Warrior Race #1 - a mud fest

Words: Sarah Kobal ǀ Photos: Zoon Cronje

From below it looked easy, but as I climb up this loose net, the distance from where I am to the ground is becoming more and more realistic. After struggling to get up the swaying net, I see an outstretched arm from above offering me help. I take it and I'm hoisted onto a metal platform.

Here, I'm joined by a row of muddy people, all looking down; one half is frozen with fear and the other half anxious to jump. "Ok, this doesn't look too hectic," I say to myself, but this all changes when I shuffle over to the ledge and look down. Suddenly, my heart starts to beat faster and I freeze. Five metres below me is a watery mud pit, about two-and-a-half-metres deep, which we have to jump into. My body is shaking from fear as I am afraid of heights. From behind me, my teammate Martin starts counting down: 3, 2, 1, GO! I jump. All I remember is hitting the stinging water, water going up my nose, then hitting the bottom of the pit and someone pulling me out of the water. It felt surreal, but I did it; I jumped from a five-metre platform!

This was just one of the many tough obstacles we had to conquer during the Warrior Race on Saturday 9 February 2013. Situated at Stoke City, Midrand, 2,000 participants turned up to face down the various challenges buried deep within the surrounding grasslands that the Warrior Race had taken over.

There were three types of races: Warrior Brats, Warrior Rookie and Warrior Black-ops. The Warrior Brats Race is 600 m in distance and littered with 10 obstacles to be completed by the participants, who range in age from 6 to 13. In the Warrior Rookie Race, there are 15 obstacles spread out over an area spanning 7.2 km.

These obstacles include the 'Aaaaa'valanche, Spider Web, Mud Monster, 'T-t-t-t'ower of Rage and many others; this course is jam packed with strenuous challenges that will test the fittest and hardest of the wanna be Warriors! In the Warrior Black-ops Race, there are 30 obstacles set up in an area of 19.1 km. For both the Rookie and Black-ops Races, every obstacle is positioned approximately 500 m from the next, which makes the run a lot easier thanks to all these breaks!

Before the start of the race, we are required to register, which surprisingly takes less than two minutes. As my team and I (Team Chivalry) enter the main area, we are overwhelmed by the scene before us; there is an unmistakable energy in the air, there are sponsors everywhere and there are hundreds of people dressed up in vibrant costumes that bring this picture to life - it is fantastic! Those who aren't racing are either braaiing, chilling, smoking hubbly bubbly or making new friends. The atmosphere is filled with music and an American MC, Ricardo Gressel, keeps us soon-to-be Warriors pumped on adrenaline with his motivating words.

Making our way to the start, I decide to jump in every mud puddle I walk past as a way to amp my team up by wetting them with muddy water! At one stage I accidentally wet a child and don't just receive a dirty look from the father, but from the child too! We gather together at the starting line, everyone’s in position and eager to see what is waiting for us in the Warrior Rookie Race. By now, my heart is beating rather quickly, I'm nervous but excited as I don't know what to expect from this race. What I'm feeling is adrenaline and anxiety that has built up ever since I booked my spot in this event months ago.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! I start running and my teammates are pacing themselves next to me. The terrain is rocky, narrow and hard on the ankles, but this just makes us more determined to get to the finish line without any injuries. A huge storm the previous night has transformed the sand into slippery mud, which only adds to the excitement of the race. As we continue running along the single track in the blazing sun, we arrive at the first obstacle that tests our balance as we put our feet through rows and rows of tyres. Easy enough.

The second challenge is a lot more difficult though. There are beams protruding from the ground and we have to balance on each of them to get to the other side. Although the beams are spaced out quite far from each other, this did not slow down the Warriors.

We are all clapping and shouting words of motivation to those trying to reach the end of this obstacle. I heard later that there were a couple of injuries as a result of this tricky obstacle. Even though it is a great way to challenge one’s balance, I am disappointed to see that there are still no mud obstacles, yet!

The next obstacle more than makes up for the lack of mud; we have to leopard crawl under barbed wire in ankle-deep mud! It was amazing and I felt like a kid again! Once I have crawled under the barbed wire, I stand up and begin to wade through thick mud, which swallows my shoe. It takes a few good tugs to free it from the mud's firm grip, and then I am off again. I have to admit that I feel like a bit of a celebrity (as I’m sure many of the Warriors did too), as there are cameramen and photographers at every obstacle, snapping away at our struggles, perseverance and team work.

As we approach the next challenge, I see a deep mud pit with about ten people scrambling with all their might to get out. So we slide into the mud pit, no problem, and then I look up and see a high incline of slippery mud.

At first I'm confused when I see people holding onto each other’s legs and helping each other to climb up this human ladder; that is until I try to climb up myself. I honestly feel like one of those wild animals you see on documentaries that are stuck in the mud at a water hole, helpless. There is no way of getting any possible grip and so another plan is put into action. Martin lifts me up first and after a few minutes of struggling I finally claw my way to the top, followed by Kira. This is the point when Team Chivalry takes action with Kira and I pulling up people from below us, and then Martin and Salendra hoist more people up this crazy mud obstacle. Although no one knows each other, it is incredible to see how everyone works as a team whenever anyone is stuck or in need of some motivation for that extra push. We all eventually get out, caked in mud, and run to the next obstacle.

As we approach the final stretch of the Rookie Race, there is just one last obstacle standing in our way to the finish line: Kilimanjaro. This mud slope is approximately eight-metres high and from what I can make out, there are hardly any grips to help us clamber up this monster. I start scrambling upwards, but quickly lose my grip and slide back down. Before this challenge, we had to wade through muddy water, which contributes to the lack of grip up Kilimanjaro. As I near the top, my 'teammate' threatens to push me back down when he hears the marshal claiming that no one has done this challenge twice. Challenge accepted, I think to myself. So Martin and I slide back down to the start of Kilimanjaro and do the obstacle again, amazing the marshal with our enthusiasm and prowess.

We finally cross the finish line covered in mud, scrapes and bruises, but the Warrior dog tags we are awarded for finishing this race makes it all worthwhile. I can hear people clapping and shouting well done all around us and I can't but help smile - from ear to ear - because I am a Warrior.

After the race we wallow in the lake to get rid of all the mud, which feels doubly amazing because it is also incredibly hot. Some of the other participants are hosing themselves down in the Warrior Clean-up Zone, provided by Addicted2Adventure. All in all, this Warrior challenge was worth the training and nervousness (of being too unfit to finish), as I really enjoyed the rough, tough and challenging obstacles, the continuous team work and definitely the mud! I can't wait for the next Warrior Race that's happening in March and I hope to see you all there.