Love a challenge? Race your heart out
Obstacle courses leave participants muddy, exhausted … and thrilled. Why not turn them into a vacation?
Obstacle course races have become so mainstream over the past few years, they’ve given traditional marathons and half-marathons a run for their money. In fact, the trade group Running USA told USA Today that participation in obstacle course races has surpassed that in traditional races. While they require some specialized training, they can be a good excuse to visit and explore a new city.
Whether you’re looking to start small or go all out, there are plenty of mud runs and other obstacle course races around the country for all fitness levels. Here are a few popular ones:
Chances are you can find a Warrior Dash close to your hometown. But the event also offers a great reason to check out a location you’ve never visited, as it’s offered in more than 50 cities. This “fun” run (a subjective term, for sure) is geared toward those who want a challenge and a beer at the finish line. The 5K Warrior Dash course presents about 13 obstacles, everything from climbing over walls to crawling under wire and jumping over fire.
The Tough Mudder has a variety of event options suited for everyone from those new to fitness to seasoned endurance athletes. Some of the options include a 1-mile course for adventurous kids, a three-mile race with 10 obstacles and a 10-mile race with more than 20 obstacles. Tough Mudder also has a competitive series, including an eight-hour and a 24-hour race, for those who dare. As for Tough Mudder’s obstacles, they range from the funny-sounding, like Arctic Enema and Funky Monkey challenges, to the intimidatingly named Ladder to Hell and Death March. Like Warrior Dash courses, Tough Mudders are offered in cities around the U.S.
While there’s a level for beginner racers, the Spartan Race is for the fearless. Races range from courses of three to five miles with 20-23 obstacles to courses up to 30 miles with more than 60 obstacles. We’re tired from just typing that. Spartan also has a stadium series, which is worth the travel. A mix of a CrossFit endurance workout, stair-climbing session and indoor track race, this series brings competitors inside beloved stadiums across the country for a new type of challenge. A few stadiums on the list are Citi Field in Queens, New York; Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.; Busch Stadium in St. Louis; Toyota Park in Chicago; and Fenway Park in Boston.
Keep in mind, most of these races require miles of empty space, so they’re usually farther out of the city. Some organizers share lodging recommendations, but make sure to check out the actual race space on Google maps and book a rental car and hotel close to the action. If you’re making a vacation out of it, either arrive a few days before the race and spend it in the downtown area, or tack on a few days to enjoy the sights of the city once your body has had a day to recover.
As this obstacle course race craze continues to spread around the world, don’t be surprised to see a version of it in the Summer Olympics within the next 10 years, if the founders of the sport have their way.
If straight running is more your thing, check out our guide to the Nashville marathon and other marathons worth the trip.
If you travel for running, share your favorite destinations and races with us and other Fast Park fans on our Facebook page