If you want to run, sign up for a marathon. If you want to throw a javelin, belly crawl under barbed wire in the mud and jump over fire in between sprints, then obstacle-course racing is for you. Bruises and scrapes come standard; broken bones aren’t uncommon. And Atlantans? Well, they just can’t get enough.
Norcross resident and Warrior Dash competitor Adam Horrisberger insists obstacle races are fun, despite their hard-core rep. Most celebrate après mudslinging with turkey legs, beer and live music. And, in addition to typical race schwag, the Warrior Dash doles out fuzzy Viking helmets, and most racers run in costume—or the occasional wedding dress (always a utilitarian option). “It’s more like a festival, with a little exercise in the beginning,” jokes Horrisberger.
Of course, he wasn’t laughing when he ran last year’s Tough Mudder, a punishing series of challenges with intriguing little monikers like the Arctic Enema (a chest-deep ice bath) and Electroshock Therapy (a curtain of 1,000 live wires, some delivering as much as 10,000 volts). Still, plenty of people are signing up for the pain—obstacle-course races only began in 2010, yet lured some 1.5 million participants to race in 150 events across the United States, according to Outdoor Magazine.
While most runners share a sadistic streak, there’s a certain camaraderie that’s hard to ignore. “It’s a group effort to get through it—even though it’s a race, everyone helps each other out,” says Greg Borders. The Kennesaw native has run three Muddy Buddies, the Gladiator Rock’n Run and plans to do the Tough Mudder this April. “It gives me motivation to work out,” he says. “Plus, it’s way more interesting than running on concrete for 5 miles.”
Some racers even experience transformation while neck-deep in muck. Take Midtowner Chris Davis, who competed in his first race in 2011 after losing 300 pounds, while still tipping the scales at 390. Through sheer grit, he finished, going on to complete nine other races that year—including the 12-mile Spartan Beast—and shedding 150-plus more pounds in the process. “My first Spartan Sprint, [I had] to climb up a net to two cargo containers stacked on each other,” he recalls. “When I got to the top, I realized I could do anything I set my mind to. That moment changed my life.”
Get in on the Action!
April 6–7, Washington, Ga., $85–$180
10+ miles, 20+ obstacles
April 13, Douglasville, Ga., $30–$80
3.1 miles, 17+ obstacles
May 18, LaGrange, Ga., $65–$125
6+ miles, 25+ obstacles
June 8, Conyers, Ga., $73–$103
3.4 miles, 12 obstacles