ABOVE: Organizers of the 2016 Rippavilla Mud Run in Spring Hill prepare a mud pit obstacle. The event this past August was the third at the historic site. // FILE
By Vanessa Hampton
I am not sure what provoked me to do my first obstacle race but, I ran it with a friend about 5 years ago.
It was out at Milky Way Farm in Pulaski, Tennessee.
If you have run any of these obstacle challenge courses around Nashville, you are probably familiar with the Farm as it is used to torture many who like to play in the mud.
The first mile of my first race was the most memorable. Straight up hill and what seemed like forever before we ever even laid eyes on anything resembling an obstacle. (Why do they do that?) After I conquered the first little wall, however, I was elated and anxious for more challenges.
The next couple of miles included more walls, ropes, crawls through pipes, water and mud … a lot of mud. I loved every single minute of it. I came off the course knowing full well that that was only the beginning of my obstacle racing career.
Since then, I have completed various obstacle races for different causes including a Warrior Dash back at Milky Way Farm. The Warrior Dash is one of the more popular obstacle races. It is typically a 5K distance where “anyone can start and anyone can finish.” It’s meant to be inclusive of the majority and manageable for many different fitness levels. Some of its typical 12 obstacles will include wall climbs with rope assistance, mud crawls under wire, wading your way through big, muddy pits, slides into pools of water, and the token leap over fire to finish the course.
There is also the Tough Mudder. I personally have never taken on this one, as the classic Mudder is characterized by a distance of 8-10 miles and 25 obstacles. Along with the most common obstacles that characterize these races, some of the more talked about Tough Mudder obstacles include “Arctic Enema” which is described as a wicked ice bath, “Electroshock Therapy” where one is subjected to walking through electrified wires, and the “Hero Carry” where you literally carry your muddy buddy on
your shoulders through one of the obstacles.
Not much deters me from a challenge but I confess, the Electroshock Therapy is the one that has kept the Tough Mudder at a “zero” on my desire scale.
My favorite of the obstacle races that I have experienced myself is the Spartan. I just finished my 5th one and have loved each one of them. The Spartan, in my opinion, is different in that your strength and endurance are put to a serious test.
You choose your distance. The Spartan Sprint is a distance of 3-5 miles (in my experience, plan for the upper part of that range) with 20-23 obstacles to tackle. The Spartan Super is a distance of 8-10 miles with 24-29 obstacles and the Beast is 12-14 miles with 30-35 obstacles. The distance of these races is the just the beginning.
Your strength is challenged through a multitude of weighted and bodyweight obstacles that include heavy stone carries, monkey bar type obstacles, sandbag and rock bucket carries up and down hills, singular rope climbs to ring a bell at the top, sled pulls, cargo net climbs, small walls, big walls, inverted walls, and even a spear throw to a target.
What is unique to a Spartan race is the method in which they test your endurance. The challenge is not only in the layout of the course and the heavy obstacles, but there is a steep penalty of 30 burpees for any obstacle that is bypassed or failed. (If you are not sure what a burpee is, just hurl your body to the ground and then hop back up quickly. Do that once and it is unpleasant. Do it 30 times and you will wish for someone to pluck your eyelashes out, one by one.)
To put this in perspective, I failed 6 of the 21 obstacles in my first Spartan Sprint. If you tally that penalty you will come up with 180 burpees, which is exactly what I did. Yep… I still wanted to do another Spartan even after that.
See, here’s the thing. Most of these obstacle races are done in a “we are all in this together” spirit. In many of these races, you are able to help each other over, under, and through the obstacles. You will have perfect strangers turning around to lend a hand helping you up a mud hill or cheering you on as you struggle over a 10-ft. wall.
You can choose to take on the course yourself, or recruit some friends and laugh your way through the miles. I have done it both ways.
So, if you have ever thought about testing your physical and mental fortitude with an obstacle race, quit thinking about it and just DO IT! The feeling of accomplishment is all the reward you will need and, rest easy, you can hose off and donate your mud-caked shoes to a good cause or the trash can before you drive home.