Mud Runs and Adventure Runs - A Complete Guide
An adventure run, commonly called a mud run, is a subtype of competitive foot racing involving the completion of an adrenaline-pumping obstacle course as quickly as possible. At minimum, the distance of these runs is three miles. Some of the more intense adventure runs may require tens of miles spread over multiple days.
In addition to running against high-performing individuals or teams of competitors, you may find yourself crawling, climbing, repelling, jumping, swimming, swinging, scurrying, and scrambling to cross the finish line. The measure of success for individual competitors is simple – complete the obstacle course as quickly as possible, and in one piece.
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Team-based adventure runs may utilize a relay-style or lowest combined score approach to determine winners. With a relay-style adventure run, one person runs at a time and completes just a section of the race before the next teammate begins running.
Alternatively, the race may require every team member to run the entire course. Upon crossing the finish line, your overall place in the race is recorded. The place of everyone in your team is added up and the winning team has the lowest score. In this scenario, the lowest possible score for a team of five is 15 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th).
Now that we’ve covered adventure and mud runs at a high level, let’s dive into the details of three of the most popular adventure runs. After reading this article you should have a much better idea of the logistics and costs related to these mud runs.
The Spartan Race is one of, if not the most famous adventure run company. This race series was founded in 2007 by Vermont resident and adventure runner Joe De Sena, as a response to the 48-long endurance racing event aptly named the Death Race.  The Spartan Race series’ rapid adoption quickly led to a high-profile sponsorship from Reebok and spin-off television shows.
To accommodate a variety of experience levels, ages, and interests, the Spartan Race series offers five main mud run events – sprint, super, beast, kids/junior, and endurance races. These events are spread across the United States and globe.
As of December 2017, Spartan Races are also offered in 22 countries including the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, China, and Australia.  Regardless of your geographic location, there’s a Spartan Race closer than you think.
The Sprint series require participants to cover between three and five miles as quickly as possible while also traversing 20 to 23 obstacles along the way. If you complete the course in about 40 minutes, then you’re considered one of the strongest athletes in the Sprint race series.
Due to the adventure run’s relatively short distance and high density of obstacles, both new and repeat racers love this event. Depending on your athletic ability and race location, entry may cost between $99 and $159. 
A subset of Sprint races is the Stadium Sprint series. Unsurprisingly, a Stadium Sprint event requires you to complete a course completely self-contained within a stadium.  Stadium Sprints tend to be held in large metropolitan areas where reaching sufficient green space may not be viable for many competitors. If you’re looking to test the waters when it comes to adventure runs, then the Spartan Race Sprint series may be for you.
The Super series is the middle distance mud run in the Spartan Race portfolio. For $104 to $174, you must overcome 24 to 29 obstacles and eight to ten miles of terrain as quickly as possible. Completion of a Super Spartan Race in about 80 minutes put you in the upper echelon of elite competitors.
Many individuals progress to the Super series after completing a handful of Sprint Spartan Races.  Super races are not for the faint of heart, but can still be managed by weekend warriors and first-time racers.
If the Sprint and Super series sound like a walk in the park to you, then consider competing in a Spartan Race Beast event. Those crazy enough to complete a Beast run must run between 12 and 14 miles and handle 30 to 35 obstacles. A finish time anywhere close to three hours, places you with the best of the best.
Depending on when you register, you should expect to pay between $134 and $204 for a Beast adventure run.  Only experienced (and crazy) athletes should attempt this event due to the relatively long distance and a high number of obstacles.
Spartan Races for kids provide youngsters exposure to adventure runs with a shortened duration and lowered intensity compare to adult-oriented Spartan Races. Kids between the ages of four and eight complete a ½ mile race as part of the Junior Varsity Spartan Series. Those between nine and thirteen may scramble across a one mile course for Varsity Spartan racers.
If your child is between the ages of 11 and 14, then they may be interested in the most intense junior race involving a high adventure two-mile course.  Depending on your child’s age and desired running distance, Spartan Races for kids run between $25 and $45.  If you love adventure runs and your children want to join the fun, sign them up for a Kids race when it’s available.
If you’re an endurance and adventure run junkie, then keep reading. Beyond the main events listed above, the Spartan Race company also offers endurance races like the Ultra, Hurricane Heat (traditional and 12-hour), and Agoge.
The Spartan Ultra challenges athletes with more than 60 obstacles spread across a 30-mile course.  Completing this course around seven hours would place you with the best of the best.
Spartan Ultra races run between $249 and $289.  The Spartan Hurricane Heat race is a four to seven hour team-based event in which you work together to complete a course as quickly as possible. Unlike tradition Spartan races, there are no racing chips, bibs, or clocks; just good ol’ fashion team comradery.
If you’re interested in a Hurricane Heat race then expect to pay about $100 per person.  For those looking to showcase their team on a more intense stage, consider the 12-hour version of Hurricane Heat. For both Hurricane Heat races, your team must include at least four people. 
The most challenging race in the Spartan Race portfolio is the Agoge. For $395, you and your team must complete one of the most grueling races on the planet, spread across 60 hours. 
In addition to next-level physical and mental fortitude, the Agoge requires a laundry list of gear in order to compete. With all of the race options offered by the Spartan Race group, it is no surprise that they’ve become one of the largest and most popular adventure run companies on the planet.
