Crawling through mud with your friends, getting covered in dirt from head to toe, and being pushed to your limits – for many people, this has become a firm annual sporting commitment. ISPO.com gives you an overview of the most important obstacle courses to help you work up a sweat.
More than 2.5 million people have taken part in Tough Mudder events across the globe since 2010. In Germany, participants for three events in 2016 totaled 34,000. Tough Mudder attaches particular importance to the fact that theirs is not a competitive but a team event.
It is a test of both endurance and team spirit, both of which are needed for example in order to overcome the "Hangover." This is a vertical wall that can only be scaled by working in a team.
"Funky Monkey" is the name given to another of the standard obstacles, which requires participants to move along a set of beams and rotating wheels. As is customary with many of the obstacles, those who fall end up in a mud tank.
Distances: The original event is 16 to 18 kilometers long and contains more than 20 obstacles. 2017 Tough Mudder Half is launched: The eight to ten kilometer course leaves out extreme elements such as ice or electric currents. Further additions to the series of Tough Mudder competition events are timings and prize money.
Approach: Many Tough Mudder obstacles can only be overcome using teamwork. Obstacle runs are only timed in the new competition series.
Courses in the D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland): Germany will be hosting eight Tough Mudder events from May to September. No courses in Switzerland or Austria:
Special features: Tough Mudders who have already completed several events are called Legionaries. They are set apart from other runners through the color of their headbands (depending on how many runs they have completed) and are allowed to try out new obstacles and leave others out.
The Spartan Race claims to be the biggest obstacle run series in the world. The first Spartan Race took place in 2010 in Vermont, USA. The event has expanded and is hosted all over the USA and Europe, as well as in some southern countries.
Runs are spread across the year. Standard obstacles include the "Atlas Carry" (which involves carrying a large rock back and forth between two points and doing burpees), the "Fire Jump", and the "Barbed Wire Crawl."
Distances: Sprint, Super, and Beast are the names given to the three Spartan Race distances. Sprint runs are at least five kilometers long and include at least 15 obstacles. Those wanting to go for Super will have to cover a little over 13 kilometers and at least 20 obstacles.
A Beast run guarantees a total of 25 obstacles over more than 20 kilometers. A newly added category is the Ultra-Beast run, with more than 60 obstacles over more than 40 kilometers. There are also Junior Races for children.
Approach: Runs are timed in the following three categories: Elite, Competitive, and Starter. Only in the Elite category are participants not permitted to help their fellow runners over obstacles. Those who fail to overcome obstacles are required to do burpees as a punishment. Group registrations are also allowed.
Courses in the D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland): There is currently one race in Switzerland, with two being held in Austria and three in Germany. The Spartan Race season 2017 starts in April.
Special features: Participants who manage to complete Sprint, Super, and Beast runs in one calendar year are awarded the Trifecta medal. There are national, European, and global rankings, as well as European and World Championships every year.
"One team, one goal" is the Xletix Challenge motto – at least for all first-timers. This is a relatively new event and was launched in 2014 under the name "krass fit." It was set up by two German entrepreneurs. The Xletix Facebook page has already reached 110,000 followers.
Distances: There are three different routes: S-distance (6+ km, 15+ obstacles), M-distance (12+ km, 25+ obstacles), and L-distance (18+ km, 35+ obstacles). Each section of the course is unique and feeds into the next.
Approach: There are three starting categories: Classic participants can run without being timed and are allowed to help one another. Those signing up for the Icebug Race can expect to be timed and only have one shot at each obstacle. Starters in the Icebug Elite category can qualify for the Obstacle Course World Championship. Here, the rules are very strict.
Courses in the D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland): There are currently six Xletix races in Germany, two in Austria, and one in Switzerland. The Osterholz-based challenge runs through a quarry.
Special features: Those who take part multiple times are given a Legend status. How many times a runner has taken part is marked by the different colors on their wristbands. Experienced Xletix runners are allowed to start at the front of the crowd and are given two beers at the finish line.
This series was launched in 2007. The first event was held at the "Lützowkaserne" barracks military training ground in Münster. Obstacle runs now take place among others in the Netherlands, France, and South Africa.
Last year, approximately 13,000 runners took part in the events in Germany. Obstacles included crossing so-called "Buzzers", which are low-lying nets riddled with water fountains and hung with short electric cables, and crawling through a foam bath.
Distances: The course is usually 10 kilometers long and includes approx. 15 obstacles. Rookies only complete the course once, others twice. The event in Cologne also offers a six-kilometer Fun Run.
Approach: There are both individual and team rankings. A team normally comprises three participants. Timings are measured using chips.
Special features: Runners in Switzerland are not deterred by the winter chill: In 2017, the Winter StrongmanRun took place in Villars-sur-Ollon. A winter run has also been planned for 2018.
The Muddy Angel Run was launched in 2016. This is a course for women who wish to run with or without their children (ages 12 and above welcome). Mud, water, foam and entertaining obstacles are the key characteristics of this course.
Approach: Fun is the word. The course starts after a warm up session with trainers.
Distance: The course stretches for five kilometers.
Courses in the D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland): There are currently seven Muddy Angel Runs in Germany, and one in Switzerland and in Austria.
Special features: The Muddy Angel Run aims to raise awareness for the topic of breast cancer and collect donations.