There's something soulful, primal, and downright animal-like about running alone in the woods or on a marathon course with thousands of other racers. It sure as hell beats running on the treadmill. So we considered a large number of America's foot races – trail runs, marathons, ultras, obstacle courses, local races – and picked the best 15. What makes these the best? In each case it's different. They range from the most prestigious (Boston) to the most difficult (Badwater) to the most-likely-to-include-nude-runners (Bay to Breakers), and everything in between. Whether you're an accomplished ultrarunner or simply training for your first marathon, this list has something for everyone who thinks running is more than just exercise. Launch Gallery >>
Spartan Race (Killington, VT)
Like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race can also be credited with the explosion of so-called "mud runs," "fun runs," and obstacle course races that began in 2010. It's no coincidence that fitness regimens like CrossFit, P90X, TRX, old-school calisthenics, and other cross-training programs have also made their way into mainstream fitness circles around the same time: They prepare athletes to climb walls, hop between tires, carry heavy objects, and throw spears – all obstacles in the Spartan Race.
Call it functional fitness, the next evolution in the way we work out – whatever you want – is a big enough deal that runners should take note. Though not typically as difficult as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race is a timed event, so competitive types are attracted to the possibility of winning or seeing their faces on the Wall of Champions. This race also offers courses of different lengths and difficulties throughout the year, ranging from the Sprint (3+ miles, 15+ obstacles) to the Beast (13+ miles, 25+ obstacles).
If that sounds like a breeze, try the application-only Ultra Beast, a marathon-length Spartan Race with more than 50 obstacles at Killington Resort in Vermont.
More Information: All of the Spartan Race events are open registration, except the Ultra Beast, which requires an application. [Late September; spartanrace.com]
Credit: Brent Doscher / Nuvision Action Image