The Tough Mudder adventure race series is arguably one of the best for those interested in team-based competition. Similar to the Spartan Race series, you can finish Tough Mudders across the globe.
As of December 2017, Tough Mudder offers races in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Germany.  While its reach is not as large as the Spartan Race Series, the prices are competitive and there is no shortage of race opportunities spread throughout the year.
The Challenge Series consists of three distinct mud runs requiring cross-team collaboration in order to cross the finish line as quickly as possible. The Tough Mudder 5k throws 10 to 13 badass obstacles at your team spread across a 3.1-mile course.  You can expect to pay between $50 and $60 for this event; sometimes less if you can snag a discount code. 15
For those looking for a slightly longer distance, consider the Tough Mudder Half. This mud run presents your team with 13 to 15 obstacles over a 5-mile course and costs between $80 and $90.  After completing the race you receive a finisher t-shirt and headband as well as an ice-cold glass of beer.
If you crave more obstacles and a longer course distance, while having a blast in a team environment, look no further than the Tough Mudder Full. With over 200 events since 2010 and more than 2.5 million participants, this is the flagship run for Tough Mudder. 
For $150 to $170, you need to work together to overcome more than 20 obstacles on a 10-mile course.  Bring a change of clothes as you are virtually guaranteed to be covered in mud. Unlike other races, there are no medals or time chips, but there is plenty of comradery, music, food, and drinks.
If you love competition, then consider one of the three mud runs offer through Tough Mudder’s Competitive Series. The Tougher Mudder costs the same as the Tough Mudder Full, has a course distance of 10 miles, and at least 20 obstacles. However, you have first access to the course, are timed and ranked based on your finish position, and can expect unique challenges not offered to the non-competitive racers. 19
The Toughest Mudder ratchets up the intensity by a significant degree by punishing you with an 8-hour obstacle course and 30-mile course that kicks off at midnight on the Saturday night of race weekends. These events are televised on CBS Sports and offer substantial cash prizes for top finishers. The top five men and women receive cash prizes of $5,000/$2,000/$1,000/$500/$250, respectively. 20
Prices for this event are between $200 and $225. Unlike the Challenge Series, this is an individual event, but you are encouraged to participate with a group of friends.
For the truly insane, look in to the World’s Toughest Mudder. Over a 24-hour time period you must complete as many laps as possible of a 5-mile obstacle course. Awards are presented to the top man, woman, and team. This event costs around $450 and is only offered in a country one per year, at most. 
Similar to the Toughest Mudder, CBS Sports also presents a live broadcast and recap of this event.
If you’d prefer to compete as an individual, but love high-intensity sprint-based races rather than endurance mud runs, then the Tough Mudder X is for you. This event, deemed the Toughest Mile on the Planet, is designed to push elite athletes to their max. 
To qualify, you must place in the Top 3 at the Tough Mudder X Open, receive a personal invite, obtain a waiver application, or be a previous year top finisher at this elite event. Tickets cost around $75, but top finishers can receive between $500 and $2,500. 
For the little ones, Tough Mudder offers the Mini Mudder. For a measly $20, your child can enjoy a 1-mile obstacle course, packed with no shortage of mud. To be eligible for the Mini Mudder, you must be between the ages of 7 and 12 as well as over 3.5 feet in height. 
The Mini Mudder is the perfect gateway mud run for youngsters looking to stay active and involved in the adventure run community.
The Warrior Dash is a 5 kilometer mud run series founded by Red Frog Events in 2009. Now found in the United States and internationally, the Warrior Dash promises an electric race environment, live music, delicious beer, and tenacious fans.  Of the three adventure runs covered in this article, the Warrior Dash is by far the smallest, but you can almost bet an event close to you is just around the corner.
As of December 2017 the Warrior Dash offers one distance, the 5k mud run, between one and three per month in the United States. Each course includes 12 to 15 obstacles involving climbing, crawling, mucking, and more. While the Warrior Dash has offered race in Canada and Australia in the past, there were no upcoming international events when this article was written. 
The majority of races during the winter months occur in Southeast or South states. The spring races are concentrated in the Midwest region while the summer and fall races are spread across the contiguous United States.
If you are unsure of how much you might like mud and adventure runs, then consider registering early for a Warrior Dash. Prices start as low as $40 but increase to $90+ on race day. 
As with most sports events, as in life, the early bird gets the worm (and the discount). Those looking to hit the course early, before its condition deteriorates due to other runners, consider paying an extra $10 for a preferred run time earlier in the morning. Every participant receives a t-shirt, fuzzy warrior helmet, finisher medal, complimentary beer, race day photos, and all-day access to the post-race festival. 
Compared to the other mud runs, the Warrior Dash appears to be a more casual race environment, which appeals to those new to the adventure run circuit. At the time of writing this article, there were no Warrior Dash events designed for children.
Do you have experience with adventure runs or mud runs? Is there a similar run to those discussed above that you want to call out? Let me know in the comments below!
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25) “What is Warrior Dash?” Warrior Dash, Red Front Events LLC, 2018.
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27) “2018 Warrior Dash Central Florida” Warrior Dash, Red Front Events LLC, 2018.
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