HealthTraining & Performance

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.

Sup Racing

What: Paddling around in some of the world’s most scenic locales, like North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Why: It’s a day on the water that gets you a workout and a tan. And you don’t even need your own board. Rentals are ubiquitous, and many races offer them on-site.

The Best: Ta-Hoe Nalu (Kings Beach, California; August;; Carolina Cup (April; Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina;

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;

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;

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 (

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;

From Outside Magazine, Mar 2014
Lead Photo: Eric Benjamin