Tough Mudder races are 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces.
Long gone are the days of linear races that pit competitors against each other in tests of pure speed and endurance. A new wave of racing sends athletes through trenches, over walls and against electrifying obstacles.
One of the most popular series: The Tough Mudder. "Probably the toughest event on the planet," according to the event's website, Tough Mudder races "are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie."
Tough Mudders occur throughout the year in sites around the world. Among other obstacles, competitors may need to swim through a tank of ice water, slither through a mud pit beneath a web of live wires, and traverse a set of greased monkey bars suspended above an icy pond.
Spartan Race courses are three miles, eight miles or up to a dozen miles long.
Courses are three miles, eight miles or up to a dozen miles long. Challenges include leaping over hot coals and traversing a rope over a river. There are even kid versions. But get your game face on first: According to Outside magazine, only 60 percent people who start the 12-mile race end up finishing.
"There is fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth," explains the Spartan website's FAQ, which intentionally keeps the details vague. "There WILL be obstacles to catch you off guard. Curve balls, so to speak. Get over it."
Extreme Wolverine Challenge is a six-mile race through Vermont's mountainous terrain.
On the boot-camp theme, the Extreme Wolverine Challenge is a six-mile race through Vermont's mountainous terrain with as many as 20 "military style" obstacles, with names like "Cement Block Carry," "Single Rope Crawl," and "Culvert Pipe Crawl."
In this case, all that suffering is for a good cause. Top teams in each category get to donate cash prizes to charities of their choice with extra donations going to Forever Our Heroes Foundation and Stratton Mountain Foundation.
On the other side of the country and without the charity component, try San Diego's Bootcamp Challenge for a three-mile race full of Marine-style challenges.
Warrior Dash finishers get a free beer.
Slightly shorter in distance than some of the other series but still packed full of obstacles, the Warrior Dash calls itself the world's largest obstacle race series. Over the course of a 5K (about three miles), obstacles can include crawling under wires through a pit of soupy mud, running over burning logs, and using ropes to scale vertical walls.
Bonus: Finishers get a free beer, a Viking-adorned t-shirt and a fuzzy horned helmet at the end of the race.
In the 5k Run For Your Lives participants flee zombies.
Flee from zombies while navigating mazes, forging through dark, smoke-filled spaces and dodging other obstacles in the 5K Run For Your Lives series. Speed is not nearly as important as dodging zombies. This year, the race is not even timed.
"The obstacles will test your strength, speed and the cooperation between you and your fellow hopeful survivors," explains the event's website. "Work as a team. There will be mud, water and maybe some blood. You will need to climb, crawl, duck and dive your way to the finish line. Oh and there will be a bunch of flesh-starved undead on your tail."
Enjoy an Apocalypse Party after you cross the finish line.
Participants in the Death Race are required to sign a fatality waiver before competing.
The website for Vermont's Death Race is YouMayDie.com. "The Death Race is designed to present you with the totally unexpected, and the totally insane!" says the website, which goes on: "This endurance race is comprised of mud runs, obstacle racing, trail racing, physical challenges and mental challenges all in a +48 hour adventure race. 90 percent of you will not complete this endurance race. Please only consider this adventure style race if you have lived a full life to date."
The rest is left vague, though according to HowStuffWorks.com, participants are required to sign a fatality waiver before competing.
The Muddy Buddies race awards extra prizes for best costumes
Grab a partner and sign up for a Muddy Buddy race. Choose between a run or a longer bike-and-run combo. All are off-road events filled with military-style obstacles that require partners to stick together. A bit more playful than the Run For Your Lives or Death Races, Muddy Buddies award extra prizes for best costumes. Obstacles include the "Cargo Climb," "Slide For Your Life," and "Diamond Balance Beam."
The Mini Muddy Buddy includes kids as young as 4.