Adventure Races

Mixed Use

Sep 8, 2011
Outside Magazine
Hold Your Wood

Tough Mudder's Hold Your Wood    Photo: Courtesy of Tough Mudder

Cargo Climb

Warrior Dash's Cargo Climb

Hauling logs, hurdling fire pits: the obstacles can be as painful as they are unpredictable. Still, an estimated 800,000 people tested their mettle in adventure races last year, and there are thousands of events annually, ranging from mellow ­treasure hunts to multi-day death marches. “There’s going to be something you don’t like,” says Paul Thomson, 33, who entered the Tough Mudder Hall of Fame after completing both days of every event last year. “I hate the electric-shock thing”—a field of live wires that athletes run through—“but you feel like you’ve conquered something at the end of the day.” Troy Farrar, president of the United States Adventure Racing Association, says that to complete these events, you need to go in with a dauntless spirit. “You should be willing to face whatever the race director, the course, or Mother Nature throws your way.”

Your turn:
Best Race for Nordic Enthusiasts:
Warrior Dash
The Scene: Mud crawling, fire leaping, and a dozen other obstacles across four miles. The Highlight: Finish and you’re rewarded with beer, music, and a fuzzy Viking helmet. Mark Your Calendar: Thirty-three locations in Australia and North America, including Kansas City  and Tulsa;

Best Race That Requires No Training:
Oyster Adventure Racing Series
The Scene: A team event that includes running, biking, and solving clues while hopped up on adrenaline (and perhaps a few beers); dubbed the Rocky Mountain Ball Buster—hence the name. The Highlight: Catching an oyster (not the Rocky Mountain kind) in your mouth dropped from two stories up. Mark Your Calendar: Eleven races in cities across the U.S., including Portland, San Francisco, and Nashville; ­

Best Race to Do with a Teammate:
Muddy Buddy Ride and Run Series
The Scene: Teams of two leapfrog on foot and mountain-bike through six miles of mud and obstacles, like a 20-foot-high wall and steeplechase hurdles. The Highlight: The 50-by-50-foot mud pit near the finish, which teammates must slither through before finishing the race side-by-side. Mark Your Calendar: Sixteen races across the country, including ­Orlando, Detroit, and Los Angeles;

Best Race for bored Triathletes:
Tough Mudder
The Scene: Ten-plus miles of obstacles with names like Greased Lightning and the Bastard. The Highlight: With the finish line in sight, you’ll have to run through a field of live wires, some carrying as much as 10,000 volts of electricity. Seriously. Mark Your Calendar: Thirty-five races across America, including Austin, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. There are also races in Canada, the UK, Japan, and Australia;

Best Race to land you in the E.R.:
Spartan Race Series
The Scene: The courses and obstacles, like wheelbarrow­ing manure, hauling logs, and counting pennies while sleep ­deprived, were ­designed by endurance athletes and a British Royal ­Marine. The Highlight: Finishing. On average, 40 percent drop out of the 12-mile race. Mark Your Calendar: Twenty-one events throughout North America, including New York, Atlanta, and Chicago;