Mason Mowery, who has cerebral palsy, no longer wanted to be a spectator at the Warrior Dash Ohio this weekend in Clay's Park Resort in Lawrence Township. He wanted to be a participant.
LAWRENCE TWP. For years, Mason Mowery, a teen from Olmsted, would sit in his wheelchair and mother and watch his older sister and father participate in the annual Warrior Dash obstacle race at Clay's Park Resort.
But he told his sister he wanted to take part in the challenging, roughly 3.1-mile run, which has a dozen obstacles, many that are similar to obstacles for recruits in military training. It includes stretches of treacherous mud, climbing over wooden obstacles, crawling through underground tunnels, trying to get from pallet to pallet that are hanging from ropes, wading through mud pits, wading through water and climbing up over a barrier, climbing up a sloped wooden surface with a rope, jumping over fire and crawling through mud under barbed wire to the finish.
But Mason, 17, was born with a condition called polymicrogyria, which prevents him from walking or running without assistance, inhibits his motor skills and impedes his ability to speak. He communicates with sign language.
"He doesn't want to be the one sitting on the sidelines anymore like he has the past 17 years," said his 19-year-old sister Sarah Mowery before the race. His condition "doesn't have to stop him from wanting to compete and doing what he wants to do because he has a family and support system that allows him to do that."
Sarah Mowery said she's done the Warrior Dash every year with her father since she was 14.
After his finish, she said, "he talked about it the whole time about how he wants to do it and run."
On Saturday afternoon, Mason achieved his dream, with the help of a customized wheelchair with large aluminum handles that allowed family members and friends to carry him through the Warrior Dash course. While he had to skip many of the obstacles, his sister, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Rick Miller, are lifeguards and were able to get him through the wading in water obstacle.
Family members and friends ran, carrying Mason in his wheelchair, at a pretty fast pace the last mile.
His father Chris Mowery then carried Mason on his back as they jumped over the fire to cheers.
Assisted by his father, his sister's boyfriend, his sister's boyfriend's brother and his sister's boyfriend's cousin, Mason made it under the barbed wire and made his way through the mud to the finish line where he was greeted by loud cheers and Warrior Dash volunteers who placed a medal around his neck.
Mason, who had mud all over his legs and feet, had a large smile on his face.
"There you go! Good job!" the volunteer shouted.
"I am thrilled," said his mother Stacy Mowery. "I'm thrilled to death that he was able to do more than I thought he was. I loved seeing him come through the mud at the end. It was wonderful."
"He's very excited," Chris Mowery said about his son, adding that Warrior Dash's Chicago-based event company, Red Frog Events gave him a free entry. "He had a great time."
"The race was really for him, " said Rick Miller, 19, Sarah Mowery's boyfriend. "No time. We weren't in a hurry.
The event's race director John Beck said about 12,000 participated Saturday in waves starting at 8 a.m. and leaving roughly every 15 minutes until about 4:30 p.m. Each start was accompanied by pyrotechnic flames into the air. The event was set to resume Sunday for a second day. The cost starts at $45 for those who register nearly a year in advance and increases to $90 for race-day registration.
Forecasts of rain did not materialize in the afternoon, and it was hot and very humid.
Warrior Dash has taken place each year since 2012 at Clay's Park, sometimes in different months and in 2011 in Carroll County.
One woman from the Columbus area in one of the late afternoon waves badly twisted her foot about a third of a mile into the race in a muddy stretch in the woods, ending her Warrior Dash. A reporter who was behind her and her two friends who attended to her called Beck to summon medical assistance for her.
But many were jubilant about surviving the hilly trail course.
Amanda Mangelo, 22, of Geneva and Victoria Scott, 22, of Willougby were covered in mud as they wore their medals around their necks.
"This is our first time, both of us doing this and I got to say lot of running but it was a lot of with all the obstacles," said Mangelo.
"Yes, the obstacles were a lot of fun especially when we got to the mud. It was fun to put it all over each other's face," said Scott."
Mangelo said, "Yeah. We had mud wars and all that and everyone sliding. It's a blast."
James McCandless, 47, of Berea and his 14-year-old son also enjoyed their first Warrior Dash finish.
McCandless said, "It was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect and the event and obstacles were great," said dad. "It's a great event. It's a good team-building event for the family. But it also benefits a great charity, so it's a great opportunity to come out and participate. "
Caitlin McKelvey, 25, of Shelby, also a first-time Warrior Dash finisher, said she found the slippery mud mounds with nothing to grab on the toughest.
"It was tough. But it was fun though. We had fun," she said "Everybody should do it ... because it's intense and you can say you accomplished a Warrior Dash."
Reach Robert at (330) 580-8327
On Twitter: @rwangREP.