My Mad Dash Experience

For the second year in a row, I participated in the advanced version of the Mad Dash adventure race, then followed participants through the course during the scaled down yet still very challenging beginner/family run to capture some photographs for the paper.

Like my fellow Mad Dashers, I again came away with a memorable experience while learning a few things and having others reinforced: A mud pit brings out the 12-year-old in all of us; stubbornness can prove costly if a good race time is your goal; my balance is pretty good even with a seemingly-determined firefighter trying to prove otherwise; the level of support and encouragement displayed by some participants was motivating; it’s enjoyable to run along side someone — in this case my girlfriend; I get less bruises playing hockey since I am fully-padded; I’m a better sprinter than I am a distance runner; and I need take some tips from worms — yes worms.

The Mad Dash is a 4.3-mile race on the grounds of Fairfield Hills with built-in obstacles, some of which many participants overcame in ultra-impressive fashion. The race is hosted by the Newtown Youth Academy and Newtown Parks & Recreation, and sponsored by Danbury Orthopedics

This was the second year of the event and it featured a more rigorous test of endurance this go-around, with competitors having to run, jump, and crawl their way through, over, and under every obstacle twice en route to the finish. Here’s my first-hand take on the course:

*Tube crawl/squirm: This is one event I need to work on. Some participants were able to get through a series of three oversized tubes on their hands and knees; I had to lay down to fit and took what seemed like forever to make it out to the other side. My height didn’t benefit me here, nor did my lack of ability to squirm like a worm. I vote next year they allow us to run across the tops or provide tubes with bigger circumferences. In fairness, actually, some of the tall participants managed to slither or army crawl their way from one end to the other quite well.

*Balance beam: Getting across a balance beam is pretty easy but when a firefighter is blasting a hose on you, and you are somewhat fatigued from lap number one, it’s wise to stop and keep your poise to get across. I ended up on one foot and teetering, but managed to get across unscathed (although soaking wet).

*Fitness area: This part of the course included using quick feet to run through a block of flat-lying tires, getting underneath a series of makeshift hurdles, making your way up and over a wooden barrier climb, performing a bear crawl (growling not necessary), doing flat-footed leaping (think like a frog), and executing 20 pushups. The barrier climb featured a much higher wall than last year. I was reluctant to take assistance from the spotters or take a penalty by running to a nearby cone, then moving on. Finally, after several tries (and wasted minutes, part of what put us in the bottom third in the results), I gave in and got the assistance I needed to get over the obstacle. Many participants got over on their own. Some needed help so I felt a little better to know I wasn’t alone. Special thanks to Steve Fisher; Newtown High football statistician by fall and Mad Dash barrier climb spotter by spring.

*The hill: Pick up a rock from a pile and carry it up the hill. Last year it was logs. Walking the hill with a camera to photograph participants in the family run is much easier.

*Mud crawl: Faced with the decision whether to go far left where the mud was merely wet dirt or dive right into the really sloppy muck that I knew would slow me down, I made like Porky Pig or Wilbur and went for the good stuff! Ropes keep you low (and dirty).

*Suspended ladder: It’s no fun climbing ladders to paint but making your way across a ladder suspended from tree branches, although more difficult, can be rewarding. Last year I fell off and this year I surprised myself and got all the way across both times. Some of the children made it look easy though. Time to practice at the playground!

*Hay bale hurdles: I enjoyed this one the most. Having long legs hurt me in the tube crawl, but benefited me here. I liked how they were spaced, allowing for runners to leap over them with only one step in between.

See you on the course next year!

More stories like this: Mad Dash first hand
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