Go wild in the country

Photo courtesy of Warrior Dash
Photo courtesy of Warrior Dash

Go wild in the country

by: Alastair Himmer | .
Metropolis Magazine | .
published: May 01, 2013

If you’ve taken part in a race, chances are you won’t have been overtaken by Elvis, Hello Kitty and a vigorously clucking giant chicken. That could all change this summer when the world’s biggest adventure race, the Warrior Dash, hits Japan in all its nutty glory.

After taking North America, Europe and Australia by storm, the snaking, mud-splashed event is set to catch fire here—literally. One of the 15 obstacles on the 5km course is the “Yakitori,” where runners dart across fire and risk turning crispy if they’re not too sharp. But the Warrior Dash is more about fun than mindless torture, so participants are free to “cheat” around bits too far outside their comfort zone.

Be among the first to experience the madcap race at the Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest. The irony of the venue’s name will not be lost on the fainthearted. Summer races are also set for Naeba ski resort and Chiba’s German Village, with five more planned from September. Next year a massive 16 events are in the offing at venues from Okinawa to Hokkaido.

The first Warrior Dash took place in Chicago in 2009 with 2,000 runners. It quickly exploded with 70 events around the world and last year attracted almost two million brave and fun-loving souls worldwide—many in fancy dress. Participants revel in a workout involving jumping, climbing, diving and slithering snake-like to the finish line before celebrating their survival to the sounds pumping from a festival stage.

Some of Japan’s biggest DJs—including techno king Ken Ishii—along with live bands, are promised at Sagamiko on June 15 along with a bevvy of Miss Universe beauties who will scale the 5-meter net scaffolding of the “Himalayas” obstacle (there is also a pint-sized 2.5-meter version for vertigo sufferers), crawling through mud pits and tiptoeing across a “catwalk” the likes of which they’ve never seen on a fashion shoot.

Organizers Sports Buzz Asia have no doubt their product will be a smash hit. “It’s going to be huge,” director David Scott told Metropolis. Scott, a Kiwi, has trekked to the North Pole so he knows a thing or two about insanity. “Japanese love the outdoors, exercise, festivals and cosplay. Everyone gets hooked!” In fact, at least 200 Japanese participants caught the bug already in February, competing among 10,000 Dashers in Hawaii.

The promo video demands you Get Dirty!, but don’t worry. Scrub up in portable showers to enjoy the festival, and put calories back on with cold beers and gourmet world food.

“We never get the chance to get muddy when we grow up,” said Atsuko Sato, who ran in Hawaii. “You’re surrounded by nature and people in funny costumes—it’s awesome!”

Among all the fun and camaraderie expect a fair share of hardcore competitors in the field of 5,000. “I’m going to win!” warned model and fitness instructor Erika Yamaguchi with her game face on. “Definitely!”

While the age of entry is 15, participants in their 70s have completed runs from Perth to Hawaii and Japan’s golden oldies are as fleet-footed as they come.

Luckily, lapsed gym-goers and couch potatoes can potter around the course in their own sweet time and still win a medal for the silliest costume or the best “warrior beard”—perhaps offering a good excuse for losing to an octogenarian.

Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest, Jun 15-16. Naeba, June 22-23; German Village Chiba, Jul 27-28. http://warriordash.jp

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