Most running events don’t feature a costume party and live music among beer tents post-race.
The Warrior Dash isn’t most running events, however. And having one in your town usually means big money.
The event is hosted in more than 20 states as well as Australia and British Columbia and the average turnout is 15,000 to 25,000 runners.
The typical economic impact for the hosting community is $4 million, which is what Genesee County Michigan was hoping for before more than 23,000 showed up in their back yard in July.
When all was said and done, Genesee County estimates more than $5 million was pumped into its economy.
The park just south of Jackson designated for all-terrain vehicles will be the site next April for the state’s first Warrior Dash, a 3.4-mile track that is more obstacle course than anything else.
“Warrior Dash is the craziest freakin’ day of your life,” said Alex Yount, media relations director for Chicago-based Red Frog Events, which puts on the Warrior Dash. “It’s an opportunity for a participant to challenge themselves. They will conquer a 3.4-mile course with around 12 obstacles along the way, including our fire-leaping obstacle and our 80-foot long mud pit toward the end. And then they get to celebrate their feat with friends and family in our festival area. We have live music, turkey legs, beer — the whole works.”
The Warrior Dash started in the Chicago area in 2009 with a single event that drew around 2,000 people, Yount said. It has since grown to include 32 races in 2011, with hopes of doubling that number in 2012. Attendance has grown, too. Last month’s race in Manchester, Tenn., drew between 20,000 and 25,000 people. The race was held on the same site of the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival, which regularly draws crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
“That’s what we based our judgment on,” said Susie McEacharn, executive director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. “It went really well. There was no traffic backed up. Everybody I’ve talked to thought it was great. They were really great people to work with, very nice, did everything they said they would do.”
McEacharn did not have any figures related to the economic impact the Warrior Dash had on the Manchester area, but she did say that every hotel and restaurant in a wide radius was “totally full.”
Marika Cackett, communications and PR manager for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s hard to gauge five months out how many folks will show up to Jackson’s race. There is somewhat of a template, though. Last January’s annual Mississippi Blues Marathon, which winds through downtown Jackson, drew 3,000 participants and pumped about $294,000 into the local economy, Cackett said. That will at least be a starting point for Warrior Dash expectations, she said.
“It has the potential to be a big deal,” Cackett said. “I do think they’ll pull (participants) from a wide range.”
According to the Warrior Dash website, nearly 800 have already registered.
Yount said the minimum age for participants is 14 years old.
“I’ve seen 14-year-olds run the race and I’ve seen 85-year-olds run the race,” he said. “We have a wide range. Typically, our average participant is your 30-something male and female. It’s pretty close to being split down the middle.”
Courses vary from race to race, their make-up depending largely on what the site has available as far as water, ditches, hills and valleys. What is constant, and what makes Warrior Dash different from other races, is the Halloween-style costume party after every race.
“Once you get a taste of Warrior Dash it’s really hard not to tell your friends and it’s hard not to come back,” Yount said. “We’ve actually found that people are coming back. We’ve also found that they’ve started traveling to other locations. They want to try out the different courses and see what different bands we have.”
One of those multi-race participants is Cameron Arcemont of Madison, who competed last month in Manchester and last May in Rabun County Georgia.
“I’d call it a 5K (3.1-mile) obstacle course,” Arcemont said. “It’s tough because you’re running and running and then you come to an obstacle. You use every muscle you have. There’s a lot of climbing, some water, swimming, leaping. It’s not easy. It was one of those things that I knew I had to try, and now I’m hooked.”
“We really encourage everyone to channel their inner warrior and come up with a costume to show off throughout the day and at our costume contest,” Yount said. “I’ve seen everything from guys in tutus to Ninja Turtles to medieval warriors. You get just about everything. That really adds to the atmosphere and makes it that fun-loving event that Warrior Dash is all about.
When: April 21, 2012
Where: Mississippi Off Road Adventures — 118 Elton Road, Jackson, MS 39212
For information and to register, visit www.warriordash.com