Mud Runs: Running Away from the Boredom

All runners get bored with their run at some point. We can try to mix it up by varying our route, running in new neighborhoods, running with other runners or alone. However, we can still get to the point where we are ticking off the miles but we aren’t getting anywhere. Some people run races of various lengths to break the monotony. But for some, that isn’t going to cut it. They need to take it to the next level. Enter the obstacle run.

Obstacle runs are those that force the runners to climb, carry, and crawl in addition to their running. They come in a variety of lengths and for a variety of skill levels. The Tough Mudder is one of the most popular races, especially considering their worldwide deployment and varying lengths.

The Tough Mudder

RACE NAMEDistance / Time# of OBSOPM *
Tough Mudder Half5 (miles)132.6
Tough Mudder10-12 (miles)20+ (per lap)2
Toughest Mudder8 (hours)20+ (per lap)2-4
World's Toughest Mudder24 (hours)20+ (per lap)2-4

These races use wave starts to control the number of runners on the course at any given time. Waves are usually spaced out by 10 or 15 minutes. Based on the geography of the area, waves are limited to between 50 and 100 runners. City marathons and larger half marathons and 10k races have employed a similar strategy for years. Organizers recommend running as a team as some obstacles are extraordinarily difficult to tackle alone.

The most popular mud runs, thanks to television, are the Spartan races. Spartan races come in lengths from 5K to 26 miles. Typically, these races pack more obstacles per mile into the race than the Tough Mudder series.

The Spartan

RACE NAMEDistance / Time# of OBSOPM *
Spartan Sprint3+ (miles)20+6.7
Spartan Super8+ (miles)25+3.3
Spartan Beast12+ (miles)30+2.5
Spartan Ultra Beast26+ (miles)602.3

These races usually start with a quarter-mile or longer trail run to thin the wave some before the first obstacle. They do this so that not everyone in the wave arrives at the first obstacle at the same time. In races that have an obstacle near the starting line, it is usually a mud pit or similar obstacle that is open and relatively fast. For those who skip an obstacle, there are frequently marshals on the course to enforce burpees as penance for the omission.

If the Tough Mudder and the Spartan races sound too intimidating, then the organizers will be happy; that was their plan. But there are many other mud runs that cater to people just getting started with getting muddy.

Custom 3.1 Races

RACE NAMEDistance / Time# of OBSOPM *
Insane Inflatable 5K3.1 (miles)113.5
Warrior Dash 5K3.1 (miles)124
Dirty Girl Mud Run3.1 (miles)144.5
Rugged Maniac3.1 (miles)258


The Dirty Girl Mud Run is a smaller series open only to women. The Warrior Dash and Rugged Maniac have all the fun of the big races packed into just over three miles. For those of you shying away because of the ick factor of the mud, there are obstacle runs that are comprised of inflatables, such as the Insane Inflatable 5K.

These races offer us runners a chance to tap into our inner kids again. We get to run, jump, crawl, and climb. We get to play in the dirt and splash in the mud again. We come away feeling not only like we’ve gotten our workouts in, but we feel like we’ve beaten the course. What more could you want from a weekend run?

About the author

Christopher LaPointe

Christopher teaches English at the college level as well as being an avid runner, cyclist, and swimmer. He also enjoys sailing, photography, and hiking.