Some people just like to be tortured. How else would you explain the desire to take part in some of the toughest obstacle races in the world? But if pushing your body past its breaking point is your thing, we have you covered. Below we've listed some of the toughest, body-challenging races around and, for those just new to the sport, some of the less challenging ones.
This is a good race for beginners because the obstacles are quite friendly and the distance short, with about 10 to 12 obstacles over about 3 miles. Its website says this is the obstacle race that “anyone can start and everyone can finish.” It says athletes will wade across wooded lakes and venture through mud-caked backroads. The obstacles are all designed to test the athlete's physical and mental limits. If it proves too hard, you are allowed to skip any obstacle without penalty. At the end, athletes are rewarded with a medal that doubles as a bottle opener and magnet, a T-shirt, Warrior helmet and, of course, ice cold beer. In fact, this course is known to throw the one of the best after-parties of all races.
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This race, or as organizers prefer to call it – challenge - is a long one with about 25 obstacles over 10 to 12 miles and is team-oriented. The obstacle course is designed to test both your physical and mental strength. This race is not timed but focuses more on camaraderie over rankings. During the off season, organizers focus on making up new, unique and exhilarating obstacles that all have one goal in mind – teamwork and adrenaline-inducing fun. Some of the favourites include the Arctic Enema, which is a dumpster filled with ice water that you have to swim across, then duck under a wooden plank and climb out on the other side before freezing to death. The Funky Monkey is also a popular obstacle and includes a set of incline and decline monkey barks that are covered with mud and butter that cross over a cold pit of water. If you lose your grip, be prepared to fall into the icy water below.
This is one of the most challenging races out there and has been dubbed “a true test of will.” You get to choose your distance, such as the Spartan Sprint, which has more than 15 obstacles over 3 miles, the Super Spartan, which has more than 20 obstacles over 8 miles and the Spartan Beast, which has over 25 obstacles over 10 to 12 miles. The obstacles are inspired by Spartan training, Navy Seal training and American Gladiator. This race has it all – fire, water and barbed wire among many of the obstacles. If you fail to complete an obstacle, you must complete 10 to 30 burpees before moving on.
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Men's Health Urbanathlon
Held in the fall in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, this race sees athletes run through tire obstacles, climb cargo net ladders and jump over cars and buses on courses up to 12 miles. This race combines a traditional road race with muscle-burning challenges that are designed to test endurance, strength and mobility. The first race took place in October, 2006 with 1,000 competitors. Since then, more than 250,000 athletes have participated in the races.
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Civilian Military Combine
This race focuses on testing an athlete's strength, endurance and agility and is comprised of two parts. The first part is The Pit, which involves three strength movements including a push press, kettlebell swings and jump-over burpee box jumps. The second part is a 5 to 7-mile obstacle course run that has about 27 military-style obstacles.
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This event is known as a “team event” instead of a race and can last anywhere from four hours to four days. It is led by Special Operations Cadres, who teach leadership skills and teamwork to all of the participants. So while you may start out as a group of strangers you will be friends and teammates by the end. The number of obstacles you face depends on what event you sign up for.
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