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Can A Wheelchair User Complete the Dirty Dash 5k?

by Ryan Grassley | January 06, 2020

Can A Wheelchair User Complete the Dirty Dash 5k?

Sam Durst has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop him from completing a 5k Dirty Dash mud run last summer in Solder Hollow, UT. I was there to video Sam and his parents Roger and Christine as they tackled each obstacle.

Roger and Christine had participated in the Dirty Dash before. Sam was there too. He sat in his wheelchair near the bleachers with a caretaker and watched all the athletes pass by. This time was different. Sam was sitting in an off-road wheelchair at the starting line ready to run in the race just like everyone else.

We had no idea if we would make it

The Dursts and I had used this wheelchair only once before the Dirty Dash. It was at a park with rolling grassy hills. This was a whole different ball game and we all felt like we were in over our heads.

When the horn sounded for our heat to begin we made our way up a hill to our first mud filled obstacle. It was a long hole in the ground filled with mud and water. To enter the pit there was a steep 3 foot drop into the water.

The Emma X3 floats through a mud obstacle.

Roger said, “There’s no way we can do that.” He wanted to skip the very first obstacle. It did feel dangerous for the 3 of us to try and lower Sam and his chair into the pit. “Why are we doing this if we’re just going to skip all the muddy parts? I asked. I stopped some fellow racers who were about to jump in the water and asked, “Can you guys help us get this wheelchair though?”

Helping Hands

Happy to help they paused their race and ensured we made it safely to the other side. One person held my camera and the other helped to lower the chair to me in the pit.

At every major obstacle in the course we found people were happy to help. I noticed that being able to help Sam was making the race more memorable for the strangers stopping to lend a hand.

In fact on every adventure I have been on with Sam we always find people who want to help. When we hiked Delicate Arch there were helpers. When we went sledding strangers jumped into help push us up the hill.

As we plan future adventures and wonder, will we be strong enough to get Sam and his wheelchair through all this? We know that if we aren’t we will meet someone eager to help.

Surprised at how much fun I had

In the Army we did obstacle courses like this as part of our training. Most Army training doubles as punishment so when Dirty Dashes and Tough Mudder’s became popular I was little confused why people were paying money for punishment.

Having done one now I can say, I get it. Our little group had so much fun. A big part of it was seeing Sam go bananas with excitement each time we celebrated after clearing another hurdle on the way to the finish line.

Sam was able to have so many new experiences that day and he was on cloud 9 the entire day. Later when I was editing the video I came across a shot of Sam laughing like a mad scientist and saying “I’m having the time of my life!” I couldn’t help but tear up a little seeing how much joy this event had brought to him and everyone who helped him get through that course.

Future Races

Sam and I joined Extreme Motus towards the end of summer 2019. Many of the fun events like this had already happened and now we are stuck enjoying snow adventures. But when the snow melts we will be back out there making the most of every opportunity and exploring new places.

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