On a rainy Sunday morning in June, three blind mice headed out to rural Sagami-ko, Kanagawa. Our destination? The first ever Warrior Dash Japan, a 5km race which includes 15 challenging obstacles and encourages its participants to get all dressed up for the occasion – hence the mouse costumes you see above.
After a long train ride past Takao and a short bus ride into the mountains, we arrived at Sagamiko Pleasure Forest, the site of the race. The race area was quite small compared with other “marathon” events I have attended in Japan, despite the over 4,500 participants from 33 prefectures and numerous countries competing throughout the weekend, as well as the other 1,500 volunteers and festival attendees. Nevertheless, everything was clearly labeled: registration, start line, T-shirts, beer… all in a very contained, albeit muddy, area.
At our start time (Warrior Dash has staggered start times to control bottlenecking at obstacles), we joined about 100 other costumed individuals for a quick warm-up and a pep talk. Among our fellow racers: a band of Marios, several Supermen and Superwomen, and a flock of prison escapees with their sexy prison guards. At 11:30, flames erupted from the start line and we were off into the unknown.
Despite my prior knowledge of the event, it was hard to predict what actually would happen out there in Sagamiko. But almost immediately I was approaching my first challenge: a relatively simple series of walls to clamber over. It was already evident that my handmade costume wouldn’t survive the dash; mud was already caked on my knees, elbows, and my mouse behind.
The race continued and I couldn’t help but notice that, living up to what we were promised, the Warrior Dash is truly a run through nature. My team and I struggled up and down mountain passes, sloshed through slippery mud, accompanied by the sounds of bird calls, the laughter and screams of other runners, and the occasional gladiatorial bellow of “WARRIOR!” from some hardcore competitor. The only spectators were the trees, so falling flat on your face (as people did) was no big deal…
Each obstacle offered a welcome break from the running. There was a lot of climbing, precarious perching on top of various structures, but mostly, a lot of good, dirty fun. As an adrenaline junkie, I charged through most of the challenges with unfettered bravado… though I did discover a latent fear of falling short distances on a balance beam challenge.
The last stretch of the race offered up what I believe were the best obstacles: Hair Net (a crawl under a low-lying net); Yakitori (a hasty leap over a sizzling fire); and the Mud Pit (a refreshing wade through, you guessed it: mud). The three blind mice clocked in at a respectable finish of about 57 minutes, having suffered from torn pantyhose, lost accessories, and some cheeky costume malfunctioning.
Post run, we spent a bit of time hosing each other down before heading over to the food/entertainment area. In order to buy food and drinks, you must exchange your yen for Warrior Dash Dollars, an extra step that was essentially hassle-free. We enjoyed some beef stroganoff and our free beers (a reward for finishing), but didn’t stick around for too much of the entertainment on the account of the mud and the unexpected need for sunscreen.
We happily left with bags full of finishing goodies, dirt under our fingernails and a soreness in our arms and shoulders that lingered for days. We would gladly do it again, and we’re not the only ones. David Scott, director of Warrior Dash Japan, reported overwhelming success and positive feedback, with many teams planning on future races. Out of the 4,500 runners, 20% were foreigners, 48% were women, 80% ran in teams, and luckily for everyone: no injuries.
A few words of advice for future Warriors:
1) Bring clothing/a costume that you are willing to get dirty and remember you can always take off your shoes at the mud pit to avoid the post-pit discomfort. 2) Avoid costume props or anything that can get snagged/ripped off in the process of attempting the 15 obstacles. 3) Bring your own tarp to sit and eat on as seated areas tend to fill up. 4) Make sure to get your picture taken at the Teva Costume Contest area; we somehow missed this memo in spite of our awesome attire.
Sound like your cup of tea? The next Warrior Dash will take place on July 27th and July 28th at Tokyo Doitsu Mura in Chiba, and features new obstacles, as well as special guests and music to finish things off. Registration is available through www.warriordash.jp.
Top image: Three blind mice at the finish line (from right: Sarah Custen, Chad Miles, and Tamatha Roman)