringing the competition to Whistler, thanks to a streamlined event production process created by Tourism Whistler (TW) along with the municipality, Whistler Chamber of Commerce and Whistler Arts Council.
“We have a new event application process and tool kit available,” said Lynn Chappell, manager of partnerships, promotions and events for TW. “It is the one-stop resource for event producers who want to bring events to the resort.”
As the first point of contact at TW, Chappell knew the Warrior Dash was a good fit for the resort, and passed its application on to the Whistler Events Working Committee.
“It was an established race that was already really popular in the U.S., and it showed great potential,” she said.
Thanks to the new, easier process, Whistler locals and visitors should expect to see a variety of new events this year.
“In addition to our regular signature events (Cornucopia, TWSSF, etc.), you’ll be seeing new events like Sigge's P’ayakentsut (a cross-country ski loppet) in February, the Whistler half-marathon in June and the Out Games at the end of July.”
Chappell said a big focus for 2011 was developing sport opportunities.
“We’re working on a framework for sports tourism,” she said. “We already do a great job as sport hosts. But we want to identify key sport opportunities. And not just for big events, but also grassroots events.”
Or, in the unique case of Warrior Dash, grass stain events.
Warrior Dash comes to the resort Aug. 6, and although it does seem rather extreme, Yount said it’s for everyone, really.
“It’s a great event for a guy who does three marathons a year, or the couch potato who sits around playing video games,” he said. “You take it as your own personal challenges, and at the end, we have a festival area set up and we all enjoy great live music, beer and turkey legs. What better way to celebrate and bond from the experience?”
Registration for Whistler’s Warrior Dash closes on July 25. The cost is $50 until July 10, when it goes up to $60.
Bring your own costume, which Yount suggests being “non-flammable.” For more information or to register, go to warriordash.com.
For information on bringing an event to Whistler, go to events.whistler.com.