You Don't Have to Do the Same Slog Every Year

What kind of race is right for you?

Change up your races from time to time.    Photo: Eric Benjamin

There's a boom in offbeat races—gravel grinders, obstacle-course runs, cyclocross events—so it's never been easier to experiment with a new sport. Here's how to decide which one's right for you.

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  • Cyclocross Racing


    What: An hour spent circling a one-to-two-mile off-road loop, with frequent dismounts to hop over logs and hay bales.

    Why: It’s Nascar run on a muddy, grassy track, with pit stops to swap out broken or gumbo-caked bikes. Spectators drink, ring cowbells, and heckle participants.

    The Best: Cross Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada; September;; Providence Cyclocross Festival (Providence, Rhode Island; October;; Cross Crusade Series (Nationwide;

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  • Outdoor Games


    What: A celebration of outdoor sports held at mountain-town festivals.

    Why: There are countless events with varying degrees of difficulty, from dog-friendly mud runs to multi-discipline all-mountain challenges.

    The Best: GoPro Mountain Games (Vail, Colorado; June;; Dominion Riverrock Festival (Richmond, Virginia; May;

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  • Obstacle Racing


    What: Mud pits, fire jumps, barbed-wire crawls—like gym class on steroids.

    Why: They’re as much a party as a race. The keepsakes for completing them—the orange Tough Mudder headband, Warrior Dash’s fuzzy Viking helmets—come with bragging rights.

    The Best: Tough Mudder (; Spartan Race (; Warrior Dash (

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  • Gravel Grinder


    What: A race on gravel or fire roads, originally birthed by Midwest bikers.

    Why: Miles of backwoods trails on your road bike, with no cars or strip malls in sight and none of the scary downhills prevalent at mountain-bike events.

    The Best: Crusher In The Tushar (Beaver, Utah; July;; Dirty Kanza (Emporia, Kansas; May;

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