Pick Your Battle


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How to Choose An Obstacle Race

Obstacle races are slowly supplanting 5ks as the Weekend Warrior’s activity of choice. But with so many choices how does one know which grueling crawl under barbed wire is the right one for them? Well, you could start with our handy chart above, or read on for a more detailed breakdown of the top obstacle races available.

Alpha Warrior
Tough Mudder
Warrior Dash
Spartan Race

Pick Your Battle: Alpha Warrior

Choosing the right obstacle race for you

alpha warrior obstacle races choosing barchan best
(Megan Nolan)

Tagline: No Mud. No Miles. No Mercy.

What It Is: Alpha Warrior is an adult jungle gym with 30 back-to-back steel-and-plexiglass obstacles erected in urban settings, like San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.

Defining Trait: Crash pads break your fall. The race requires intense upper-body strength to complete obstacles like Pipe Bombs, a field of vertically hanging metal tubes that must be crossed by hand.

Why You’ll Love It: No running required, and it’s the most spectator-friendly of all the races.

Timed: No

Similar: Camp Rhino training facility ($25 per session)

Price: From $70


Pick Your Battle: Tough Mudder

Choosing the right obstacle race for you

Jack Megaw tough mudder english tough mudder obstacle races choosing best
Participants run in the Tough Mudder event in Englishtown, NJ. The SAS (Special Air Service - British Special Forces) designed course consists of a 12 mile run as well as 20 obstacles and water crossings to contend with. (Jack Megaw)

Tagline: Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet

What It Is: Tough Mudder is world’s most popular hazing ritual, stretched over a 10-to-12-mile course with 20-plus obstacles.

Defining Trait: Teamwork. You’ll need it to conquer obstacles like Everest, a greased-up, 15-foot quarterpipe that you run up and over.

Why You’ll Love It: By finishing, you’ll earn an orange headband, a free Dos Equis, and bragging rights for the year.

Timed: No

Similar: Camp Pendleton World Famous Mud Run (from $90); Savage Race (from $59)

Price: From $95

Pick Your Battle: Warrior Dash

Choosing the right obstacle race for you

warrior dash obstacle races choosing best
(Courtesy of Red Frog Events)

Tagline: The World’s Largest Obstacle Race Series

What It Is: An excuse to party. The 5K course is beginner-friendly, and the obstacles are appropriate for nearly all ages.

Defining Trait: Prizes, including the fuzzy warrior hats that every finisher receives. Engraved helmets and steins are awarded for the craziest costume, best beard, and top finish times.

Why You’ll Love It: You’ll swim through mud, slosh through water, and leap over fire, then celebrate the rest of the afternoon with live music and beer.

Timed: Yes

Similar: ROC Race (from $49); Hero Rush (from $69)

Price: From $50

Pick Your Battle: Spartan Race

Choosing the right obstacle race for you

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(Patrick Schneider)

Tagline: You’ll Know at the Finish Line

What It Is: Spartan Race is serious racing, with timed courses ranging from the three-mile Spartan Sprint to the 27-mile Ultra Beast. The obstacles—flipping tractor tires, carrying buckets of sand, hopping from log to log—are basic but brutally taxing.

Defining Trait: Burpees, 30 of them—the penalty for a failed or skipped obstacle.

Why You’ll Love It: Within the series, there’s always a tougher race to try.

Timed: Yes

Similar: Superhero Scramble (from $39); Iron Warrior Dash (from $145)

Price: From $38

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