Which of the Big Three (Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash) is best for you? Find the right blend of mud, running, and obstacle mayhem to suit your style, interests, and abilities.
It’s not competitive, but Tough Mudder also isn’t easy. A minimum of 10 miles long, it’s riddled with sadistic obstacles intended to (literally) shock athletes and make them cry.
SLOGAN: “Probably the toughest event on the planet.”
DISTANCE: 10-12 miles
# OF OBSTACLES: 20–25
SIGNATURE OBSTACLE: Electroshock Therapy 2.0. An easy 40-foot jog through dangling live wires that’ll deliver a stop-you-in-your-tracks 10,000-volt jolt if you hit them.
WHAT SETS IT APART: Teamwork. Tough Mudders are not races but noncompetitive challenges in which buddying up isn’t only encouraged—on some obstacles, it’s required. Unless, of course, you’re prepared to lug a 200-plus-pound log over and under walls or run up a slick, 20-foot-high half-pipe all by your lonesome.
The world’s most popular obstacle race, with 900,000 participants in 130-plus events, is also one of its most challenging.
SLOGAN: “You’ll know at the finish line.”
DISTANCE: 3+ miles / 8+ miles / 12+ miles
# OF OBSTACLES: 15+ / 20+ / 25+
SIGNATURE OBSTACLE: Spear Throw. Heave the ancient Spartans’ most fearsome weapon 300-style into a man-size hay-bale target 25 feet away. Miss it and you’re in for a mandatory 30-burpee penalty.
WHAT SETS IT APART: Competition trumps camaraderie here, as every heat is timed, so you’re on your own. No-frills obstacles—sandbag carries, rope climbs, tire drags—are the definition of Spartan simplicity and brute physicality.
The first series to explode onto the national scene, beginner-friendly Warrior Dash has introduced more than 2 million racers to obstacle racing since 2009.
SLOGAN: “Mud, sweat, and beers.”
DISTANCE: 3.1 miles (5K)
# OF OBSTACLES: 12
SIGNATURE OBSTACLE: Goliath. This three-part, 30-foot-tall obstacle is a cargo-net crawl that leads into a balance beam (with balance ropes) that leads into a giant waterslide. It’s big, yes, but still relatively easy.
WHAT SETS IT APART: Turkey legs. As its slogan suggests, this race is mostly an excuse to party. Finishers don fuzzy warrior hats before refueling with greasy turkey legs and copious amounts of beer. Awards are given for best beard and craziest costume—oh, and, of course, for the fastest finishers, too.
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