On Saturday, June 10, some of Wichita’s fiercest runners braved the obstacle-filled 5K race known as the Gladiator Dash, which took place at Sedgwick County Park.
Associate Athletic Director Maureen Rohleder said that, thankfully, everything this year went according to plan.
Every participant who purchased registration or ran under a sponsor received a bib to pin to the back of his or her shirt. A total of 1,050 bibs were handed out this year. VIP wristbands were also sold at the event, which gave access to a tent with unlimited smoked ribs and beer to anyone over the age of 21. Rohleder said she is hopeful that this helped raise more money than in previous years.
More than ten types of obstacles challenged the runners on Saturday morning, including lakes, sand, mud pits and various hurdles. The soaking wet and mud-caked runners trudged through tires, giant wooden spools and even tested their strength by traveling across metal monkey bars that were suspended high above the water.
“We try to do something different every time,” Rohleder said.
A final obstacle involved three wooden walls that competitors climbed up, and between each wall was an area filled with water. Runners jumped into the water after ascending the wall, but almost every participant went completely under the water on the third because it was around three feet deeper than the others, Rohleder said.
“There was also a bridge that competitors swam under,” she said. “Some chose not to do it because there were only about 12 inches of clearance, so everyone’s heads were almost submerged.” Then they got out of the water, ran over a muddy hill and to the finish line.
This was alumnus Wesley Williams’s first time participating in the Gladiator Dash, and his first time in years doing a 5K. His favorite part of the event was how encouraging everyone was, he said.
“There were a wide range of people there, from seasoned vets to casual runners, to those running for their health,” Williams said. “The entire group was very encouraging and uplifting toward each other. No one was belittling or made people feel like they shouldn’t be there. It was a very welcoming experience.”
Prizes were handed out for best time and slowest time — Josh White from Pretty Prairie, Kan. won the race in 23 minutes and 31 seconds, and the last person timed came in at 1 hour and 46 minutes. The top male and top female each earned a trophy, and every runner received a dog tag that said: “I survived the Wichita Gladiator Dash.”
“I was very impressed because there was a man this year who carried a big American flag on a pole the entire way and didn’t get it dirty,” Rohleder said.
Head Athletic Trainer Cam Clark teamed up with Via Christi to have a volunteer first aid tent available for participants. Rohleder said she is happy to report that this year there were no major injuries.
“The more you do it, the more organized you get,” Rohleder said. Volunteers and organizers of the Gladiator Dash are typically tearing down and cleaning up until 6 or 7 p.m., but this year they left the park by 4:30 p.m.
“It takes a village just to plan and prepare — and then we have to clean everything up,” Rohleder said. “We asked Dondlinger Construction and they volunteered their time to help clean. They even bulldozed the holes that we made for obstacles, which was a really big help. We are very appreciative of the volunteers and sponsors who donated their time to putting on this event.”