South Jackson will be set aflame with warrior roasts and costumed runners next April 20.
And possibly the day after the smoke clears, too.
The Warrior Dash — the fiery, muddy obstacle course race with a party waiting at the end — has committed to Jackson next year, about a month after the first event exceeded social and economic expectations.
“It was really a huge success, and everybody seemed to enjoy it,” said Alex Yount, spokesperson for Red Frog Events, Warrior Dash’s Chicago-based parent company. “When that happens, we like to come back.” Mississippi is one of only five locations already made official for 2013.
Next year’s 3.34-mile course will look a lot like this year’s, Yount said, with minor changes a possibility. What Yount and tourism officials in Jackson are hoping will be different is the number of races it will host.
“Right now we’re only at one-day, so it’s starting out as just April 20,” Yount said. “But depending on how many people register, there’s a possibility that it could turn into a two-day event.”
For that to happen, the number of participants would have to exceed 10,000, Yount said, based on a formula developed at some of the 54 total locations worldwide whose races are two-day events.
“The exact number varies for every race, depending on how many people are in each wave (Jackson’s waves were capped at 500 people). Part of it is what time it gets dark, how many people the course can handle at one time, those kind of variables. It varies from place to place, but typically once a race reaches 10,000 people, we’ll push it to a second day.”
Last month’s event had 9,430 warriors, according to figures from Red Frog and from the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Marika Cackett, JCVB spokesperson, said that organization estimated the overall economic impact to Jackson was $825,000. “We think about 90 percent of the participants were local who didn’t have to stay overnight in a hotel,” Cackett said. “It was the first event of its kind here, so we kind of went into it with a lot of questions as to what kind of punch it would give us. Obviously, with the maximum amount of people that could run in it doing so, that pretty much fulfilled our wildest dreams.
“It definitely has the potential to grow,” Cackett continued. “The course is set up in such a way that it has a lot of room to expand and add new obstacles. And with the closest Warrior Dash being in Baton Rouge, we feel like next year’s race has an excellent chance to be extended to two days. We heard reports from this year’s race of people finishing the race and going back to do the course again. If it is extended to two days next year, we think the number of people who will stay overnight in a hotel will really jump.”
Red Frog owns and operates Warrior Dash, Yount said, making it different from some alternative sports organizations that sell what amounts to franchises to hold events at different locations. Red Frog maintains complete creative control over the events, from where they’ll be to what the course will look like and what kind of music will accompany it. The company also manages negotiations with host sites. Mississippi’s 2013 race, like this year’s, will be at Mississippi Off Road Adventures.
Off Road Adventures’ event coordinator Nick Tarlton said the only major problem during Warrior Dash was the site’s gravel access road, which is narrow and had trouble accomodating the buses that shuttled Dashers to and from the off-site parking area. Tarlton said the contract calls for the city, which owns the road, to get it up to specifications for next year’s event.
Jackson attorney Johnston B. Walker was one of the warriors at last month’s Dash, and has already signed up for next year’s. Walker does a handful of road races annually.
“But Warrior Dash is unlike any of those, obviously,” he said, “and that has made it an immediate favorite. The course was great, the after-party was great. The overall atmosphere is so much fun there’s no way my group and I would miss it. And, having already signed up for it, it’s a good way to stay motivated to keep in shape.”