There were no complaints from participants in the Ice Donkey Winter Adventure that Sunday’s race took place on one of the warmest days of the winter.
There were enough other diabolical obstacles to deal with on the five-kilometre course at the former Southwood golf course — from knee-high snow to trudge through to 25-foot walls to climb over — without having to worry about frostbitten fingers and toes.
The consensus was that the first-of-its-kind event was tougher than expected, but also a whole lot of fun as temperatures climbed to within a few degrees of zero.
"I wouldn’t have been here if it was 20 degrees colder. I’m a fair-weather runner," said St. James resident Rhett Turner, who was the first runner from the first heat to cross the finish line, in just under 42 minutes. "I had no idea what to expect, but it was tough."
Turner is more of a cross-trainer than a pure runner, so he enjoyed the challenge of running through deep snow and taking on a total of 14 obstacles.
Race organizer John Ford said nearly 400 people took part in the race that "celebrated winter" through its collection of childhood-inspired challenges.
Racers had to crawl under a "quinzee," avoid punching-bag-wielding volunteers in the "king of the castle" segment, and find a golf ball in a frozen pond in the "poker derby dig."
"It kicked my rear end," said Brendon Pheifer, a Charleswood resident, after crossing the line. "That was crazy. That deep snow was hard on the quads."
Pheifer said the race had convinced him to enter the summertime Dirty Donkey or Swamp Donkey events.
Charlene Chiborak, a Transcona resident, said she was glad to be on the course in the first heat, before all that soft snow got sloppier.
"It was tough, but it was great fun," said the member of the Windchill Warriors team who’s a regular runner. "It was a good challenge, and I needed it."
The Wolfpack team of Chris Dasch, Scott Harmacy and Marie Klassen, from East Kildonan and East St. Paul, still had their zombie face paint intact when they finished the race.
"We did the Swamp Donkey last fall, and now we’re hooked on these," said Dasch.
"If they’ll take me back, I’m definitely in for next year," said Klassen, who called herself "the team yeller."
Southdale resident Dave Bowen was one of five Mexican wrestling mask-wearing members of the Chiquita Bananas team.
They joked that while the masks may not have been necessary to keep themselves warm, they did cut a few minutes off their time thanks to the improved aerodynamics.
"No one fell off any of the walls, so that was a success," Bowen said. "I think we’ll all be back."