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Runners, Have You Tried the Muddy New Breed of 'Fun Runs?'

Lots of organized running events aren’t just about running anymore. Not even close.

Now there may be fences to scale, bogs to hurdle, trenches to crawl through, fire to run through and always mud—lots and lots of mud.

Or, in one of the many new mud-race variations, there’s even something called a Foam Fest run where the mud course includes a sudsy, foamy cleanup. Their slogan? “Get filthy clean.” Ha!

Mud runs and obstacle-run events have exploded in popularity in recent years. And why not? Let’s face it, everyday life for most of us is pretty cushy. These runs mix it up. While some events are indeed tough, most focus more on having a good time.


REI is the title sponsor of the Muddy Buddy adventure series for 2013. Billed as the “Original Mud Run,” the series dates back to 1999 and is aimed at entry-level and first-time participants. Bonus: REI members get $20 off their team registration—get the discount code at any REI store located near a Muddy Buddy event.

Jenna, mud runner from REI

So what is it like to participate in a mud-and-obstacle run? REI employee Jenna Hall (shown at right) became a fan at her first such event last year, the much-more-challenging Spartan Race. So why did she do it?

“The energy of the event was contagious,” said Jenna. “We registered for the race because it seemed like it’d be an adventure—and it WAS.”

Highlights for Jenna included the barbed-wire mud crawl and the net climb. Her biggest challenge came about three-quarters of the way through the race, at the rope climb.

“At that point," she said, "you jump into a 4-foot-deep mud pool, grab a slick rope and haul yourself up the rope with a few more pounds of mud clinging to you. It was exhausting. Needless to say, when I finished the climb and rang the bell I was one happy camper!”

Not all of the events are so demanding. Here’s a quick look, in no particular order, at some of the more notable runs happening this year:


The rope climb is a popular obstacle at events including this Muddy Buddy race.

Muddy Buddy adventure series: As noted above, this offers a good initiation into mud runs. All events are run in 2-person teams (hence the "buddy"). Charitable partner: the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

  • Mud run: Run 3 to 4.5 miles, 8-10 obstacles
  • Classic: Bike and run 6 to 7 miles, 5 obstacles
  • Mini: For kids 4-11, 3-4 obstacles, younger kids (6 and under) with parents

In 9 cities, April through October. Check with REI Outdoor School for mud-run training classes in your area.

Warrior Dash: Billed as the world’s largest obstacle race series, it offers participants a “fuzzy warrior helmet” among other swag. Courses are between 3 and 4 miles long with 17 obstacles including trenches, walls, ledges, drops, fire and “hard rain.” Charitable partner: St. Jude’s Hospital.

In 39 cities across North America throughout 2013.

Gladiator Rock’n Run: Created by Dan Clark, aka “Nitro” from the American Gladiators TV show, this features 19 obstacles and distances from 5K to 10K, depending on the course. Why do it? Their website says “because you know your life is ending one minute at a time, and you don’t want to waste another second.” Charity: TACA (Talk About Curing Autism).

In 14 cities nationwide during the rest of 2013.


Mud is followed by the "human car wash" at a Foam Fest event.

Foam Fest: As noted earlier, this event combines mud and obstacles followed by sudsy foam. Says their website: “We are the only obstacle mud race that doubles as a human car wash.” Distance is 5K.

In 25 cities nationwide throughout 2013.

Superhero Scramble: This is a tough obstacle course race ranging from 4 miles of “wicked terrain” to marathon distance for those who want to challenge themselves beyond a fun run. You can even “party under the moonlight with our night obstacle race.” Charitable partner: Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc.

In 13 cities, mostly in the East, April through November.

Hell Run: Slogan: “The Most Kick-Ass Mud Run on Earth.” After 3.15 miles and 12 obstacles, you can “celebrate in all your glory with rocking music, cold beer and mud-covered bodies. Hell run! Hell yeah!” Charitable partner: Livestrong.

In Chicago (Aug. 31); Seattle (Sept. 14); Columbus, Ohio (Oct. 5); Austin, Texas (Nov. 9).

Spartan Race: Designed by “7 insane ultra-athletes and a Royal Marine,” these races are designed to test your resilience, strength, stamina and decision-making skills. Multiple race options include the Spartan Sprint, a Super Spartan and the “brutal” Spartan Beast. Per their website, “only a few will have the heart to graduate up to the Death Race.” Charitable partner: Homes for Our Troops.

In 34 cities nationwide throughout 2013.


The Muddy Buddy event includes a run-and-bike option.

Tough Mudder: Though the courses vary by location, each challenging event (“designed by British Special Forces”) consists of a 10- to 12-mile trail run over uneven, hilly and wet terrain with a mix of up to 25 military-style obstacles. The extreme athlete may be interested in the 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder competition open to the top 5% who have qualified or “those crazy enough to win a wild card entry.” Charitable partner: Wounded Warrier Project.

In 29 cities nationwide throughout 2013.

GORUCK Challenge: Last but definitely not least is the GORUCK Challenge. Inspired by the elite training offered to Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets, the GORUCK Challenge is a team event and not a race. The route is unknown, the distance is unknown and the challenge can last longer and/or go for greater distances if the team needs it in order to fully become a team. The race is about 8-10 hours, covering 15-20 miles. But, as their website says, "This is an estimate, not a promise."

Have you participated in a mud-and-obstacle event? What was it like?

Posted on at 11:45 AM

Tagged: Muddy Buddy, Running, mud runs and obstacle runs

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My first mud run was a 10k and my shoes were both soaked and caked in thick clay-colored mud after the first 1/4 mile. That wasn't only a 10k, it was a battle with your environment: mud patches, muddy rope nets, water holes to navigate, trenches, crawling, pulling, sliding. This is a great alternative to the less colorful trad running comps; it is certainly designed to be more memorable.

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