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Warrior Dash Is Hard, Physiologically Speaking

Breathe; just breathe. You're almost there. A step. Wow, this sucks. Another step. Uggh. Two more steps. At least I'm going downhill now. Five more steps. Is that the finish line up ahead? Ten more steps. Come on, you can do it...

Wow I did it!

Each year, millions of Americans challenge themselves to complete some form of competitive race. Traditionally, these contests take the form of a 5 kilometer or 10 kilometer run over relatively flat terrain. You sign up. You run. You're done.

I don't mean to belittle 5k or 10k races, they are certainly noteworthy accomplishments. However, I don't believe that they provide sufficient physiological rigors worthy of a $20+ dollar entrance fee. (Call me a physical elitist.)

That's where the Warrior Dash storms in.

A 5k unlike any other, the Warrior Dash is a daunting test of physiological endurance and psychological fortitude. It challenges the entrant to rappel down ravines, run up hills, crawl through mud and under barbed wire, and even jump over a roaring fire.

The Warrior Dash is a stark contrast to your typical 5k run, in which you simply, well, run. To be fair, you sometimes turn right or left and occasionally you go up or down slightly. Don't misjudge my sarcasm, distance running is an incredible boon for your health and is a great way to lose weight and get in shape. But, as a test of overall physical fitness, running pales to the Dash.

Having survived the Warrior Dash in July, I can bear witness. The race begins with dual blasts of flame from the overhead scaffolding. The emanating heat feels like a smack in the face. 500 warriors erupt from the blocks and make for the first obstacle: a steep 600 meter incline of matted grass and trodden dirt that causes you slip and skid. It's only one minute into the Dash and your body is not adequately prepared for the hill. The viscosity of your blood has not yet decreased, causing an inadequate flow of oxygen to the muscles. Your legs are on fire. The hill climb requires anaerobic endurance in addition to aerobic endurance. Most warriors begin to walk, a few ignore the pain and continue to soldier upwards.

When contestants reach the crest, they're greeted with jets of water. Some are deceived by the thought of a cool, liquid embrace, but these water jets are not there to help; they are there to hinder. They blast your face and body, providing a damp reprieve from the heat, but also an unpleasant drowning sensation. This may cause brief hyperventilation and initiate constriction of the blood vessels supplying oxygen to the brain. Despite a sense of panic, contestants push themselves onward. 

Farther ahead, there's a black tent. Warriors reach the border and crawl in. The interior is dark and feels like an oven. Contestants' pupils slowly start to widen, but not fast enough. The 'rods and cones' in their eyes try to alter the levels of photopigments so that they can see. Again, not fast enough. Contestants crawl through the tent, sweating like a dog, and emerge, blinded by the sun's light.
Tired yet? There's still two miles to go.

Scientifically speaking, the Warrior Dash tests almost all aspects of your physical and mental abilities. Think of it as a "stress test" for your body.

Do you have a warrior in you?