The Muddy and Strangely Irresistible Call of Obstacle Runs

Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.

The day of my discharge from the Marine Corps I swore off running. During the Marines I ran thousands of miles and not once did I feel any fabled “runners high.” I ran in boots, cammies, with packs, with rifles, and even just ran — and absolutely no high. I don’t run anymore; hell, I don’t even walk fast any more. You know what is fun though? Obstacle courses. They have a lot of running packed into them, and yet, somehow, someway, I’m starting to hear them call to me. It could be the challenge, because I like challenges, but I also hear the beer and food calling at the end of them, too. As a man who makes fire, turkey legs, beer, and music at the end of an obstacle course makes for a heck of a good time.

Here’s a rundown of a few Obstacle Runs you ought to consider:

Warrior Dash

This was the first obstacle run I competed in. I could only round up one other manly guy to run with me, which was a little frustrating because everyone seemed interested and wanted to run. Come show up time, though, all those tough guys didn’t show. No worries, Gabe and I ran it and had a great time. Warrior Dash is now an annual run for us. This run bills itself as a challenging 5k, with 10-15 obstacles. If you’re looking to try obstacle running for the first time, do this one! Note: Warrior Dash also supports St. Jude.

Terrain Mud Runs

This is a get dirty run. The organizers have split the run into a full terrain (5 miles) and half terrain (3 miles) set of courses, making this the perfect run for groups with different abilities who want to hang together at the end of the run. Of course, there is also beer and food at the end.

Tough Mudder

This is a test-your-mettle run. Tough Mudder bills itself as a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Note: Tough Mudder supports Wounded Warrior Project.

Spartan Race

This group has a wide range of runs from 5k to the Death Race. I put this one last assuming you’re looking for the Death Race. This race is billed as a race that will break the weak of body and mind.

What you can expect during these sorts of runs:

  • Mud. Yes.
  • Monkey bars.
  • Cargo nets to climb and navigate.
  • Tubes to crawl through.
  • Walls to climb over.
  • Balance beams.
  • Hay bales?
  • Climbing walls to traverse.
  • Barbed wire to crawl under.
  • Tire fields to run through.
  • Strength tests.
  • Fire!

What you can expect after the runs:

  • Beer
  • Music
  • Food
  • Dirty clothes

So why do these runs?

Most men really don’t get a chance to prove their physical or mental toughness in the U.S. these days. Not many of us are fighting for survival on a daily basis. So this is one of the ways to test yourself at least a little. It may not be extremely dangerous, but most men tend to avoid real danger, so just trying one of these races will set you apart from many men. In fact, I believe one major reason many men try to control others at work and at home is because they have never really tested themselves physically or mentally. They have not gained the perspective that comes with losing a great struggle or getting knocked down or out in a fight, surviving, and then getting up again. I often see men trying to get this experience from the corporate environment by picking fights and bullying people into submission. Look, you can’t get it there. You’re not going to get perspective from pulling an all-nighter on a project. Anyone can pull an all-nighter to create a cool PowerPoint presentation — if that is your “I’m a tough guy story,” sorry man, you lose.

Actually, you know what, I would love to hear some, “Why I’m a tough guy stories.” Now let’s put a little guidance around this, though: Doing something stupid and surviving doesn’t make you tough, it makes you lucky. If you don’t have one, better stop watching “Mad Men,” and go get yourself a real experience.

Disclosure: Reviews and Gear Links:

In addition to Man Makes Fire buying gear for reviews and guides, gear manufacturers occasionally ship review units to Man Makes Fire. If we like it, we spend some quality time with the gear and review it, noting if it was provided to Man Makes Fire. After the review, we return it, give it away, or work on longer-term review follow-ups when applicable to reader interest.

We do not accept any gear in exchange for coverage. If we do not truly appreciate the gear, we don't write about it at all -- bad gear will fade into obscurity on its own if everyone ignores it. In addition, we focus on gear from reputable companies, reputable brands, and reputable retailers we trust.

The gear links on Man Makes Fire are focused on what we are willing to recommend to our own family and friends. Many of our specific gear links connect to industry-standard affiliate advertising programs. When you buy something using the retail links in our guides and reviews, we may earn a small affiliate commission that helps pay for our work.

Basically, we deliver the advice and insight you need, you get the gear you want, and then everyone wins. Pretty straightforward.

Complete Site Details & Disclosures Here