Updated: Dec 31, 2019
Ultramarathons, Tough Mudders, Spartan Races, Ironman triathlons, Ragnar Relays; What do all of these races have in common? They offer athletes more of a rush than your average road race. In recent years, they have started to boom in popularity especially with the growth of younger athletes competing in mud races (Tough Mudder, Spartan) while some high schools are putting together Ragnar Relay teams. It seems to me that these events might be even more popular than your average marathon. Yes, you heard correctly. You may have just run 26.2 miles, but to some athletes, that is nothing unless it’s after you swam 2.4 and biked 112 miles.
As the quote says:
“If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken him completely by surprise.” If the Ironman triathlon was a surprise, then the Tough Mudder defies the law of insanity.
For those who are worrisome about these new races taking away from what you love, don't! The marathon isn't going anywhere. But for those who do want to take on new challenges, Spartan Races and Ragnar Relays might be a perfect fit because it changes up your traditional racing style and training method.
But if you’ve been paying attention, more and more intense races are popping up. For those who like to bike, they are now participating in cross-country bike races. Those who prefer to run long are taking on the challenge of racing the toughest ultramarathons and on a monthly basis. For those who prefer to swim, they are attempting to cross large bodies of water including the swim from Cuba to Florida or the 4 mile Chesapeake Bay swim.
So why the influx of intense races? Maybe it's the adrenaline rush athletes crave? Wanting to try something different which is one of the reasons I decided to race an Ironman. For others, it is the training regimen and being able to complete these manageable goals while having a busy life. These events allow the average mom or dad of two with a 40-hour-week to set a challenge in their lives and complete it while taking care of the family. Extreme races are challenging, but doable, and that’s what makes them popular.
The other reasons why these events are so popular and the added benefits to all of this training: losing weight, getting in shape, feeling confident in yourself and setting an example for your friends, family and kids.
These adventure races may be more up someone else's alley rather than myself who enjoys the dedication and training that goes into an Ironman race. That doesn't mean he won't do it, he just knows that it takes more training time, and if he can't commit to it, then something smaller may be his best bet.
So, if you decide to do a Tough Mudder because you like to get dirty, run an ultramarathon through the Colorado Rockies, or race an Ironman, all for the t-shirt, medal or sheer pride, just know that you are not alone in this game and there are many others like you out there. Also, you may want to stay tuned into your racing news because chances are, there is something more insane out there for you to try and registration opens soon.