Desert Warrior Challenge in Dubai

Desert Warrior Challenge Run

Desert Warrior Challenge Photo

I’m always up for a trip and a challenge so when a friend invited me to visit her in Dubai and race in the Desert Warrior Challenge, I booked my flight within minutes. I found a direct flight from DC that would arrive in 9 hours and with the time difference, I’d lose a day on my trip out, but gain it back on the way home. I planned to arrive in Dubai a week before the race so I could do a lot of exploring and have some fun. When I looked at the website for the race I noticed that they partnered with an affiliate gym that looked pretty awesome. I contacted the gym so I could train there while I was in town. As a Reebok sponsored athlete and creator of numerous fitness programs, I was given complimentary access.

I waited until a week before the race to sign up and was able to get into a competitive heat, but it was the last of the competitive heats so I knew it would be hot. I ran outside a few times and took Bikram yoga classes to get adjusted to the heat, but I always sweat like a pig and felt dehydrated. I’m sure it didn’t help that I went out dancing and didn’t drink enough water, but I wasn’t too worried.

Lesson 1: Don’t rely on your friends for directions. Look up the addresses and plan your transportation. When I arrived at my friend’s house, I found out the race was an hour from where she lived, this was something I didn’t think about. Thank God her friend offered to drive me, otherwise that would have been one very expensive car ride. Thanks to these girls, I made it to the race on time and was ready to compete to win!

Lesson 2: Don’t expect that international races will have similar logistics to those in the US, even if they claim to. The night before the race I took a cab to the mall to get my race packet, only to find out that they ran out of race packets because the race director never dropped them off. I lost $65 on taxi cabs and 2 hours of my time only because the race director forgot to drop off the packets. I was irritated that the race was so disorganized.

Lesson 3: Don’t expect the race to look like a Spartan Raceor like anything you have been to before. I was shocked to show up at the race and see less than a hundred people. Red Bull was the big sponsor so they asked me to take several pictures mostly because I was wearing my Wonder Woman costume.


Lesson 4: Don’t spend too much time looking at the obstacles. There was one obstacle close to the spectator area called ‘THE MONSTER’ that looked terrifying where you drop from a pole into a narrow bucket of ice water. Doubt went through my head and the thought of falling outside the bucket was nauseating so I proceeded to the starting line so I could focus on running the race instead.

Desert Warrior Challenge Pole

Lesson 5: Find someone a little bit faster and make a friend. It is really is a small world. While I was standing at the starting line, I discovered the announcer was guy from Arlington, Virginia and lived a block from where I live now. As I looked around me, everything looked really athletic but I was the only one wearing a Superhero costume. I saw one girl eyeing me down and I new she would try to beat me. I sprinted and stayed pretty far in front of the group until two guys caught up to me and then passed me. The guys called back to me to join them so I did. One guy was from South Africa and is a world class runner. The other guy was from the US and was doing his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Dubai. They were both really nice guys and we chatted as we ran and helped each other through the obstacles. They made the race so much more fun and were really awesome guys.

Lesson 6: Don’t think too highly of yourself. At one point a guy caught up with us and asked us if he could run with us because he told us his group was way too slow. Yeah, the three of us had no interest in running with a d-bag who thought he was too good for his group. We all decided to leave him in the dust and have fun climbing through the obstacles as our team of three.

Lesson 7: If you cheat, you cheat yourself. Sure, running in the deep sand sucks, but that’s why it’s called an OCR and not a road race. At one point I looked back and saw a bunch of people running off the course on the road to make it easier. Seeing them cheat made me proud to be trudging through the sand. At the end of the day, everyone has to look in the mirror and face themselves so I’d rather do it knowing I gave my all.


Lesson 8: Don’t think about it, just do it. As a motivational speaker I tell thousands of people to do this all the time. When an obstacle seems extremely daunting, I always find the people that stand around too long to be the least successful. It’s easy to think your way out of success. When I came to the dreaded obstacle known as” The Monster”, I just jumped down the fire hose and kept my body as still as possible and it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was going to be. The picture looks like I’m still holding onto the pole, but there wasn’t a pole. And I did feel pretty awesome that I had successfully completed it.

Lesson 9: Don’t Assume. Just in case you forgot the word ASSUME means don’t make an ass out of you and me, so don’t be that person . Heck, before I started the race some guy asked me if I was there as a model. I looked at him and told him I was there to kick ass. Seriously just because I’m blond and dressed as Wonder Woman doesn’t mean that I can’t be an athlete. I also arrived at the race thinking it was going to be a joke, but it wound up being tough and really enjoyable.

Lesson 10: Take it all in. I find that my days are always busy and I never get enough done so it’s easy for me to do a race and then rush to my next event or focus on what I have to do next, but I decided to hang out after the race and had the chance to talk with a lot of interesting people. You can tell how much fun we had in the picture that was posted in Time Out Dubai.

time out dubai

Running an international OCR was a blast, and after the race, I enjoyed a fabulous brunch and went to a dance party on the beaches of Dubai with DJs from London including the famous Iris Elba. I also got to do a safari and run in the desert as well as make it to the top of the highest building in the world.  Spartan Race had an event in Dubai earlier this year and rumor has it, they will be back next year. I would love to come back and do an international Spartan.

Desert Warrior Challenge Run

Madeline Dolente

Madeline Dolente is an international fitness guru based in Washington, DC. She is trained in 69 disciplines and creator of numerous fitness programs. She has completed 22 marathons, loves Spartan Races, and travels for fitness and fun. She's been featured as a fitness expert on CNN, NBC, ABC and stars in fitness videos and books and is sponsored by Reebok, BRL nutrition, and her schedule is listed on

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