Summer In Seattle – Warrior Dash

Greetings scanty readers and perusers! I return again to tell you tales from beyond the mountainous veil of the Northwest!

The blog will be taking on a slightly different format from now on, with updates on specific events now instead of the entire week. There will be more, shorter updates throughout the week now instead of one large update per week. Let me know what you think of the new system!

The event I’ll be covering in this post is the Warrior Dash.

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The Warrior Dash is a race of about 3.5 miles with various obstacles strewn along the path for the contending “warriors” to surmount.

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TWIF has been looking forward to this event; because after all, who doesn’t like to see people jump through fire and slog through mud in the name of fun? In addition, by providing volunteers to the event we would receive donations from the Warrior Dash to send to some of the feeding organizations we work with. Win-win, right? Well, not quite.

We at The World Is Fun have a twofold mission: to do good things and have fun doing them. Sadly, this event only satisfied one of those.

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This was my view for the majority of the six hours I spent at the event. I was working the Packet pick-up booth.

This was my view for the majority of the six hours I spent at the event. I was working the Packet pick-up booth.

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And yes, this job was just about as exciting as you can imagine. Note also that I got lucky, some of my fellow TWIFers found themselves working the “Gear Check” tent, an experience which, when described, sounds eerily similar to an experience found in a circle of hell.

But to be honest, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go from the beginning, shall we?

We left Seattle for North Bend about an hour ahead of our shift. Google Maps assures you that this journey consumes only about half an hour of time, which under normal circumstances it should have. We arrived approximately an hour late for our shift. The reasons for this were manifold:

  1. There was no dedicated parking for volunteers. (maybe not a given, but it certainly would have made everyone’s life easier)
  2. There was no adequate warning in our instructions of what a flustercuck the event, and getting to it, would be.
  3. The parking for the event was located approximately 2 miles away from the race itself, reachable only by a shuttle (which easily added another 20 minutes or so to the time it took to arrive and check in).

This was irritating, but no deal breaker. While a warning would have been appreciated, perhaps we should have anticipated, somehow, that we needed to leave 2-2.5 hours early for our shift. I guess.

The signs that this whole affair was going to be unpleasant should have been more obvious earlier than this. I mentioned earlier that the Warrior Dash provides donations in exchange for volunteers, but I didn’t mention that there is a catch. In order to receive donations , each organization has to provide a certain threshold amount of warm bodies; if you fail to meet those amounts, you get nothing. Because we were late for our shift, however, the Warrior Dash organizers graciousllyoffered to prorate the labor of our volunteers at about $5 an hour. Keep in mind that they still expected all of us to work 8 hour shifts, late or not.

I hope that the distinction is clear to you, if not to the Warrior Dash planners, that there is a difference between volunteering and slave cheap labor.

The amount donated for meeting the thresholds is not insubstantial, but keep in mind a few more caveats:

  1. The minimum time commitment for a shift is 8 hours. Which they told us only after we agreed to work the event.
  2. The work is shitty. Seriously.
  3. The event is far away.
  4. If you don’t meet the threshold, you get nothing.

The simple act of splitting shifts into 3 or 4 hours would have made getting a sufficient number of volunteers relatively easy. But it’s pretty clear that the intent was not to make getting enough volunteers easy.

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I will say, however, that the other volunteers and the coordinators were helpful, friendly, and generally nice to work with. But the problem with this event was not with them, but with the very structure of the volunteer experience from the ground up. We were provided, as promised, with food throughout the shift. There were no real opportunities for taking breaks, however, nor to spectate or really enjoy the event in any way unless you took it upon yourself to go AWOL for a few minutes.

Oh and the best part: Our shift was supposed to end at 8:30 or 9. The parking shuttles stopped running at 8. I don’t believe they would leave use stranded or make us walk, but this fact became a great deal more significant when we found out that the volunteers on our shift would be excepted to help with general trash pickup when the event closed.

So, to recap:

  1. We dragged our asses out to North Bend on a Saturday morning, sat in traffic for close to an hour, boarded a mud- caked bus for another half hour, and showed up an hour late after leaving an hour early
  2. We were assigned to grueling, tedious, unpleasant tasks for 6-7 hours.
  3. We ere expected to stay after the event, unable to leave until we spent another hour helping do cleanup.
  4. All of this was to be done for $3.55 under Washington State Minimum wage. Which, by the way, we never received because we didn’t meet the 25 volunteer threshold.

While other organizations may have the wherewithal and the manpower to take part in events like this without complaint, this even was not up to the standard TWIF has for events we are trying to convince people to take part in for fun.

In fact, the reality amounted to little more than a bait-and-switch. Thanks for nothing, Warrior Dash! 

I have to thank my benevolent hegemon Internship Director for letting us sneak out early, before the shuttles stopped running.

Come back next time to read about more fulfilling (hopefully) adventures I take during my Summer in Seattle!

-By Patrick Killen