The Warrior Dash isn't just a 5K, it's three hellish miles of obstacles that require participants to leap over fire, rappel down a ravine and slog their way through mud, the race's promoter says.

But those who endure the rugged terrain and overcome grueling obstacles will get their reward at the finish line: free beer.

Akin to ABC-TV's "Wipeout," Warrior Dashes have quickly become the recreational choice for adventure-seeking athletes of all abilities looking for alternatives to the classic 5K race. Nearly 500,000 people participated in the extreme races last year, making Warrior Dashes one of the world's fastest-growing running series.

This year, Red Frog Events expects 750,000 people to try one of the 49 races the company will put on in Australia, Canada and the United States. Races Saturday and next Sunday at Afton Alps ski area are expected to draw 18,500 participants and 10,000 spectators.

"The Warrior Dash was created to give people an experience they will never forget," said Kendra Alley, of Red Frog Events. "It's a day where participants get to challenge themselves, be active and get muddy tackling the course, then celebrate their accomplishments drinking beer with friends and enjoying live music."

It's too late to register for next weekend's race, but those looking to push their bodies to the limits will get another chance when another Warrior Dash is held Sept. 8 at Woodlach Stables in Hugo.

The Afton course will have 14 obstacles that require participants to do everything from stampede over rusted wreckage, maneuver cargo nets, scale a rock cliff and rappel down a steep ravine, and crawl through mud while ducking under barbed wire.

Finishers get a fuzzy warrior helmet, medal and T-shirt along with beer and "the pride that comes along with being a warrior."

A celebration featuring live music and additional "Warrior Grub" (that's turkey legs and corn on the cob) for purchase will follow the battle.

In Afton, warriors will set off in waves every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The fastest finishers in each division for men and women as determined by chip time, will win prizes. Awards also will be given for the Best Warrior Beard and most whimsical costume determined by audience applause.

As tough as the races are, they do have a humanitarian side, too. Participants are encouraged to collect pledges for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the race's partners. All money collected will go toward covering the cost of providing pediatric care to families who aren't charged for services. As an incentive, racers who raise $250 or more will have access to private showers and changing facilities on site and to free food and beverages.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib