Tag Archives: Death Race

Spartan Race Coming to Fenway Park

By Pete Williams

Guarding the Spartan Race finish line

Spartan Race, the grueling obstacle race series featuring penalties of 30 Burpees for each challenge not completed, is taking its show to Fenway Park, the historic, 100-year-old home of the Boston Red Sox.

Spartan Race typically sets up in remote areas, staging events of between 3 and 12 miles and consisting of 15 to 25 obstacles. The Fenway Park event will be a one-mile time trial taking place entirely within the ballpark on Nov. 17.

Unlike other obstacle events, Spartan Race does not provide course information beforehand. Joe DeSena, the creator of Spartan Race, would say that Fenway’s signature feature, the Green Monster left field wall, will come into play.

DeSena, who is friends with former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, says he was contacted by the Red Sox to put on the race, the team’s latest foray into non-baseball events. For about 30 years beginning in 1973, Fenway Park was used exclusively for baseball. Since 2003, the Sox have staged everything from Bruce Springsteen and Rolling Stones concerts to the NHL’s Winter Classic.

Though the Fenway version of the Spartan Race is just one mile long, it’s priced like a regular Spartan event – or a Red Sox game. It’s a whopping $110 to register through June 17 and escalates to $150 through Nov. 9. DeSena says the event is likely to sell out by Aug. 1, with 10,000 competitors expected to participate in what likely will end up being extended over two days.

Thirty Burpees – Standard Spartan Race penalty

Even spectator tickets cost a whopping $40.

“You go to Starbucks for breakfast you end up spending forty bucks,” DeSena says.

DeSena, a Queens native who grew up a New York Yankees fan, made a small fortune on Wall Street before moving to Pittsfield, Vermont, where he operates a small resort hotel. An avid endurance athlete who once completed 12 Ironman triathlons in a year, he created the Spartan Death Race in 2005 because he believed Ironman and other ultra-distance events did not present a big enough challenge.

Athletes competing in The Death Race, held annually in Pittsfield in mid-June, do not know how long the event will take place, what it will entail, or even the exact starting time. Last year’s event kicked off with competitors deadlifting rocks for six hours. The event had a religious theme and at one point athletes carried logs on their backs for 24 hours. The Death Race continued for 45 hours before DeSena called it with just 35 of the 155 athletes remaining.

The Spartan Race, launched in 2010, is a scaled-down version of The Death Race consisting of the Spartan Sprint (3-mile), Super Spartan (8-mile), and Spartan Beast (12-mile plus) events. Athletes typically haul heavy objects such as five-gallon buckets of gravel, drag concrete blocks, climb walls, flip tires, and run a race-ending gauntlet of guys dressed as 300 Spartan warriors wielding double-sided mallets.

Athletes also must perform challenges relating to the host property. At a Virginia event last summer at a paintball facility, athletes had to dodge gunfire and successfully hit a target from 10 yards away.

Spartans…Prepare for glory!

Failure to do so earned the athlete 30 Burpees, the standard penalty for not completing challenges. Athletes typically do three or four sets of Burpees, which makes Spartan Race arguably tougher than other events in the category, including Tough Mudder, which do not issue penalties.

Tough Mudder, like Spartan Race, debuted in 2010 and now hosts dozens of events worldwide. Each series is likely to clear $50 million in revenue this year. Unlike Spartan Race, which issues timing chips and awards points in a year-long race series, Tough Mudder does not market its events as competitions but team-building exercises.

Boston’s average high temperature for November is 52 degrees with a low of 38. DeSena said the cold and threat of ice and snow will only add to the Spartan challenge. The Fenway Park race could be the first of several ballpark Spartan Races, though athletes in Central Florida should not get excited about a Tropicana Field event.

“We put on very unique events, the only truly competitive events and fans of the Red Sox are pretty competitive people,” DeSena says. “We want to do more of these – but only in the best of the best stadiums.”

