By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
Somewhere between the mud pit, the barbed wire, the big wall, the 30-foot-high cargo net and the infamous fire hurdles, a whole lot of runners were having a really good time.
The beer and the grilled turkey legs at the end didn’t hurt, either.
It was all in good fun at Saturday’s running of the Warrior Dash, which bills itself as the nation’s largest running series. The tour made its first ever visit to Alabama, setting up shop at The Hitchin’ Post in Kimberly.
From 8 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon, waves of runners up to 500 strong left the starting line to cover just over five kilometers of hilly farmland, where they dodged obstacles that seemed as if they were designed by the Marine drill sergeant from the depths of Hades — plus a few mementos left behind by the farm’s longhorn cattle.
More than 8,400 runners registered, and the electronic timing and scoring system recorded just under 7,000 finishing the race.
Some were serious runners seeking a new challenge that a standard 5K road race doesn’t provide. They mostly ran in the morning groups and were easy to spot, with top-of-the-line shoes.
“Those were some of the fittest people I’ve ever seen,” said Kimberly mayor Bob Ellerbrock, who ran along with his wife in a morning group.
Others were anything but serious, and there more for the party than the athletic event. Outlandish costumes were everywhere, and Viking hats — the symbol of the Warrior Dash — were common. Scottish kilts were popular, and so were tu-tus — even on a few guys.
Aside from being a big party, with rock bands throughout the day on a stage at the finish line, it was also the biggest single event that Kimberly has ever hosted.
That’s ironic, given that one of the reasons that the race promoters picked The Hitchin’ Post as the site was its mailing address. The farm is actually served by the Warrior post office, so Red Frog Events that the site was a natural — even though it tuns out that it’s actually in Kimberly.
Traffic going to the satellite parking lots at North Jefferson Middle School, Kimberly City Park and Mortimer Jordan High slowed to a crawl for much of the day. Other than that, there were no big problems reported, Ellerborck said.
“We haven’t had any complaints, and I’ve been waiting for them all day,” Ellerbrock said on Monday. “All the calls that we’ve gotten at City Hall have been good. I was impressed by the way they [Red Frog] ran things. I was pleasantly surprised with the way everyone picked up trash at the parking lots — they were in pretty good shape afterward, considering the rain.”
The cool temperatures and intermittent rain did little to dampen spirits.
Promoters were very pleased with the turnout, according to Matthew Robinson, who ran the race for Red Frog and holds the official title of Chairman of Cheesiness — “that should tell you how we like to have fun at our company — our office is basically a treehouse with zip lines,” he said.
“We've had lots of supprt from Warrior, Kimberly and Morris, and this race has definitely exceeded our expectations. We expect to have about 15,000 people here overall," Robinson said.
Robinson said his company hasn’t made an official determination on whether the series would return to the site next year. "But we like to have a long-term relationship with an area when we come in, so we should have a determination soon," he added.
More than 160 photos from the Warrior Dash are avilable on an album on our Facebook page