CHANNAHON — Participants know the Warrior Dash as a two-day even put on by Red Frog Events, an organization based out of Chicago. However, for Red Frog personnel, the 5K race is a week-long event.
For the second year in a row, the race/obstacle course was set up and the 3.1-mile course laid out over the expanse of land sitting in Channahon at Dollinger Family Farm. However, long before Father's Day weekend rolled around, the event was being planned.
"We've been planning this from our office in Chicago for the past five or six months or so, which is the offsite work," Red Frog Race Director Munirah McNeely said. "We got here on site Sunday night and have been working tirelessly ever since. (Saturday) we got here bright and early so that we could get our volunteers set and ready to go. The gates opened at 8 a.m. with our first wave."
McNeely was one of four Red Frog Race Directors at the event this year, along with Ike Murov, Josh Morhr and Lead Race Director Mark Hayes.
"It takes about a week for us to set these up. We get out here late Sunday the week before and the Monday morning the construction crew is out here setting everything up," Murov said. "Construction starts about 10 a.m. and we hope to get about three or four obstacles built then. That gives us a good jump start to the week. Preferably we'd like to be done by Thursday so that Friday we can take care of any last minute situations that might arise. We like to test them out Friday, as well. It's when we work out all the kinks."
While the Warrior Dash is also a festival with a live music shell to go along with merchandise, food and beer tents, it's the race that keeps people coming back. This year more than 23,000 people signed up to participate in the event. For those returning, they may have noticed that a few things looked different this time around.
"One of the biggest changes is the number of obstacles we have. Last year we had 12 and this year we are at about 14," McNeely said. "Not only that, but they are bigger and better — some of them are reaching up to 17-18 feet high. Of course, we still have our mud pit and our awesome Warrior fire roast for people to jump over."
Murov said that the Dash has grown in the past year as a nationwide event. Last year, according to Murov, there were about 30 races and this year it has grown to 50-some sites. Red Frog was established in 2007 and the Warrior Dash was unveiled in 2009 for the first time. One of the biggest challenges for Red Frog then is to put new wrinkles into a course where people have raced before.
"Most of it is that we want to give the participants something new. We don't want them to come back year after year and for it to be the same thing," Murnov said. "My main goal in working on the course is to give them something completely different, or at least different as is possibly could so that they don't get bored with the course. They want to come back continually year after year and know that we're going to change it up and make it more challenging."
While the mud pit, cargo nets, open fire pit and the like are staples to the event, the directors are given a bit of free reign at each site to mix things up. That was the case this year at Dollinger Farm where those returning expressed awe and wonder as they approached the various obstacles — especially right out of the box.
"Right off the bat, they get Mortimer's Crossing, which is basically four rope bridges with two handle bars that are ropes across. That's something that is fairly new to us this year," Murnov said.
"I wanted to put that first so that participants knew right off the bat that this wasn't going to be the same thing as last year. Another obstacle that we really like is the about the fourth one called Vicious Valleys. It's a gigantic one and it's new. We didn't have it last year. Then right after that we have a slip and slide called the Petrifying Plunge. I wanted to put all three of the new obstacles early on so that people knew early on that its not the same, that it's different. That they're still enthusiastic about it."