Spartan Race, Photo: Courtesy of Spartan Race
Built on the notion that everyone likes to play in the mud and maneuver through obstacles like they did when they were kids, obstacle racing has exploded in recent years. Despite attrition of some smaller races and races series in recent years, the sport continues to grow and become more organized in the U.S. and around the world. Here’s a rundown of some of the best events in the U.S. in 2017.
Spartan Race has established itself as the leading race series for competitive athletes and participants interested in timed events. With more than 50 Spartan Sprint, Super and Beast Races across the U.S. and Canada on the schedule in 2017, chances are there is an event (or several) in your region sometime this year. Sprint races are relatively short, while Super and Beast events take longer. The 2017 Spartan U.S. Championship Series is a five-race series (Seattle, Salinas, Calif., Palmerton, Pa., Asheville, N.C., and Glen Jean, W.V.) between April and August that will be televised on NBC Sports. The Spartan Race World Championship returns to Squaw Valley Ski Resort in North Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Sept. 30, where the world’s top obstacle racers will compete in the World Championship Beast as well as a 26-mile Ultra Beast. Every Spartan Race in the U.S. also features a Spartan Kids Race for ages 4 to 14.
Tough Mudder has made its mark by creating challenges for all levels of participants for all levels of intensities. Its main events are the Tough Mudder Half (about 13 obstacles over a 5-mile course) and the standard Tough Mudder (20 obstacles on a 10–12-mile course). Toughest Mudder events are competitive, 8-hour through-the-night challenges that take teamwork, mental stamina and personal grit to extreme levels. Four Toughest Mudder races will be held in the U.S. (Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago) between March and August and will be featured on CBS Sports. The series’ premier challenge is the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour competitive challenge on a 5-mile course near Las Vegas in late October. That challenge is open to athletes of all abilities, but 25 miles must be completed to be eligible for prize money at the 2017 Toughest Mudder event. Every Tough Mudder event features a 1-mile kids’ race known as the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder for youngsters ages 7 to 12.
Zombie Mud Run
Zombies are all the rage and these 5K obstacle runs entail competitors being chased by post-apocalyptic zombies. You can sign up as a human competitor or as a zombie. Humans run with a flag football belt that carry flags representing your brains, heart and entrails while zombies stationed along the course try to capture your flags. If you finish the race with one or more of the flags still attached, you’ll be a survivor. If the zombies capture all of your flags, well, you’re deemed to be infected with the “living dead virus” and, well, not a survivor.
Warrior Dash, Photo: Courtesy of Warrior Dash
Warrior Dash events are aimed at building fun and camaraderie while tackling 12 obstacles on a 5K course. Obstacles range from mud pits and cargo nets to a barbed-wire crawl and the “Warrior Roast” fire jump. There are more than 20 U.S. events planned from February through Octobers and each includes a post-race festival with a live deejay, sponsor giveaways, Maverick’s Grille, beer garden and numerous challenges (hot wings eating contest, best beard competition and a dance-off).
Ultimate Challenge MudRun
May 20, Columbia, S.C.
This team-only race (no individual competitors, only two- and four-person teams) has a military training demeanor and honors U.S. Marines and other veterans. But, as the race organizers say, you shouldn’t be fooled by the name; this is no ordinary 5K with a couple of mud pits and a few cheesy obstacles. This is as real and rugged as it gets. Challenging hard-corps types since 1993, this is a full-on obstacle race with 36 military-style obstacles spread over a 10K course, and Marines are there to motivate competitors every step of the way to the finish line.
Camp Pendleton Mud Run
June 10–11, Oceanside, Calif.
One of the original mud runs that was a precursor to modern obstacle racing, the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Mud Run features 5K and 10K distances at Camp Pendleton. The 10K course is pitted as one of the most challenging mud obstacle races in the world (including features known as “combat town” and “slippery hill” and perhaps the muddiest finish line pit in the entire sport). The 5K course is a more toned down affair, but it still includes nine obstacles. A kids’ race with six obstacles and plenty of mud is also a big hit.
July 15, Parker, Colo.
The annual MuckFest MS south of Denver it is built for laughs and mud mayhem for all types of competitors, but the event is part of a serious mission to end multiple sclerosis. Competitors encounter about 15 obstacles in a challenging 5K course and then gather for more fun in the post-event MuckFestival. Teams run in the same wave so you can experience all the muddy shenanigans, epic spills and thrills together.