Obstacle races, adventure challenges, mud runs…they’re hotter than Justin Bieber right now. And while they aren’t synonymous with each other and they each encompass different elements (some are timed races, some are simply challenges and others yet are team or solo events), new event series are cropping up everywhere.
“Overall, everyone keeps coming back because it’s like getting our chance to be a contestant on wax-nostalgic shows like Double Dare,” says Brian Bateman of Morristown, New Jersey.
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Bateman first came across a Tough Mudder race via a running blog and it sparked his attention. “It looked like a hybrid of a trail run with Double Dare obstacles…on speed.” He was hooked. Shortly after, he discovered the Camp Pendleton Mud Run. He’s crossed 16 finish lines in the past year.
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Now, the options are practically limitless. “The craze of obstacle runs is getting more and more popular and each race is trying to outdo their competition,” he says. Between the Zombie Run for Your Lives, Men’s Health Urbanathlon, the Color Run, the Gorruck Challenge—just to top the long list—it’s hard to figure out where to start when you’re just diving into this world.
So how do you choose the right race for you?
Here are some tips to add the right events to your calendar this year.
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Consider the Obstacles
What are you into? What do you want to get into? Want to get super muddy? Challenge your physical abilities to the edge? Just looking for a raging good time? Obstacle and Adventure Races are constantly trying to one up each other, so there’s a lot of variety in the experience you could have. Make sure you do your research and know what’s out there.
“I love the element of surprise,” Bateman says of his preference. When he signed up for a Tough Mudder event with a 9-mile course in 2011, the course suddenly changed to 10 miles and then 11.2 miles, the day of the race. “There were more obstacles on the day of the event than had been listed,” he says.
His favorites? “I especially liked the Jalapeno pepper I was handed at mile 4 before being directed to dive into an enormous bath of ice water and Tabasco sauce. My stomach was churning but I foraged into battle. I felt like I had just completed a Fear Factor challenge.”
More: Amazing Race, Home Edition