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Spartan Race: Toughest Obstacle Event?

By Pete Williams

Guarding the Spartan Race finish line

MIAMI – If the measure of an obstacle race is how sore you feel afterward, then the Spartan Race is the toughest, most challenging event in the category.

After finishing Muddy Buddy and Warrior Dash, I felt like I could get back in line and do them again. At the end of Tough Mudder, I was tired but not sore.

After completing the eight-mile Super Spartan Race at Oleta River State Park here Saturday morning, I’m sore all over. My legs are scraped, feet blistered, ribs bruised, head pounding. During the course of the race, which included running through woods and brush, pretty much everything but my shorts was ripped from my body: race number, timing chip (which I carried the rest of the way) and even my RoadID.

Does that make Spartan Race the best event in the category? Perhaps. But it definitely could be with a few tweaks.

There are things Spartan does better than anyone, starting with adapting to the venue. At a Spartan Race I did last June at a paintball facility in Virginia, snipers fired paintballs at competitors. At another point, we were given guns and given one chance to hit a target. Failure to do so earned you a 30-Burpee penalty.

Navigate this or face 30 Burpees

Perhaps the coolest challenge here at Oleta River was rappelling down an overpass ramp. At the bottom, athletes were given a six-foot rope attached to a five-gallon bucket, which they had to drop about eight feet into the water below. The idea was to get as much water into the bucket as possible – it was tough to fill it more than half way – and hoist it back up, where it was poured into a 30-gallon trash can. Once the trash can was full, it was dumped and the athlete climbed the rope back up the ramp.

It was a terrific mental and physical challenge – I almost fell with the bucket into the drink – one of many at Spartan Race. Tough Mudder is perhaps more effective at making the athlete uncomfortable, whether it’s with claustrophobic dark underground tunnels or the Chernobyl Jacuzzi ice plunge. But Spartan Race does a better job breaking athletes mentally and physically. I’ve done a dozen of these races and the two Spartans were the only ones I considered quitting because of the challenges.

There was the 100-yard tire carry, a 100-yard rock pull, heavy tire flipping, a pulley requiring the athlete to raise a 5-gallon bucket of cement 15 feet, and an endless (3 mile?) twisting run through the woods where it seemed you had to turn every 15 yards, all the while making sure you didn’t go the wrong way. There were just enough pieces of red tape hung to keep athletes on course. (Jon Watson did a terrific video on the event.)

Burpees and more Burpees

But what makes Spartan Race more challenging than any other race, including Tough Mudder, is that it issues 30-Burpee penalties. If an athlete fails a challenge at Tough Mudder or other races, he simply moves on. At Spartan Race, she must do 30 Burpees, the jumping, thrusting, push-up like move that’s tough under any circumstances, especially in muddy clothes after running several miles in Miami heat.

There were five challenges with Burpee penalties: monkey bars, balance beam, climbing 8-foot walls, scaling a knotted rope about 15 feet, and moving across a peg wall. Screw up any of them and do 30 Burpees, though the monkey bar penalty was only 10. (Women could jump onto a board nailed on the 8-foot wall about 18 inches up.)

So that’s potentially 130 Burpees. I did 90, having fallen off the balance beam and peg wall and given up on the knotted rope.

But here’s where Spartan Race was disappointing. It featured two swimming challenges, neither of which involved Burpees, for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t swim. The first was 150 yards and everyone could – and did – walk across. The second was only 30 yards or so, too deep to walk across, and for this Spartan Race provided ropes equivalent to lane lines to hang onto. Life jackets also were available.

Life jackets? Really? Give 30 Burpees to athletes who fall off a balance beam but give floaties to those who won’t swim?

Somewhere King Leonidas is shaking his head.

Rowing 200 meters, one of the easier challenges

Obviously there are safety issues. But if you’re not going to swim, you should face a Burpee penalty and your finish time should reflect it. At the Savage Race, the popular Central Florida event coming up in Clermont in two weeks, there’s a 150-yard swim in deep water. Athletes who can’t or won’t do it must perform 30 Burpees and take a 10-minute penalty. When the race debuted last August, there was a 5-minute penalty (plus the Burpees) but race organizers didn’t feel that was enough of a handicap since, after all, it could take five minutes to swim that distance in shoes – or take five minutes to remove shoes, swim, and put shoes back on.

But at Spartan Race, some of the top finishers didn’t swim. Sort of runs contrary to the tough-as-nails, ultimate athlete vibe Spartan likes to promote, doesn’t it?

Climb rope, ring bell

Here’s another beef with Spartan Race. The final obstacle involves getting past five meatheads wielding these double sided mallets. These guys take their gig way too seriously. Yes, I know I’m going to take some shots going one-on-five toward the finish line. It’s part of the race. But it must be embarrassing to fall for a head fake delivered by an exhausted guy 15 years older than you. Why else would you deliver cheap shots to the back of my head after I’ve blown by?

Might want to work some speed and agility training into your next WOD, fellas.

Spartan Race also takes the spartan theme a little too far. I counted three water stops, which isn’t nearly enough for a race in 80-degree temperatures that takes most more than two hours. As for free post-race refreshment? Even by obstacle race standards, a bottle of water and a banana is pretty chintzy. Keep the free beer. My kingdom for a Mix1 or Muscle Milk.

Spartan Race continues to issue black beefy cotton T-shirts with the year’s schedule of events on the back, a concert shirt look that went out in 1989. (Tough Mudder is just as guilty, though their shirts are gray). This year Warrior Dash has followed the lead of several of our popular Florida obstacle races (Highlander, Savage Race) and switched to the softer, fitted T-shirts.

Obviously it’s about the race not the shirt. I have more race shirts than I could ever wear and, besides, I aged out of the coveted 18-to-34 demographic that makes up most of these events some time ago. You don’t want me wearing your shirt. But judging from the lines of twenty-somethings waiting to get on race shuttle buses from the designated parking lot at Florida International University, you do want those kids serving as walking billboards for your brand, especially when it’s the coolest brand in the category. Print some fitted red Tultex shirts with the Spartan logo that they’ll actually wear.

All of the above are easy tweaks. I’ve gotten up twice while writing this story and feel it more than after any obstacle mud run, running race, triathlon, or paddleboard event. Spartan Race seems to have succeeded in becoming the toughest event.

Postrace cleanup

Joe DeSena modeled the Spartan Race after the Death Race, the brutal no-set-time challenge he stages in Vermont each June. When I had him on the Fitness Buff Show earlier this month, he bristled at my use of “mud run,” stressing that Spartan is an obstacle race.

That’s a good point and perhaps a distinction that could give Spartan an edge over Tough Mudder in the long term, even though TM is drawing bigger numbers at the moment. Tough Mudder is an untimed event with no results posted, with the goal of finishing together with your teammates, helping them over obstacles. Spartan bills itself as a race, a new endurance sports category, where athletes must get through on their own or do 30 Burpees along the way.

At the moment, Tough Mudder has an edge in popularity and sponsorships, which include Under Armour and EAS. Tough Mudder provides all-you-can-consume EAS protein drinks and energy bars at the end of its races. Spartan Race’s Miami event was sponsored by “Dial for Men.” The soap came in handy at the post-race showers, but the “Dial for Men” banners everywhere gave the event a bit of a “Meet the Spartans” feel. Seems like sports marketers are missing a great opportunity with Spartan Race.

I hesitate to lob constructive criticism at DeSena, though not because he comped me into his race as a member of the media. DeSena has a track record of taking suggestions and making his events harder. Several athletes I spoke to in Miami who did last year’s race said this year’s edition was much tougher. One guy said he finished in 1 hour, four minutes last year but took nearly two hours this time. “And I was much better prepared,” he said.

DeSena has a Wall Street background and knows a thing or two about building businesses for the long haul. If Tough Mudder and Spartan Race were stocks, I’d be bullish on both, but it seems Spartan Race could be the better long-term play.


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Spartan Race Town, HQ Devastated by Irene

By Pete Williams

Road damage in Pittsfield, Vermont

The town of Pittsfield, Vermont, best known in the endurance sports world as the site of the Spartan Death Race, is recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irene that took out bridges, rendering the town an island and making helicopter travel necessary.

According to the Spartan Race blog, the lodge at K1, where a thousand athletes earned medals during a Spartan Beast Race event last month, collapsed due to the effects of Hurricane Irene. The Pickel Barrel, where hundreds of athletes gathered with their turkey legs and celebrated their completion of the Beast, has suffered flooding. The bridges up and down Route 100 have collapsed, making it impossible to travel through the heart of the Green Mountains, by car or by foot.

The Spartan Race is headquartered in Pittsfield, where race organizer Joe DeSena makes his home. DeSena launched the Spartan Race this year, expanding upon the Spartan Death Race he created in 2005.

Having visited the beautiful Pittsfield community during the Death Race in June, we’re stunned and saddened to see photos of the damage. Here in Florida, we always keep the possibility of a hurricane in the back of our minds, but it’s not something Vermonters have had to consider.

There are a number of ways to contribute to the rebuilding and recovery efforts listed on the Spartan Race blog.



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Surviving the Spartan Race

By Pete Williams

Spartans...Prepare for Glory!

ALDIE, Va., – Maybe it was the 130 yards crawling in manure-smelling mud under low-slung barbwire. Maybe it was tunneling under a mesh net while being drilled with paintballs by a sniper. Maybe it was hauling a five-gallon bucket of gravel up and down a hill, pulling a block of concrete 50 yards or navigating over and around countless logs and obstacles.

Maybe it was doing countless burpees, the penalty for being unable to complete an obstacle or being whacked with giant mallets by guys dressed as extras from the movie 300 protecting the finish line.

This is not you’re ordinary mud run or obstacle challenge.

No. This…is….Sparta – or at least The Spartan Race, perhaps the most creative of the many adventure mud runs that have popped up in recent years.

Conceived by the founders of the legendary Death Race with input from the Royal British Marines, The Spartan Race is less a run than a punishing death march through a roughly three-mile course featuring two-dozen obstacles and challenges that get progressively difficult.

Unlike other events in the category that set up the same course all over the country, The Spartan Race, which made its Florida debut in April in Miami, adapts to the site. For Saturday’s race, held among rolling horse farms and wineries in rural Loudoun County, the site was “Pev’s Paintball,” a sprawling complex of built-in obstacles.

That’s how athletes, who embarked in half-hour waves of roughly 300 (of course), found themselves being used as target practice. (The mesh nets provided some cover, at least from hits to the head). At another point competitors had to pick up a paintball gun and hit a small target 10 yards away. Penalty for missing? Thirty burpees.

Burpees are even more challenging when covered head to toe with mud and mentally and physically fried from completing 90 percent of an obstacle – such as a meandering balance beam – only to slip on muddy shoes or mud left from a previous competitor.

Wave start in Aldie, Va.

The Pev’s Paintball property has no significant bodies of water, so this edition of The Spartan Race lacked some of the formidable water obstacles featured in previous events and recorded on the many terrific videos on the Web site.

To compensate, race organizers added endless mazes of giant log obstacles, usually used as paintball positions. The lack of water challenges meant competitors could never wash off until after the race. Some men went shirtless, avoiding a heavy, bogged-down T-shirt, but subjecting themselves to more inevitable scrapes and abrasions beyond the legs.

There were greater casualties. Twice I saw ATVs equipped with litters hauling competitors off the course to the medical tent, well staffed with local rescue workers. Spartan Race officials reported later that only 81 percent of the field finished. (The Spartan Race waiver is extensive even by the lawyered-up standards of endurance sports boilerplate; you literally sign your life away.)

A buddy of mine who accompanied me to the race suffered a hand laceration early, a minor injury but one that significantly added to the degree of difficulty to his race, especially at the end.

Having thrown the javelin in high school, he had no problem sticking a spear throw into a bale of hay 10 yards away. (Thirty burpees for me).

The final gauntlet included getting over a six-foot wall, a seven-foot wall, and an eight-foot wall, all greased with mud from previous competitors. There even were volunteer hecklers assigned to berate competitors still gasping from 30 burpees. (Most missed the spear throw.)

One took a look at me and said, “Are you really wearing bike shorts to this race?”

“Those aren’t bike shorts,” her partner said. “Can you believe he’s actually wearing tri shorts? This isn’t some wimpy triathlon, pal.”

No kidding. I grabbed the top of the six-foot wall and pulled myself over, banging my ribs in the process. I caught my breath and flung myself over the seven-foot wall, struggling to maintain my grip on the muddy ledge.

The eight-foot wall looked imposing. A team of four guys racing together was hoisting each other over. This is allowed, though hardly encouraged. One guy noticed a small piece of wood nailed to the wall about a foot off the ground and took off running.

“Dude,” a heckler said. “That’s for shorter women.”

The guy pulled up shy of the wall and accepted help from his buddies. I turned down their offer, pausing to contemplate strategy. I figured I had enough left to get off one good attempt or succumb to 30 burpees.

Between my muddy clothes, lack of calves, and four-inch vertical leap, it was a long shot. Still, I got my right elbow over the muddy wall and made it over, banging the ribs again.

The last obstacle was an inverted V-shaped wall, which volunteers kept lubed with grease. At least this time ropes were provided. I made it over this obstacle relatively easy.

All that stood between the finish line were a pair of 300 wannabes wielding mallets. Unlike the HGH poster boys from The Spartan Race videos, these guys were a little doughy. Apparently the Loudoun County talent pool is a little thin.

Still, Betty White would have provided a formidable challenge at this point. I knew from watching the previous wave that the strategy was to bull rush the Spartans so they couldn’t swing their weapons.

I did just that and pushed by the first guy, took one last shot to the torso from No.2 and dashed to the finish line, where I received my medal and black T-shirt, which served as a nice face towel until I could hit the temporary-installed showers.

Not sure if non-finishers received shirts. Perhaps for an additional 30 burpees?

Touch-screen monitors were positioned nearby, providing real-time results. Unless I missed it, there was just water, sports drinks, and a race-sponsored energy drink available, no food. This, after all, is the Spartan Race. (There was, however, food available for purchase.)

I finished in 43:45, good for 40th among the 122 men who finished my wave. As I washed the mud and hideous pig farm smell off – cold water only for the Spartans – I thought of the 200 people who this weekend will embark on “The Death Race,” a marathon version of The Spartan Race in Vermont that has lasted three days in recent years. (No one is told the length or duration of that event.)

I won’t be competing in The Death Race.

That is Sparta.


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Preparing for ‘The Death Race’


By Pete Williams

Paul Roarke

If you were going to lay odds on someone to win “The Death Race,” the grueling endurance event in Vermont billed as “Survivor meets 300,” Paul Roarke would be an attractive option.

A former U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant and Iraq war veteran who authored the book Corps Strength: A Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant’s Program for Elite Fitness, the chiseled 50-year-old Roarke’s fitness regimen over the years has included boxing, martial arts, power lifting, and triathlon.

Roarke was inspired to write the book after watching many of his fellow career Marines suffer injuries and chronic ailments. Now the Pensacola resident, who serves as an instructor at the Navy’s international leadership school, is among the 200 crazies who on June 24 will attempt The Death Race, arguably the toughest test in the endurance sports world.

