Driving up the winding gravel road that is the entrance to the Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon Illinois (about an hour outside of Chicago), the packed parking lot in this rural setting immediately sets the Illinois Warrior Dash apart from the numerous street races that have happened (and will happen) across the Chicago area in the summer months (though it’s worth noting that it might not set it too far apart from the dozen or so mud runs scheduled in the same time period). The crowd also looks different; most runs include at least a few costumed participants, but this one is rampant with them. It’s the first sign that this race is more about entertainment than athleticism.
At the starting line (which is decked out with metal cylinders that blow giant plumes of flame) an amped-up announcer spits out rapid-fire encouragement and over-the-top warnings like “Everything you’re afraid of is out there!” and “Some of you may not survive this!” A new wave of 550 participants (“warriors”) shoots off every thirty minutes to tackle the twelve obstacles sprinkled across this 3.19-mile cross-country course of woods, trampled grass and of course, mud. With forty-two waves planned over two days, orchestrating this madness is no small feat.
But Red Frog Events has been running this thing for the last four years as it’s grown from a few thousand people in 2009 to “The World’s Largest Running Series” today with races across the globe, and they’ve got it down. The obstacles are well-constructed and exciting, if not quite as tough as they’re made out to be (allowing for warriors of varying athletic ability to participate). Saturday was a hot day with a nice breeze and plenty of cloud cover, making the water obstacles ideal, particularly one that involves sliding down a tarp-covered hill into a pool of mud before slip-sliding down the rest of the hill. As promised, this is a race that gets you dirty—and makes you proud of it. (Zach Freeman)
Course: 4. Cross-country course through tall grass, woods, creeks and plenty of mud. The obstacles are not as difficult as presented but make for a hell of a good time.
Organization (gear check, etc.): 4. With the post-race party area looking like a fairground and packet pick-up moving super-smoothly, these folks have got it together. The parking is a bit crowded (particularly for $20 a car) but for the amount of participants it’s not too bad.
Goodie Bag (includes shirt): 4. A funny, fuzzy warrior helmet to celebrate with and a great t-shirt with a picture of the helmet on the front.
Weather: 4. It was supposed to be a scorcher, but with heavy cloud cover and a strong breeze blowing on and off, high eighties felt ideal (especially when diving into a pool of mud or getting hosed off afterward).
Overall: 4. Recommended Race. Great race to have a good time with. Far enough outside the city to feel like an adventure and an easy enough course to feel like you’re on the right track fitness-wise.