On February 6, 2016, I took on the course of Warrior Dash in their first event of the year in Florida. Originally, I was unsure if I wanted to write a review because Warrior Dash is big enough that I figured most would write reviews and I didn’t want to crowd it up with my own. Until I started reading other reviews. I was actually surprised by the negative views that many took on. Not that they can’t say what they want; it’s their opinion and that’s why there are so many reviews out there. So here’s my take on it:
I always look at the organization of the event because this determines how quickly you can go from check-in to racing. There was one thing about Warrior Dash’s setup that I liked: they had everything places exactly in order of where you would go. First was the check-in tent, followed by the ID check, then came the bag check tent. (They also had portable lockers for those who wanted to secure their belongings somewhere other than the bag check; it cost extra, but it’s a nice option to be offered.) From there, you hit the starting line, and after you’re done, the bag check tent leads to his and hers changing tents and on to the beer garden. No need to search for anything which makes moving about the area very easy.
The downside to their setup was everything was very close together. This made the area appear more crowded than it really was. Perhaps limitations were caused by the terrain, and they did the best they could with what they had. I get that, though they could’ve done probably found ways to spread things out. Also, the showers were located on the walking path back to the parking areas and nowhere the changing rooms. Again, perhaps that was based on limitations such as water access. Still, seems like a weird place to put the showers.
As far as the staff goes, they were all very helpful and fast. I don’t think I waited more than a minute for anything from getting my bib or picking up my bag. I know these races live and breathe by volunteers, and I’m not sure which areas are stationed with volunteers or paid staff, but regardless, all I encountered did a great job. That also is a testament to the day-of training the volunteers must get from Warrior Dash. They took their roles seriously in all areas, which I am appreciative of.
This was also the chance to experience the benefits of the parking fee that I wrote about in a previous entry. I definitely saw the benefits of paying at registration instead of on the day. The extra hands definitely must’ve found themselves in the main areas at registration/check-in, bag check, and so on, and that possibly added to the experience.
Overall, the organization of the event was great, but with the close proximity of stations and odd placement of the showers, I have to give them an A-.
Now this is where things get tricky. While I was excited to finally take on Warrior Dash, it was definitely not my first race. Having done other races with more obstacles, I went into this one knowing that it was primarily a race for beginning obstacles racers. Of the group of six that I ran with, one person was doing his second OCR, while the rest of the group was doing their first. So our little group had four people brand new to obstacle racing! This was definitely exciting for them as it was a new challenge they were taking on. (And starting the race off with fire being shot into the air…how can you not get hyped up after that?!)
For those unaware, Warrior Dash is a standard race of about 3.2 miles with 12 obstacles. As far as number of obstacles are concerned, this is pretty low. Rugged Maniac is approximately the same distance, but squeezes in over 20 obstacles. So the more experienced or athletic obstacle racer may find the obstacles a bit…well…boring. However, that is why I reminded myself: this is for the guy who has never done an OCR before. With that in mind, Warrior Dash offers some good ones. The first, Alcatraz, a short swim in a lake to a floating structure, then more of a swim on the other side, is a great way to introduce the new racer that these races are not going to be the normal fun run. (Oh, and it was oddly chilly for Florida on that day, so a swim in a lake was one heck of a wake-up call.) Other obstacles, like Pipeline, a crawl through a cylindrical rope tube, was much trickier than expected.
Warrior Dash also made a point to focus on something very important in any OCR: safety. Every obstacle had people keeping an eye on all of the racers. Also, something I found interesting, was that it seemed they’d have people there that were familiar with the obstacle and how to get over it. For example, Giant Cliffhanger (a 30-foot triangular structure that required ropes for going up and down the two sides), the attendant there was giving advice on how to properly come back down. Really smart to have people on hand who know how to conquer the obstacles there making sure everyone made it over in one piece.
The one element that I think Warrior Dash missed the mark here was in the pacing of the obstacles. If there is a small number for the miles, the key to this one is making sure that the obstacles are evenly spread out through the course. According to the map for the Florida event (which was pretty accurate to the best of my knowledge), the first half of the race had only three or four obstacles while the bulk of them came up at the end. As with the organization of the event, I understand that the terrain offers certain limitations, but Warrior Dash could’ve done a better job with this.
Oh, one more note: I am not a fan of finishing any obstacle race with a crawl. Even though there was still another 20 yards or so after the crawl to the finish line, no one wants to finish a race on their knees. Because of that and the balance of obstacles (though not the quality of obstacles), I have to rate them a B+.
Now we get to the fun after the fun: the after party. Overall, it was, and I hate to say it, kind of typical. You had the beer garden to get your Shock Top (and I love Shock Top), a store to buy extra merchandise, a DJ playing music, push-up contests. The one area that I saw Warrior Dash had trumped other races I’ve done is in pre- and post-race photo op spots. First off was the giant Warrior Dash scene with a professional photographer from Gameface Media taking photos. The perfect spot for your group or yourself to show off your battle-worn look. Plus, they had a small setup with four individual scenes: two included a mini ring crossing where warriors could do some action shots, plus two sides designed for Before and After photos (such a shame we didn’t take advantage of those!). Throw in a giant macho arm from sponsor Muscle Milk and there are plenty of places for a photo op.
Aside from that…it was kind of bland. Nothing else really stuck out to me as far as the after party was concerned. Now, it was a cold day, and my group was pretty much ready to change and get back in our warm car and head home rather than hang out too long, but even if we wanted to hang out longer, there wasn’t much keeping us around.
So, for the after party: C. Sorry Warrior Dash. Everyone’s doing it; time to do something different.
Okay, so I need to hit on a point I hinted at earlier and what prompted me to write this review. I read a couple of reviews of this event, and they were kind of negative. They basically slammed Warrior Dash’s obstacles as too simple and not challenging. Let me say very quickly that I agree with that view, but I think slamming Warrior Dash over it is kind of unfair. Now, that’s my personal opinion, and I recognize and respect the others for their opinions. I’m just expressing my disagreement. We know that Warrior Dash is primarily a beginner’s OCR. And as such, it did what it needed to: created a good enough course to introduce the beginner to the sport and that will lead others (hopefully) to challenge themselves with taking on other OCR’s.
Now, on the other side of that, Warrior Dash is one of the largest events out there. With that in mind, they should strive to push the limits of their obstacles every year or so. I watched a Youtube video of last year’s Florida Warrior Dash, and there wasn’t much variety between last year’s event and this year’s. While I disagree with those who may have taken a strong stance on the event, I do believe that Warrior Dash could up their game for next year. And since the event was a ton of fun and my friends and I had a blast, I’d love to see them kick it up for next year!
Okay, enough commentary. On to the photo gallery!