Concocted in 2007 by longtime endurance athletes Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg, who decided Ironman Triathlons and eco-challenges weren’t tough enough, the Death Race brings athletes into rural Vermont for a competition with no defined start or finish time. The challenges vary each year but typically involve tasks such as chopping wood, hauling heavy wheelbarrows, crawling under barbwire, navigating long distances in the dark, and carrying tree stumps and bicycles. Only 10 percent of the field finishes.

The Web site for the event is youmaydie.com and participants must literally sign their lives away. The winners of the first Death Race finished in about 12 hours but it’s gotten longer each year. This year, athletes are bracing for a 72-hour ordeal.

EnduranceSportsFlorida talked with Roarke about his strategy:

Q: You spent nearly 30 years in the Marine Corps and you have an incredible endurance sports resume. Do you feel any pressure to win this race?

A: Pressure makes diamonds. I always put pressure on myself; it’s my personality type. If I’m not struggling with something, I’m not living so I’m kind of used to it. I wrote a book and put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure it sold well, went out and promoted it. I’ll finish unless I get injured, which can happen, but knock on my wooden head, I’ve never had a major injury. Never had any chronic things – back or knee problems – I have bunions, but my whole family has those. Nothing but minor aches and pains; that’s what led me into the book. The kind of physical training system I’ve developed over the years helped keep me going while others got hurt. Some of these guys I grew up with in Marine Corps were studs, great athletes, but they fell by the wayside and that’s given me a lot of belief in the system.

Q: How do you train for an event like this?

A: I’ve done dozens of triathlons and road races, a few adventure races, and when I looked at this I realized it would be a fundamental mindset change. It’s a long race – three days – and if you figure the average person does a marathon in four hours, you now have to think in terms of 72 hours. So you have to change your mindset and think of what it means to be long, what it’s going to take mentally and physically to get there. I knew off the bat this would not be a speed event. I always talk about doing more exercise in less time, keep the intensity up for a lot of reasons. For this – and I could be wrong – it requires more of a long slow burn. You have to have the physical toughness to do things over and over.

Q: What have you applied to this from your military training?

A: Normally I do training runs at an eight or nine minute a mile pace. That’s too fast for this race. In Marine recon, you’re required to cover extreme distances for drops or to get to a point. You can’t take off at a 7-mile pace; you’d be done after a couple miles. So they developed the Recon Shuffle, a shuffling pace at 12 minutes a mile. That’s a different stress on your body. Mentally you just want to go faster and get it over and your body gets stiff and sore when you run that slow. I know there will be times when I’ll have to hold myself back. I know what it’s like to be up for two or three days without sleep and you basically become a zombie after two days. I know what’s going to happen. People are going to take off and then four or five hours go by, and if they’re not used to doing things for that period of time, they won’t be able to do it. I’m going to hold back at first to put money in the bank. After day one or two days I can withdraw that.

Q: What have you learned from past Death Race competitors?

A: I’ve looked at the videos and talked to people who were in it and I think it’s more about just moving forward for three days than it is about speed and strength. That’s what I’m training for, doing a lot of humping, heavy pack stuff, fast-paced walking. Normal Marine Corps load is 60 pounds. You have to carry certain kinds of gear. A regular Camelbak is not going to cut it. You’re carrying stumps and buckets. I put on a hybrid pack and now I’m training with 40 pounds. I’ve also been training on the beach. I don’t think people up north have done a lot of walking in soft sand, which is tough. Another advantage is I’m from upstate New York and go up there in the summer. Here the humidity is tough in April and May. After I run here for a couple of months, I go up there and feel I have an extra lung because the humidity is less. That’s a huge advantage.

Q: What do you plan to wear for the Death Race?

