Warrior Rush : Winter Soldier II. This is a winter race series brought to fruition by the sadistic minds of the Dirt Runner crew in Illinois. The best way to explain Dirt Runner would be to think of them as a 1991 Pearl Jam as if Pearl Jam only ever played in one venue. A band with loads of substance and very little pyrotechnics. Unless I am trying to explain this to a younger crowd then perhaps think of it as a very angry and insensitive version of Bruno Mars with facial tattoos maybe.

Dirt Runner is an unforgiving and brutal course. With approximately 36 previous events already held. The choreography and production are tightly rehearsed which creates a highly polished and intentionally gritty show.  The entire staff knows what they are supposed to do, and has memorized every inch of the landscape. It soon becomes apparent that this is not a half-hearted garage band The cast that makes up the Dirt Runner crew are seriously good players and truly have fun with the locals.

The Terrain

Dirt Runner is primarily successful for three reasons: Location, location, location, and the organizers know it is amazing so they take as much advantage of this amazing resource as they possibly can.  Illinois is typically plagued with being vapid and flat, but because of Marseilles proximity to the Illinois river the area has actually been geologically littered with beautifully tangled dry ravines, which just so happens to be completely ideal for running trails. The makeup of the course sends racers through unpaved dirt tracks winding around thick deciduous barren trees due to the winter climate.  The lifeless dry tall grass fields make perfect level surfaces for heavy objects and obstacles that require a bit more stability.

Rigs and obstacles.

Absolutely bonkers. The winter warrior race that I ran in consisted of a mere 50 obstacles spread across five kilometers. Typically there would be more obstacles, but the organizer had to shut many of them down because of safety concerns for winter weather.  I have been to races that place lots of emphasis on grip strength obstacles where your legs sort of do lots of dangling, some races emphasize the in the running aspect and make that the primary source of energy expenditure, and while both of those abilities are intricately woven into the fabric of this race series, I felt like the heavy object carries were definitely the king of Dirt Runner.

If I was not carrying logs, or dragging logs, I was carrying a blob of cured cement or a tire to one location or another, unless of course it was a combo of both. Since this course is permanent the creators are allowed to construct some incredibly gnarly obstacles basically because nobody is there to stop them.  One of the obstacles looks like the tower of a lumberjack castle, and is just as much of a pleasure to climb as it is to look at. All the obstacles were undoubtedly secured and fixed in place.  I never had so much as a notion cross my mind in regards to the stability of any of the rigs or obstacles.

Antonio Pusateri : Photo by WorkUP Fitness

Event village and eatables.

One of the best experiences is just after picking up your bib at the registration counter, there is a ridge near the metal dirt runner sign where you can see many of the insane obstacles below.  From that viewpoint the viewer can scope out the bonfire area where everyone gathers because the weather is still hovering in the low 30’s.

The schwag must also be mentioned.  The medals at the end are in fact cool, but the medals given to the winners are astonishing.  I don’t know who the magician of casting metal is on the Dirt Runner team, but the work is full of complex undercuts and is completely remarkable. However please do not be under the illusion of simply walking into this race and going home with one of these works of art, be prepared for a serious fight. Dirt Runner attracts many phenomenally fast athletes.

Before I forget let me quickly mention the food situation.  This is actually the least impressive item of the visit. I feel it is a missed opportunity for the Dirt Runner gang. I have a hand full of money and I would be happy to place it into their wallets in exchange for a delicious hamburger, a burrito, some curry, or perhaps even a falafel would do the trick after a killer race.  Maybe warmer weather races are different, but take my money already!  On the flip side of that coin, the city if Marsellies has very good eating, and is not far from the race location.

The Logo

The words are a bit generic and the running character looks a bit too much like clip art, but on the positive side, the name explains everything. Nobody will read the name Dirt Runner and wonder what the event is about. Overall the logo gets the job done, but could benefit from a little massaging.

Overall score

Fantastic race. I don’t remember if I was looking for a frozen slippery wonderland to prance around in when I first signed up, but what I got, in the end, was a well deserved dirty beat down, and a pair of knees that ended up feeling like Mel Gibsons’s face in the movie Payback. My event math calculates this race an outstanding 5 out of 5. It was the first time I ever raced at a Dirt Runner bonanza. I am ashamed for not racing in one sooner, but I will definitely be back for more punishment in the future.




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Rating: 5/5


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