By Alex Glascock
The Active Times

You probably didn't know it, but mud runs and obstacle races aren't all that new. In one form or another, they’ve been around for decades, pushing a determined few to the brink, testing their mettle against miles of grueling obstacles and the worst of the elements. Until the past couple of years, though, events like the Tough Guy existed solely on the fringe of outdoor recreation and race culture.

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But new, coddled generations of adults are growing restless from the easy comfort of modern life, and looking to push themselves physically in torturous events like adventure racing, triathlons and, yes, obstacle racing. And the industry is booming, with millions of people participating each year and, of course, scads of entrepreneurs riding the wave and dreaming up more elaborate, hair-brained ideas to set their races apart from the mud-covered hordes. Here are 13 of the wildest ones we've found.

Crazy Obstacle Races And Mud Runs Slideshow


Armageddon Ambush

When: 20+ events year-round. Where: Various locations around the U.S. There is an undeniable social aspect to all of these races, whether it lies in the camaraderie of completing a Spartan Beast or hitting the wine bar together after a Diva Dash. But unlike other events -- where the celebration follows the race -- the Armageddon Ambush is a party unto itself. Live music, a paintball course, celebrity appearances, and lots of beer set the scene for a 5k obstacle run interspersed with neon "color ambushes" that turn participants every color imaginable. The goal is to have fun, and damn if it isn't.


Shape Diva Dash

When: 10 events year-round. Where: Various locations in the U.S. The Shape Diva Dash is an all-women's 5k obstacle run, and it's quickly gaining traction across the country. The goal is to have fun and challenge yourself without some of the more uncomfortable (read: painful) features of other races, and it may be the only mud run with a wine garden at the after party. The Shape magazine-created Diva Dash is, admittedly, a fair sight less hardcore than the Tough Guy and its ilk; there's a lot less barbed wire and a lot more pink. But that doesn’t mean it's not a challenge.


Met Con Blue

When: June 15, 2013 Where: Blue Mountain Resort, Ontario According to organizers, Met Con Blue is no ordinary mud run. "Another obstacle adventure race ... Yea right, eh!!! This one is 100% Certified Canadian." Competitors will encounter 15 daunting obstacles (maple syrup pit, anybody?), and two-thirds of this 5k mountain race are uphill. If you're feeling bold you can go for the 10k Full Metal Jacket ("not for the weak, meek, claustrophobic, aquaphobic or hemophobic"), which includes an obstacle ominously called "Davy Jones' Locker." This race has a ton of attitude, and it's too bad it's only run once a year.


Spartan Death Race Challenge

When: June 15, 2013 Where: Pittsfield, Vt. The Death Race Challenge, described by the New York Times as "Survivor meets Jackass," is not an obstacle race or a mud run; it's a survival event. The actual course changes every year, but the race typically lasts somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. The challenges are designed to break competitors, who will find themselves faced with numbing challenges like endlessly dead-lifting hefty stones or carrying around a 50-pound log for 24 hours. On average, the physical and psychological strain (not to mention the sheer pointlessness) breaks 85 percent of participants, and even finishers emerge bruised and battered.


Fuego y Agua Survival Run

When: Feb. 16, 2013 Where: Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua The first word that comes to mind when trying to explain the Fuego y Agua Survival Run is "surreal." Held on a mysterious tropical volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, the 70-km (43.4-mile) course runs up and down the flanks, where competitors navigate terrain including cloud forests, rivers, white sand beaches, and a volcanic crater lagoon -- not to mention an array of pass/fail obstacles. And while the actual challenges are kept secret until race day, the list of required gear ominously includes a knife, first aid survival kit, headlamp and six feet of strong rope. This limited-entry survival race is shrouded in mystery, but it has the potential to be a legendary event.


Run For Your Lives

When: 20+ events year-round Where: Various locations around the U.S. Billed as training for the zombie apocalypse, Run For Your Lives gives you everything you'd expect from a 5-10k obstacle race, but with a big twist -- hordes of zombies. At the start of the race, each competitor is given a flag belt (think flag football) that represents his or her health. If the zombies -- made to look startlingly realistic (if you could call zombies realistic) by professional makeup artists—grab all of your flags, you're "dead." Luckily, whether or not you survive the race, the Apocalypse Party is bound to raise your spirits at the end of the day. Run For Your Lives may seem like a niche event, but it has been wildly popular; nearly 12,000 people took part in the debut race in 2011. Until that much-anticipated day when the zombies finally to rise up from wherever, you can have a blast running for your life.



When: April 13-14, 2013. Where: Wrightsville, Pa. While most obstacle races test only physical prowess, Cerebrun tests --and rewards -- intelligence, too. Throughout the race, competitors are presented with puzzles and mental challenges. Those who answer correctly are allowed to move on directly, while everyone else is forced to take longer, more challenging routes to the finish line, adding as much as two miles (for a total of seven) to the race.

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