A: They don’t give you the gear list until two weeks out. My race pack with a 100-ounce Camelbak weighs 12 pounds. I have an Alaskan pack board, which allows you to strap anything to it. They’re going to make us carry a firestarter, some change One year they had to carry a five-pound Greek translation book. I feel like whatever they give me and if the load is under 40 pounds I’ll be fine. I started riding my mountain bike with the pack, which is kind of hairy.

Q: What’s a typical day of training for this like?

A: My big thing is doing combination training. I rode five miles, came back, and I hit the truck tire with a 10-pound sledgehammer. Then I did 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, a kettle bell routine, and 500 crunches. That’s not much from a time standpoint, just 90 minutes of effort. I want to be able to do that for seven or eight hours and then I’ll feel like I’m ready to race. Sunday is my big day, where I start combining everything. I’ll take off on the mountain bike with the pack, ride 10 miles, carry it for a mile, do that a couple times, go park and run 3-5 miles, gear up again and do it all over. I have a place where I can throw some logs around. My goal is to get to the point a week or 10 days out where I can get up to about a 10-hour day. Think about it. That’s still only one-eighth of the potential race, so you have to pay your dues. If I can do eight hours – I’m going to take breaks to eat – but if I can do 8 to 10 hours of pretty hard but not max effort and if I can bear weight, carry my bike, run, I’ll feel pretty good about it


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Tough Mudder Coming to Pasco County

By Pete Williams

Typical Tough Mudder obstacle

The Tough Mudder, perhaps the most challenging of the growing field of adventure mud runs, is coming to Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City on Dec. 3-4.

Billed as “the toughest endurance test on the planet,” Tough Mudder is a grueling 10-to-12 mile trail run containing 20 military style obstacles designed by British Special Forces.

Conceived by CEO Will Dean while at Harvard Business School, Tough Mudder seems to delight in providing a far greater challenge than other mud runs. Only 78 percent finish the course during a typical race, with an average time of two and a half hours.

According to the Tough Mudder press materials, USMC participants say the race is just as hard, if not more difficult, than USMC basic training and “significantly different from other mud events like Warrior Dash or Muddy Buddy because the courses are three times as long and held on hostile terrain.”

Tough Mudder “is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race,” the race Web site says. “It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a location near you. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor.Tough Mudder is 3-4 times longer and much tougher than a typical mud run such as Warrior Dash.”

Tough Mudder’s obstacles are not of the pegboard or giant inflatable variety. Obstacles include running through fire, mud, freezing water, jumping off 15-foot planks and being shocked by 10,000 volts of electricity.

Walking the plank

There’s also something called the “Ball Shrinker,”which is appropriate since the Tough Mudder is a bit of a sausage fest, with a field that’s typically 80 percent male. (Perhaps Will Dean has a brother Jimmy?)

The Tampa Bay event is expected to draw 10,000 participants over two days and is a great value compared to triathlons and other mud runs – if you register early. The Sunday race, though identical, is cheaper and the current pre-registration price is $100 for Saturday and $80 for Sunday through June 15. (Those who got in before March 16 paid $80 or $60.) The prices go up on the 15th of each month before topping out at $180 and $160.

There’s plenty of jocularity involved, including free mullet haircuts and Tough Mudder tattoos post-race, along with various costume prizes including one for least clothing worn. (Presumably nudity is not allowed.)

Tough Mudder is one of at least a dozen mud runs coming to Florida this year. As we chronicled last month, the Sunshine State leads the nation in this category, to the point where Tough Mudder is going up against the inaugural Muddy Buddy “world championship” at the Red Neck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda on Dec. 4.

Though Tough Mudder only debuted on May 2, 2010, it’s up to 14 events for 2011 and in 2012 will expand to Canada, Japan, Australia, England, and Scotland.

We’re not sure it’s the “toughest endurance event,” at least not compared to The Death Race in Vermont in June. But we wouldn’t bet against Tough Mudder reaching its goal of “replacing Ironman as the ultimate endurance event on the planet.”


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