Apparently, Maui residents like to get down and dirty.
Race officials said more than 200 from the Valley Isle traveled to Oahu's Dillingham Ranch last weekend to slide through mud pits, crawl under barbed wire, climb across cargo nets and jump over fire - among other risky behavior - during Hawaii's first Warrior Dash, which drew 9,765 total participants.
Mud, guts and glory were laid out on the Warrior Dash course March 24 at Dillingham Ranch in Waialua, Oahu.
RED FROG EVENTS photo
At best, mud covered the body. At worst, mud entered the body. Being among the thousands to run through the puddles and pits, I expected that much. I didn't know I would still be cleaning dirt from my left ear nearly a week later. Have I not been showering thoroughly? Perhaps.
But it's the fresh mud - which is mixed at each site from transported dirt - that keeps people coming back for more, according to the Hawaii event race director Munirah McNeely.
One of the main reasons people sign up is "for the mud," she said, adding that adults love to get messy on this course, a statement that takes my own memories back to rainy days at Pukalani golf course.
Touted as an extreme race with "mud, fire and barbed wire," Warrior Dash in Hawaii sported 14 obstacles with provocative titles such as "Storming Normandy" and "Barricade Breakdown." Heats of 500 runners left every half hour, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending in the late afternoon.
Each participant is individually timed and assigned to one of 12 competitive age divisions, which start at age 14. Runners, called "warriors," are given T-shirts and furry warrior helmets; costumes are highly encouraged.
Serious runners clocked times close to 20 minutes, which is impressive for a 5K without obstacles; the not-as-serious meandered through the course, some for more than an hour, staying motivated by beer, massive turkey legs, entertainment, costume contests and unclean debauchery at the finish line. The post-race party kicked off at 9 a.m. and continued until evening. By nightfall, on-and-off heavy rain transformed the parking lot into a muddy obstacle course of its own.
Not all events have positive outcomes. News reports from 2011 detail two deaths and one paralyzation tied to Warrior Dash races. In Kansas City, one runner suffered a heat stroke and another collapsed during competition due to an infection. Both men died. In Michigan, a man dove into a shallow mud pit and suffered cervical spine fracture.
Runners are made aware that they embark on the course at their own risk. "There's certainly risk involved in Warrior Dash, but we take every precaution possible to get you to the finish line safely," the Warrior Dash website says. "There will be paramedics and an ambulance on site in case of an emergency. You enter Warrior Dash at your own risk."
McNeely echoed that safety of the participants and spectators is the No. 1 priority for Warrior Dash officials: "A professional medical staff of paramedics has a strong presence at every Warrior Dash with representatives stationed throughout the course and festival area."
Speedy Bailey, general manager of American Medical Response Hawaii, a private agency contracted for the event, said that his agency did do transports to the hospital, but declined to elaborate on the severity or type of injuries, which is in compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Services log showed no units responding to the race field.
Warrior Dash, created by Chicago-based Red Frog Events and touted as "The World's Largest Running Series," is held around the world with a heavy lineup of one- and two-day events in the U.S., Ireland and South Whales, among other locations. Kendra Alley, a Red Frog Events spokeswoman, said Warrior Dash races attract 10,000 to 20,000 people per race.
Tickets for the race started at $45 for early registrants and increased to upward of $70 per ticket, not including taxes and fees. Red Frog Events answered questions about total money generated from Oahu race registration fees by noting that they are partnering with St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in a program called "St. Jude Warriors." The program encourages 2012 domestic race participants to fundraise for St. Jude's with incentives of an on-site VIP area with showers, catering and a lounge area for those who gather more than $250.
Hawaii's one-day event was the first held in the state, and organizers said they hope to return to Oahu next year.
"It was a success; the Hawaii (people) was so much fun," McNeely said. "The entire week, prior to going out to the area, so many people were excited. There was a lot of positivity surrounding the event, from the locals to the venue owners. I think that was the thing that stood out about the location . . . the love from everyone around the area."
Judging from the white grins laced in caked-brown mud, Maui participants had a good time as well.
"We were so excited that they have decided to come to Hawaii for people of all shapes and sizes to experience (the race)," said Jessica Cabalo of Wailuku. "We fully enjoyed the obstacles. Climbing over walls, jumping over blazing fire, avoid being cut up by barbed wires, crawling through mud, and yes, the turkey legs and beer afterwards. We definitely look forward to coming out next year!"
McNeely said that Warrior Dash's extreme running challenge fosters community and camaraderie, and gives participants a sense of accomplishment.
"It provided a great opportunity to challenge myself both physically and mentally, all in an atmosphere that promoted teamwork," said Erin Hughey of Kihei. "It was a wonderful experience and I have already registered for my next dash!"
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at email@example.com. This article is her last as a full-time reporter; she departs from nearly six years at The Maui News as a copy editor, writer, designer and photographer to pursue dreams in health and fitness. After Tuesday, she may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.