USA Today posted an article yesterday titled, “Runners get down and dirty for a thrill in Extreme Races” where it discussed the rise of less traditional running races. The article mentions obstacle-course-themed mud runs, adventure runs through the woods and across rivers with only using GPS, and mountain runs, but while most of these races are done on trails, it never specifically mentions trail running. We at SeriousRunning.com agree, trail running is a category sport all of its own. However, any running on trails can be considered trail running, but when you throw in mud slides, GPS navigation, or multiple race vehicles, we categorize them as “adventure races” here on SeriousRunning.com’s race listings.
Vonda Wright, assistant professor in orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Sports Medicine and author of Fitness after 40, says in the article, “Overuse injuries can happen when people just run, run, run. Our bodies, our muscles in particular, have muscle memory, and the best way to challenge them without getting stuck in an overuse rut is to mix it up.” That’s the same with trail running. There has been a strong movement for runners to get off of the roads and into other activities, whether it be triathlons, adventure races, or trail running because they now understand the medical benefits of changing their exercise routines.
But adventure races have also caught on because they are fun and can be done by people are not necessarily athletic. When the Warrior Dash came through town a month or two ago I had friends that I didn’t know ever exercised say they were going to participate. One friend even went out to buy a bike at Target just for the event! If you’ve ever wanted to try an adventure race here are some cool ones to check out:
Columbia Muddy Buddy: Two teams traverse over a 6-7 mile course and 5 obstacles. At the start of the race on team member runs while the other will ride the bike. Once the bike rider reaches the first obstacle they drop the back, complete the obstacle and begin running to the next one. Once the runner reaches the first obstacle they must complete it, then pick up the bike and ride it to the next obstacle. You and your partner leap frog like that until the end of the race where you will have to crawl through the famous mud pit and cross the finish line together. A fun race that anyone can do, with events being held all across the country.
Stair Climbing or Vertical Running: You’ll need to go to a big city to run a vertical running event. These events are run in downtown buildings in which runners run up 30-50 flights of stairs. They are a great work out for your quads and if you aren’t a big runner you can always walk up the stairs. Runners are sent up the building in 10 second intervals to allow for spacing so passing can be difficult. The view at the finish line is usually pretty sweet though!
Fell Running: These races are mountain running with a twist, racers are required to navigate themselves and must bring survival gear. I consider mountain running and trail running to be interchangeable because both are about running on trails over varying terrain, but fell running takes mountain and trail running to a new level by not having a specific race course. Runners must use a map to navigate the route they want to take to the finish and checkpoints. Fell Running is more popular in the UK than the US, but who knows, it may grow here.
Hash Running: There are Hash Clubs all across the United States. Hash running involves chasing after the Hare who leaves directional signs of where the route is to go, sometimes pointing in more than one direction, and everyone runs to the finish. There is drinking involved so make sure you are 21. More information on Hash Running.
Non Trail Races with a Twist: Lastly there are races that add a twist for some extra fun. Like the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, NC hosted by students from NC State. In this race runners must run 2 miles to the local Krispy Kreme donut shop, eat a dozen donuts, and then race back 2 miles. If that isn’t extreme I don’t know what is. Another extreme challenge I’ve tried is running naked. Butts A’ Runnin’ Race Enterprises (the race director’s last name is actually Butts) puts on a race series every year held at different nudist resorts around the Southeast. These races are a blast! Runners may run fully clothed or completely naked. I opted for completely naked except for running shoes and socks. Read more about my experience running naked.
Try some of these new races and have a blast!