The Warrior Dash — firsthand

Gary Kunich attacks the mud pit. /Earlene Frederick photo

Saturday saw Warrior Dash come to Shadow Hill Ranch in Randall. Gary Kunich, a Kenosha resident, agreed to share his experiences with our readers at this unique — and muddy — event. — DH

By Gary J. Kunich

The annals of history are filled with gore-filled moments where warriors would dine on the intestines and drink the blood of enemies after hard-fought battles.

Thank goodness we, as a species, have evolved to a point where a warrior ethos means eating Flaming Hot Cheetos while watching Baywatch reruns on T.V.

But every so often we hear a whispering voice giving us direction in life.

These voices are most definitely not a GPS, and thus we end up signing up for something called the Warrior Dash, which is where I found myself, along with my 16-year-old son, Steve, and my best friend, Bob, Saturday morning.

The Warrior Dash is a 5-kilometer race that takes place throughout the United States and promoters call it, “The craziest frickin’ day of your life.”

That’s because it’s crazy to try to do the math and figure out how long 5K is, because the last time most people learned the metric system, we were in the fourth grade.

But I digress …

It’s safe to say bazillions showed up for the two-day event in Randall. But using my math, 5K comes out to 3,300 miles, so don’t take my word for it.

The web site says it’s closer to 3.08 miles. Whatever. There were definitely thousands who showed up to run, and they took off in half-hour intervals throughout the day.

Most 5K races have a start and finish. If that’s all this was, we’d be fine. It’s the 10 obstacles in between, like swinging tires, cargo nets, and fire that make this particularly interesting.

Ooh, and mud. Today’s human beings can’t be called warriors if they are not muddy.

I’d like to say something lofty, like this was for a good cause that cured cancer or created world peace, but the only purpose of this event is to pay fifty bucks to have an excuse to dress in warrior gear, eat turkey legs, drink beer and run this ridiculous race.

And apparently, today’s warrior gear is made up of men in tutus, dressed as smurfs, Wonder Woman, and even a guy in a loin cloth.

Really, dude? I could have done without those few moments when Loin Cloth Guy was running in front of me. There were also boring people who showed up in … Whaddaya call it? Ummmm … T-shirts and shorts.

Some did run for a particular cause. There was a father and his two children dressed in pink, running in honor of his wife and their mom, a breast cancer survivor. Others had names of loved ones now gone on the back of their shirts, as I did. These weren’t just letters arranged in a name, but something to give a burst of inspiration to keep going.

There were men, women, teens, children and even a baby. I’m pretty sure the baby was a spectator. They probably wouldn’t let an infant in the mud pit.

Now some people can be really obsessive about these things.

Some train for months — running, lifting weights, doing aerobics …

Bob, for his part, obsessively checked the web site to learn about the obstacles …

I did absolutely no training the last six weeks, wanted to be surprised by the obstacles, and ate a couple hot, Italian sausages and drank three beers the night before. Don’t judge me. I’m a warrior.

Race Day Saturday found us at the same place where people get drunk and listen to bands at Country Thunder, so this particular part of Kenosha County has a long history with beer. Bob kept trying to tell me what to expect, and I kept plugging my ears and going, “La! La! La! La! La! La!”

I’d rather be surprised.

I’d rather attack on instinct.

I’d rather race stupid.

Had I known the obstacles, maybe I’d only have had one beer the night before.

Finally, it was our heat — literally. Each group is sent off with a countdown and hot flame that billow in the air.

Some sprinted, some ran, some jogged and some just hiked it. This was no longer just a 5K race. This was an adventure.

This particular adventure wasn’t that adventurous for the first three-quarters of a mile or so, which had no obstacles. The first was the Rubber Ricochet — a series of hanging tires that volunteers randomly pushed, and runners shoved to get through. Get smacked in the head the wrong way, and you’d easily drop to the ground, run over by a tire in mid-air.

One down. Nine to go.

Next up was the Chaotic Crossover — a series of tangled nets you had to crawl up, then over, then down.

I got to the top.

“Uh-oh … I’m up pretty high.”

Definitely don’t want a misstep here. Steve and Bob urged me to run ahead since I was running in honor of my oldest son, who was killed recently in a car accident. But now I started to think this was going to be awfully hard for Steve. I also know he’d be pretty peeved if I worried and waited for him to get to this obstacle. He was doing this to prove himself, and in honor of his brother.

The next obstacles never got much easier. We had to run under nets, dodge barbed wire, and at one point, scale an entire vertical wall called the Great Warrior Wall, then drop down from the other side. Another climb had water jetting out at us, and still another involved scaling a wall with a rope and sliding down a greased pole like a stripper who drank too much coffee.

You don’t have to take my word for the craziness. Wannabe Warriors can check it all out at

By the second or third challenge, I devised a strategy of jogging until just before and after each challenge to conserve energy and force back any Italian sausage remnants. Being totally out of shape, it was a lot harder than I thought. I didn’t want to attack something in an exhausted state and seriously hurt myself. I’m told there were plenty of calls for ambulances and medics coming across the police scanner all day for those who stepped the wrong way along each obstacle. Step the wrong way at the wrong time and it’s a pretty steep and ugly drop to the ground.

Getting hosed off fire department style. /Earlene Frederick photo

Finally, the end was in sight. I knew it would be a doozy since we already saw the Warrior Roast fire jump and Muddy Mayhem mud pit near the finish line.

The fire wasn’t so bad, but the mud pit was at least chest high as you had to wade through the dirt concoction while ducking under more barbed wire.

I finished with a time of 36:25 — better than some, worse than others. The best men’s time was 18:13, and best women’s time was 21:33.

But anyone who knows what it’s like to lose a loved one, as our family did recently, knows this was never about winning for me.

Still, it wasn‘t over.

It was time to turn around and get the rest of my team.

And so, the three of us met up again at the halfway point, and finished the Warrior Dash together. This time, it was my turn to step wrong, as I tripped and almost sunk to the bottom of the gunky, muddy pit.

Thank goodness the fire department was nearby to hose us all down.

For some, it was time to dine on turkey legs instead of intestines and drink beer instead of blood. Today’s warriors are, indeed, slightly more refined.

We came home muddy, but not bloody, already talking of actually training and doing it next year, but maybe not too much training — after all, Italian sausage and beer worked OK for me.

And now, infused with the warrior spirit, it is morning, and I make the sound of the warrior as I hobble downstairs to take more Motrin.

Ooh … ouch … owie …ooftah …


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