Over the summer, my husband and I did three obstacle runs: the Warrior Dash, the Tough Mudder, and the Spartan Sprint. The Dash and the Sprint were 5ks, and the Mudder was about 11 miles. I have never been a runner, and the entire experience was new to me. I’ve been thinking for a while about reviewing the events for the benefit of anyone else thinking about getting into obstacle runs, and finally settled on the following abbreviated format, which I hope covers everything without getting too boring for those of you who have no intention of ever running one.
(All obstacle photos pulled from the race websites, since I couldn't get the logos to copy over here.)
Distance: 5k (about three miles)
Pros: The obstacles were well spaced along the course, and challenging enough to be interesting without being brutal or out of reach for the less experienced or less fit participants. Lots of friendly banter between runners throughout the course, and the warrior-themed outfits sported by many participants bring a fun, easy-going air to whole event. The ability to choose your event time and free open showers at the end were also bonuses!
Cons: I liked the festival grounds the least – the visibility was lower and the walkways a bit narrower than the others, making it harder to meet, hang with, and keep track of friends or teammates.
Notes: I hadn’t been sick as a dog the morning of the run, this might have been my favorite. Definitely a great place to start for anyone looking to dip a toe into the waters of obstacle running!
Distance: about 11 miles
Pros: I loved the atmosphere at this event! It was all about viewing the course as a challenge, and powering through to the finish. The other runners on the course were your teammates, and you worked together and encouraged each other whether you knew them or not. Everyone was upbeat and the people working the event throughout the course were amazing in their attitude and energy. The obstacles were well spaced, absolutely stretched you to your limits, and were a thrill to overcome, but there was no shame in bypassing one if you needed to. I enjoyed and pride in completing this one the most.
Cons: First, it’s long enough that you need to plan a whole day for it (as opposed to the Dash, which you could complete in a morning and still plan to do something else in the afternoon/evening). Second, you don’t get to choose your start time and if you’re not at least halfway through the course by their cut-off time (I think 2pm), you are pulled from the course and don’t get to finish because they have a required kill-time by which everyone must be done and if you’re not at least halfway you’ll never make it. (That would suck.) Third, there is a charge for spectators, so unlike the Dash, you can’t bring your family and friends for free to cheer you on or party with you later.
Notes: Watch the videos for these obstacles before you go so that you have some idea of what you’re facing, then go have a blast! Also, I strongly recommend packing GU gels or your preferred equivalent – this took us 5 hours, and we needed a recharge part way through. They hand out bananas, but if you’re like me and don’t do bananas, you’ll want an alternative. Also, the sense of humor in this event was fantastic – we passed as sign at the 5k mark that said “if this was the Warrior Dash, you’d be done now!” Lol!
*We're already signed up for TM 2014 - anyone want to join us?!
Pros: This is the event for highly social people. Between the pre-parties and after-parties, you could easily make an entire weekend out of it. There is no charge for spectators, and there are plenty of kids-themed activities to keep your mini-humans busy while you’re on the course.
Cons: This was the least well managed event, in my opinion. Signage to find things like the bag check was lacking, and the parking situation was atrocious. Obstacles were poorly spaced, creating long stretches with nothing and then two or three obstacles right on top of each other. The 5k Sprint and 13 mile Beast were running concurrently and partially sharing courses, which made for some confusion and led to Sprint participants being pushed past by more competitive, highly time-conscious Beast participants, which also tarnished the happy atmosphere. Staff was noticeably less engaged than at the Mudder, as well.
Notes: I don’t expect to do the Sprint again; I didn’t enjoy it enough. I would consider doing the Beast at some point in the future, simply because there isn’t really an equivalent elsewhere, but would definitely plan around the poor management when dealing with technicalities like parking, bag drop, etc.
Beware the inclines – in both directions. I knew there would be (steep) hills involved, but I was simply not prepared for slopes so aggressive that I (and many others) practically crawled up them. Make sure you practice running on steep inclines before you tackle anything more than the Warrior Dash, or you’ll find yourself walking large portions of the run. (This is my area of biggest growth needed before next summer!)
Don’t wear cotton. It will soak up mud and water immediately, and you’ll be soggy the rest of the day! Wearing clothing designed for wicking that won’t weigh you down and that might even dry a bit between obstacles if it’s sunny. J
Do wear gloves. Not necessary for a 5k, but a god-send during the Mudder!
Braid your hair (girls). Don’t try to pile it on top of your head – it will catch on every obstacle. Low braids, crown braids – think simple, secure and tight. Don’t rely heavily on bobby pins, as you’re not likely to keep them in!
High traction shoes are worth their weight in gold. You will be going up and coming back down slopes that are muddy, rocky and otherwise tricky. Take your safety seriously and wear sneakers with the most traction you can find!