Everyone's chasing something in life; the perfect job, a loving spouse, more money, a nicer car, and all the trappings of a good life – the “stuff” that we all seem to want more and more of. While you’re pursuing any of these goals, you’re being chased as well; a co-worker is eying that promotion you had your heart set on, that potential soul-mate surely has other suitors, the impending zombie apocalypse, and all the while sand continues to trickle down the bulb of Father Time’s hourglass in the race against our own mortality.
Our entire life is filled with challenges we must persevere, barriers we must navigate and obstacles we must overcome; from the moment we learn to crawl as infants so starts the process of developing the skills, strength and tenacity to control the path we travel and choose our own destiny.
By the time we've “grown up” – whatever that actually means – it seems that our race against time with countless pitfalls and potholes in our way has become second nature; a ho-hum ordinary existence summed up in the following dialog between two friends over a beer:
“Hey bud, what’s up?”
“Same-old, same-old. You?”
“Yup, me too. Pass the nuts, will ya?”
A select few have drawn a line in the sand and stand together to definitely oppose monotony, mediocrity, and some lame conversation while passing a bowl of beer nuts. These renegades from conformity can be found in all walks of life; your coffee barista sporting a neck tattoo, the police officer who let you off with a warning for going just a wee bit over the speed limit, your neighborhood’s postman who seems to relish in the occasional chase by a wayward pooch – they are all around us – and most likely look just like you and me. These driven individuals have found the razor-thin line that separates the daily tasks we need to navigate and the obstacles we seek out to tackle for fun, sport and the pure challenge of pushing your mind and body to its limits. They stand together as a brotherhood of endorphin junkies, endurance athletes and the passionate few that crush all the barriers in their way between completion of their challenges – they are Obstacle Racers.
The term “select few” may be a gross understatement as obstacle races and mud runs are growing exponentially all across the globe. From this sport’s somewhat humble beginnings on the fringes of adventure racing and boot-camp style challenges it has blossomed into a relatively overnight sensation and hundreds of thousands of participants are signing up and competing in these events on a weekly basis across all 7 continents. Yes, plans are being hatched to host events even in Antarctica. In just the last 5 years, hundreds of new events have sprouted up all across America and new mega-event companies have been created who are responsible for hosting dozens of events per year. Spartan Race, for example, has grown from their inaugural event in 2009 to a planned 63 races around the world in just three years while Warrior Dash celebrated their one millionth registration in early 2012. Numerous brand-new companies like Obstacle Apocalypse, Lozilu, Run For Your Lives and even state-of-the-art Ob/Mud training facilities like Victory Quest are throwing their hats in the ring for a chance to be part of this sport’s astronomical growth.
One thing's for sure, events based around running, climbing, jumping, ducking, crawling, dodging and sliding will continue their rapid ascension to the forefront of weekend warrior sporting events, and quite possibly supplant some other more entrenched pastimes. Says Alex Patterson, CMO of Tough Mudder, “By the end of 2012, we aim to replace Ironman as the preeminent brand in endurance sports.” While that may bold prediction may sound worthy of scoffs from some triathletes, a simple look at the sheer magnitude of registrations may give credence to Mr. Peterson's prophecy: Tough Mudder attract 15,000 to 20,000 participants over a weekend while an Ironman Triathlon is capped at 2400 racers.
Featuring each of the elements – earth, wind & fire – or more accurately mud, water, ice, fire, water-soluble paint, and obstacles ranging from simple cargo nets, climbing ropes, 950-pound tractor tires or gladiators wielding pugil sticks – there’s enough variety and adrenaline-inducing activity for anyone. Not enough? Did I mention being chased by zombies?