Race #2 of the first weekend took me from Zanesfield, OH over to Channahon, IL for the Warrior Dash on Sunday. I was actually really looking forward to this event, as the Warrior Dash in Illinois back in 2010 was the first obstacle race I ever completed back in 2010. It was a great event back then and Red Frog Events continues to put on outstanding events that I look forward to each time.
My excitement and anticipation for this event was certainly well-placed. I'll touch briefly on the race itself here, but focus on the experience above and beyond the race shortly after. If someone asks me about running their first mud and obstacle race, I always point them towards Warrior Dash. It's just the right distance for most people, and the obstacles present just the right amount of challenge for someone starting out. What Warrior Dash really succeeds at is creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable, like they can complete the course, and an atmosphere of fun that makes you want to spend the entire day there. You can actually see my footage of the race in the race videos portion of my website.
My sister and I after the 2010 Warrior Dash in Illinois.
Now on to my experience outside the race. I have to say a big thank you first to Red Frog Events, as they've been one of the first race series with the Warrior Dash to support Run to Remember by offering free entries to me for any of their events to help offset some of my costs and reach my goal. I can't tell you what a huge help that is. Not only have they offered up the entries, but Makenzie Smith has continuously been following up with me to see how things are progressing including a congratulatory email after completing the first 2 races this weekend, and the rest of the staff I met during the race was incredibly welcoming and genuinely excited to be helping me and Run to Remember succeed. A lot of credit for that experience on this particular race day goes to Matt Ericson, a fellow Michigander who is interning for Red Frog this summer.
Matt met me immediately after I got checked in. He then took me around the course to give me a glimpse of what was in store, and started to introduce me to many of the Race Directors and other interns working the event. As someone who has also had the task of managing volunteers for large events, it was great to be with Matt as he checked in on the volunteers while he took me through the course and made sure that they were taken care of and having just as great of an experience as the racers were. For those who don't know me as well, for a guy with a Sport Management background whose professional career has been spent primarily in college admissions focusing on event management and great guest experience, getting a glimpse behind the scenes was a ton of fun for me. This was a side to the event that most racers don't get to see - the incredible amount of work that goes into the coordination of such a major event. And that's just during the event, not to mention all the work leading up to and after, and for Red Frog, it seems all done with a smile and the utmost desire to make sure that each and every person who is at the event from the racers, to the spectators, to the volunteers, has the best experience possible.
Course tour with the awesome intern, Matt Photo credit: Ali Engin - alienginphotography
I then took my turn to run the race, and had a great experience on the course, actually running faster than I anticipated or planned, knowing that there were still 98 races ahead of me. After I finished, I then had the chance to pitch in and help distribute water at the end of the race with some of the other race volunteers, Matt, and other staff. While most people like to relax and have their celebratory beer after the race, this was actually another true treat for me. It may seem odd that after a race I'd rather work a water line than have a beer, but having the volunteer experience at some of these races is incredibly enjoyable, especially right at the finish line. Once you've finished a few races, you sometimes forget that unique feeling of completing your first race, meeting a goal you set for yourself, or crossing the finish line covered in mud with all of your friends. While I was only at the finish line helping for a little while, I loved getting the chance to be a part of that experience for the runners crossing the line with big grins on their faces. Whether you're a seasoned racer or not, I encourage you to take the time to volunteer at one...it's a pretty incredible time.
So to Matt and the entire staff at Red Frog Events, thanks for an extremely memorable experience both on and off the course at Warrior Dash Illinois. I can't wait for my next Warrior Dash here in Michigan in July, and if you need some volunteer help, I'm pretty good at carrying around 5-gallon water jugs :)
Oh and in case they read this:
Marty - That mustache is epic. And I mean Burt Reynolds epic.
Blades - Your mom is awesome. Seriously, awesome.
Madelyn - Thanks for being ready to pull me out of the fire in case I happened to trip on my way over. I had complete confidence you'd rush in to save me.
Matt - "Did we just become best friends?"