Obstacle mud racing is more popular than ever, giving racers the opportunities to forgo the typical 5k or Half Marathon and participate in a race that tests them both physically and mentally. Races like the Spartan Race and the Tough Mudder have become a worldwide phenomenon as they incorporate elements taken directly from military training and placing emphasis on competition, grit, and the willingness to endure sometimes-painful obstacles. Each race puts its own unique spin on obstacle mud racing whether its focusing more on team work or competition, or whether the course uses the unique topography of the landscape to construct its course versus building a course that appeals to all locations. Today we’ll be comparing four major adventure races to see what makes them alike, and what make them different.

Tough Mudder

Started by a former British Special Forces member, Tough Mudder is an intimidating 13 miles, which relies on teamwork to overcome obstacles involving barbed wire, fire electricity, and ice water. Tough Mudder not only requires the willingness to endure potentially hurtful obstacles but being able to help others with a focus more on camaraderie then competition. Furthermore, Tough Mudder uses the natural topography of each location to design the course, so depending on the city; it may involve flatter and faster features, or more uphill and downhill between obstacles. Because of the length of the course, the timing, and the intensity of the obstacles, finishing the course is not always a given. Despite the time, if a contestant can’t finish an obstacle, they are allowed to skip it.

Spartan Race

For those who want a competitive obstacle race where the objective is to finish ahead of other contestants, the Spartan Race encourages running not one, but three races in a calendar year: The Sprint (3-miles), The Super (8-miles) and the Beast (15-miles) after which the three finishers medals combine to create one Trifecta medallion. The Spartan Race doesn’t let its runners skip an obstacle without penalty. Anyone who decides to skip an obstacle must drop and do 30-burpees on the spot. At the finish line, runners must dodge two ‘Warriors’ who try to knock down the runners as they approach the end. While Spartan Race is more competitive, it is also more fitness focused, as the race trains their runners long in advance and promotes a healthy and athletic lifestyle long after the end of the competition.

Warrior Dash

The Warrior Dash focuses more on the ‘muddy factor’ then the competition itself. It follows a formulaic obstacle setup that follows a generic track rather than utilizing natural features. Thus there are long waits at the obstacles leading to many bypassing the obstacles in order to record a better time. In some locations, some of the obstacles were closed down, so that not everyone was getting the same experience. Warrior Dash is meant to be more of a fun event, with a large party at the end and all contestants receiving a horned fuzzy warrior cap and t-shirt. Warrior Dash is for those who are looking for an entry-level race with a focus on mud and fun rather than true competition.

Hard As Nails Obstacle Mud Race

Hard As Nails Obstacle Mud Race is a celebration of the Colorado landscape and spirit, with a course that’s locally built and utilizes the natural landscape to create a supremely muddy and watery race. Like Tough Mudder, Hard As Nails emphasizes teamwork to surmount each obstacle, which includes a stair climb, 450-foot waterslide, Tyrolean Traverse across   muddy stream, and river crawl. Furthermore, Hard As Nails also features a separate kids course, with an option for parents to run with their younger ones, and obstacles for pre- teen racers. One of the objectives of Hard As Nails is to utilize teamwork and fun, forgoing the dangerous obstacles such as fire, electricity, and barbed wire, which are used for intimidation. Racers can skip obstacles they aren’t comfortable with without the worry of a ‘penalty’, and without a timed portion, all racers are allowed the ability to finish. Hard As Nails Obstacle Mud Race is the result of having the best of Adventure Racing and creating a singular amazing event.