Mud & More
They’ve got names like The Warrior Dash, The Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and the Defenders of Liberty Mud Run. But what are they? They’re events that combine three of my favorite things: running, obstacles and mud, lots and lots of mud. And they’re the latest and greatest craze in the running and fitness community.
The popularity of these mud runs just keeps growing and bringing new people to the sport in droves. People who would have never typically gone out for a traditional 5k are finding themselves ankle, knee and sometimes neck deep in mud and muck on their way to the finish line; and then signing up for the next one as soon as they’ve hosed off. Add to that those who already do a lot of road races and you have a huge number of people involved in these events.
“They really were some of the most challenging races I’ve done,” said Nathan Davis, triathlete and former collegiate runner. “Some people love them, some hate them. But honestly, if they’re getting people who wouldn’t normally exercise motivated to do something active, then they’re okay in my book.”
Distances start at one or two miles and go up from there, but most are around 5k. There are all kinds of different obstacles and challenges that vary depending on which race you’re doing. You’ll have to scale walls, crawl through culverts, traverse monkey bars, rope swings, cargo nets, high step through tires, crawl under barbed wire and sometimes, even leap over fire pits! In the Zombie Run, you can expect to be chased by volunteer zombies! But the one thing they all have in common is tons of mud, and tons of fun.
I did some completely unscientific polling to see why people are so attracted to these events, and how they train for them. Nearly every person mentioned how much fun they are, and how running and crawling through the mud made them feel like a kid again. Many people do them for the challenge. While the shorter courses are geared toward beginners and nearly anyone can complete them, the longer courses are incredibly tough and grueling.
“I’ve done a few, including earning my Spartan Trifecta last year after completing three different distances,” said Chris Baker, a fitness enthusiast always looking for the next challenge. “The short distances are fun, the Super (eight to 10 mile races) are challenging and the beast is more than a half-marathon distance through dense woods and crazy terrain. After more than nine hours going up and down Mt. Killington in Vermont made you know you’ve done something big.”
One person I spoke to who had never been a runner, but who has gotten into an active lifestyle through these mud runs is Ricky Ates of Brandon. He has participated in the Warrior Dash twice; the challenge is what attracted him to these events.
While you don’t need to do specific training (other than running) to complete one, it will certainly help. “I did start semi-training in January to get ready for the run in April the first year,” Ricky said. “I did the treadmill and weights three times a week and the Dash nearly whipped me, but what a great experience and the changes that it made. My blood pressure and cholesterol dropped and I was more toned.”
Nathan Davis explained how he prepared, “My training for triathlons was definitely adequate, though my running background probably helped. I know crossfitters believe their training is geared perfectly for these things, and they definitely have a solid advantage in obstacles involving lifting and carrying things, but at the end of the day, you still have to cover a distance over time. If you’re a solid runner with some weight training or swimming and core work then you’ll be fine. Give me a fast local Olympic distance triathlete up against the strongest/fittest crossfit athlete and I’d put my money on the triathlete, although I could be biased here,” Nathan added.
Reach for a Rainbow
So getting dirty and jumping over things doesn’t appeal to you? Don’t worry. There’s something for you, too. There are a wide variety of kinder, gentler runs out there for different tastes. There are many different “color” runs where participants are encouraged to wear white clothes and volunteers throw colored corn starch on (and at) you throughout the course, and you finish looking like a sweaty rainbow.
Run a Clean Race
Then there are the clean alternatives, the “bubble runs” where participants run through colored foam baths throughout the course, covering them from head to toe in foamy bubbles. Picture yourself running through the laundry room of any sit-com or movie that had an “overfilled the washing machine with soap” scene (my favorite is The Brady Bunch episode).
Glow in the Dark
And if you’re looking for a warm up for your partying, try a “glow run.” These are night time events where participants dress in day-glow colors, paint themselves with glow-in-the-dark paint, wear glow-in-the-dark jewelry and run through multiple black light zones. There’s a ton of music along the course and a big party with a thumping DJ at the finish. It’s basically a rave with running shoes.
As with everything, there is a cost to participate in these events, and some of them aren’t cheap. The bigger, national brand names, and the longer the distance, the more expensive they tend to be. The more local, the more money you save. Prices start around $40 and go up from there.
So, if the idea of running miles down the road, turning around and coming back to cross the finish line doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps one of these mud, color, bubble or glow runs does. They’re attracting all kinds of new people to the sport and they’re a great alternative to the traditional road race. Give one a try; you just might like it.
A Few Upcoming Runs In the Southeast
Warrior Dash Pulaski, TN – Oct. 4, 2014
Color Run Birmingham, AL, July 19 2014; Little Rock, AR – Nov. 8, 2014; New Orleans, LA – Aug. 23, 2014; Memphis, TN – Date in 2015 – TBA
Zombie Run Mobile, AL – Date TBA
Bubble Run Atlanta, GA – Oct. 25, 2014
Glow Run Tuscaloosa, AL – Date in 2015 TBA