Obstacle races have exploded in the last few years, with races popping up across the US, UK and Canada – and with more countries clamouring to get in on the action. According to 24 Hours, Vancouver’s number one commuter newspaper, ‘more than 100,000 Canadians signed up for obstacle races this summer and worldwide, 1.5 million people will test their physical and mental muscle to get to the finish line”.
The Lower Mainland has hosted a few of these races this summer, including the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race. The fastest growing obstacle race in North America is the Spartan Race Series, founded in 2004 by a team of endurance athletes and a Royal Marine, One of the reasons why the Spartan series is so popular is that the course lengths vary, so novices and elite athletes alike can start on the 3 mile Spartan Sprint and work their way up to the 8 mile Super Spartan, the 12 mile Beast, and even the 26 mile marathon distance Ultra-Beast. If you survive these, go ahead and sign up for the gruelling 48 hour Death Race! However, before signing up for the Death Race, read the disclaimer on the website first – “Please only consider this adventure style race if you have lived a full life to date.”
Unlike Tough Mudder, which stresses non-competitive teamwork, the Spartan Races are timed! You race against yourself, the clock – and if you are after a Top 3 placement, against everyone else.
Why are obstacle races becoming so popular? People are looking for something different, new and exciting, which tests not only their fitness, but also their mental strength, endurance and even sense of humour. The races are fun and challenging and the shorter distances are a realistic goal for anyone – from the weekend warriors to the pro athlete. Perhaps it’s also part of our primal nature to seek out danger and adventure, and to see how far we can push ourselves. Or maybe, it’s just an opportunity to play in the mud?
Whatever the reasons, completing a race is a huge sense of achievement – and don’t forget the bragging rights around the water cooler on Monday morning!
Obstacle races are attracting teenagers to seniors, but with an average age of mid 20s to 40s; still more men than women compete although the ladies are fast getting in on the action. Runners sign up as individuals, or as teams, with many gyms and companies registering large groups. They all share a common goal – to have fun, test themselves, finish .. and then enjoy a well-deserved beer at the end!
If you’re looking to break out and do something different, you still have time to sign up and train for the Super Spartan in Squamish on September 22nd. This crazy 8 miler, interspersed with military-style walls, cargo-nets, fire and MUD will get your heart pumping and the adrenalin flowing.