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Outdoors Rabun County’s Warrior Dash draws 30,000 participants

After trudging through 11 obstacles spread across more than a three-mile span, Franklin resident Brad Hyder (center) found himself finishing the 5K Warrior Dash in the final mud pit. Photos providedThousands of people traveled from all over the southeast to Mountain City, Ga. last weekend to compete in the infamous 5K Warrior Dash. The Warrior Dash is a worldwide race series that is complete with mud, fire, barbed wire and other “obstacles from hell.”

Last weekend’s event, which was put on by Red Frog Productions, was the third time the unusual charity run made its way to Rabun County to raise money for St. Jude's Research Hospital. The Rabun County Warrior Dash raised $90,000, the largest amount raised at a single race so far this year, according to Kendra Alley with Red Frog Productions. Red Frog Productions typically holds around 60 Warrior Dash events a year worldwide.

An eclectic mix of participants completed the run. Those who weren’t dressed in athletic wear wore bizarre costumes. One mother-daughter pair sported eccentric goddess costumes, while several participants wore capes adorned with a Superman logo. Countless others donned viking warrior outfits with horned helmets and/or swords and battle axes.

The Warrior Dash has been deemed by fitness fanatics as the latest craze in physical endurance. An estimated 12,000 people ran more than three miles along a wooded trail, all while trying to conquer some pretty serious obstacles along the way.

Climbing a 20-foot tall vertical wall, scaling cargo nets, and diving head-first into a murky swamp, are just a few of the things participants faced throughout the course, which began at Blue Ridge Camp in Rabun County.

The fund raising event not only drew a crowd of runners to the small Georgia town, which typically has a population of 829, but thousands of people flocked to Rabun County to enjoy a weekend of live bands, food and friendly competition.

According to Pete Cleaveland with Rabun County’s Convention and Visitors Bureau Authority, about 30,000 runners and spectators attended the weekend event, and although official numbers on this year's revenue are still out, last year the event generated about $1 million for the small mountain town, and this year's event was slightly larger and almost sold out.

“They come in, fill our hotels, cabins and camp sites,” said Cleaveland. “It is wonderful for our economy. We estimate that even those who travel up from Atlanta eat at least one meal or stop and get gas before heading back, which all helps our local economy.” He noted that while working the event he saw license tags from Florida, Texas, Iowa and Colorado.

Cleaveland explained that in his three year experience with the event, only one arrest has had to be made and aside from that, residents and participants have been overwhelmingly happy. “For the three years I have been helping with the event, no one has ever had anything negative to say about the Warrior Dash. It is extremely well run and fun for everyone who participates.”

Decked out in his own warrior gear, 2-week-old Grayson cheered on his dad Brad Hyder from the sidelines last weekend in Rabun County.According to Cleaveland, Red Frog Productions handle everything for the event and the Warrior Dash is held at no expense at all to the county. Aside from advertising on the county’s website and facebook page, the event promoters handle all the leg work.

But with the motto being “Mud-Sweat-Beer,” you can expect that the Warrior Dash isn't designed just for the professional runner. From construction workers, to teachers, to students, to families everybody is put on the same level, especially when they're caked in mud.

Several Franklin residents made the short trip to Rabun County to participate in the race. Brad Hyder competed in the 5K for the first time and was supported by his wife, Ashley, and newborn son, Grayson.

According to Hyder, his favorite part of the event was the camaraderie. “This event is a blast,” said Hyder. “Being able to compete with friends and total strangers in an event that is so barbaric makes for a day of memories that overpowers the cuts, bruises and soreness.”

“Obviously anyone can train for running a 5K, but the 11 obstacles along the Warrior Dash course are a challenge on top of the actual race that creates a whole other level of difficulty,” said Hyder. “I've been a competitive athlete competing in races for most of my life, but the Warrior Dash mixes it up and creates another level of difficulty and uniqueness that road races lack. Also, to have an event like this so close to home is a motivator considering I didn't have to travel long distances to participate. After seeing the number of participants, the positive impact on the North Georgia economy must be impressive. I’ll be back in 2013.”

Franklin native and Town Planner Derek Roland competed in the Warrior Dash with his girlfriend Brandy Ball. It was the first time either of them had competed in the race and they hope to be able to do more in the future.

“We have wanted to do something like this together for a long time,” said Roland. “It’s a really nice thing to do as a couple because at the end of the day, you really feel like you have accomplished something as a team. All in all, it was a really awesome time to spend with friends, participating in something that is really fun. It was one of the wildest experiences I have ever had.”

Roland agreed with Hyder and said that the best part of the event was the overall camaraderie and atmosphere of the race. “My favorite part was the overall atmosphere in general,” said Roland. “There were thousands of people there, with a live band and huge Jumbo-Trons set up everywhere. People were dressed in everything you can imagine. It is definitely like the Woodstock of 5Ks.”

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