Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Let's Get Muddy

As you may recall, I wrote a prevoius post about fun runs to do around the country. For the most part, those were basic races, with a couple interesting aspects thrown in. However, there has been an uptick in the number of people traveling to compete in obstacle-course events, also known as mud runs.

I am participating in one such event, called the Hell Run, over Labor Day weekend. It's called the Hell Run--"the most kick-ass mud run on earth!" It includes 3.15 miles of mud pits and insae obstacles like a barbed wire buncker, a rope wall, fire jumps, and a metal graveyard. And what awaits me at the end of this most outrageous of physical activities? A rock concet, beer and thousands of other mud covered participants all geared up and ready for another run!

So what is the appeal of these mud runs--other than the sheer joy of getting doused from head to toe in mud? They can be grueling, intense and definitely dirty, and yet strangely fun and addictive. These runs are essentially military-style obstacle courses, with an element of showiness thrown in, making them perfect for people who like to show off--in both a humorous and serious manner.

While my mud run is meant to be entertaining--costumes are encouraged--others are much more difficult, designed to challenge extreme fitness enthusiasts. Overall, though, mud runs are meant to be enjoyable, while still testing the physical strength and stamina of participants.

Tough Mudder, one of the top three mud runs in the country, is probably the most diffcult. The events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses that were designed by British Special Forces. Some obstacles include things like the Arctic Enema, a swim through ice; the Electric Eel, where people slide under live wires; the ball shrinker, where mudders cross a body of water with one rope overhead and one rope below to walk on; trench warfare, a crawl through narrow muddy trenches; and the gauntlet, where mudders get high pressure hosed from both sides as they climb a steep incline. Sounds crazy, right?

The greatest part about these races is that they aren't really races at all. Sure, there's a start and a finish, but it's not about being the first to cross the line, it's about conquering the course...with teammates by your side. That's right. This is not an individual event. The Tough Mudder asks runners to pledge to put teamwork and camaraderie ahead of their course time.

Warrior Dash and Spartan Race are two other popular obstacle courses. Warrior Dash was created by Chicago-based company Red Frog Events, and includes plank walks, bruch crawls, cargo nets and steep walls. It's a shorter course, usually only 3 miles, and most people finish within an hour. This event is basically a big party, kind of like Hell Run, with live bands and beer and free food.

On the other hand, Spartan Race is not for the faint of heart. It is an obstacle course that pushes contestants to their physical limits, and then throws fire, mud and water at them...pretty much Hell on Earth. The organizers never give racers advance warning about what they will encounter, only that there will be obstacles that catch them off guard.

For most people, these runs are about accomplishing something they never thought they would ever or could ever do. People say it makes them feel like a kid again, it's fun and entertaining, and different, to say the least. As someone who likes standard runs, I am looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone. I know I can run a fast mile...but what about a mile through mud, over fire, under wires? If I can get through this...I can get through anything! (Or at least that's the kind of mentality these mud runs hope to engender in runners.)

I'll report back...