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Can Someone Explain the Appeal of 'Mud Runs,' Please?

Women competing in the Tough Mudder 12-mile obstacle course race. Photo Credit: Matt Costa

What is it with this new “Mud Run” phenomenon — and why is it always paired with the word “fun”?? Clearly I am missing something because running in mud sounds more like a punishment, or boot camp. And in my book, punishing physical activity á la Private Benjamin does not equal fun.

And if so-called fun events like the Dirty Girl Mud Run weren’t enough to make me wonder what self-flagellation gene has recently been triggered in modern women, I heard of another race called Tough Mudder. Here’s what they say in their PR about team racing on their 12-mile course: “To get through mud, fire, ice-water, and 10,000 volts of electricity you’ll need teammates to pick you up when your spirits dip.”

10,000 volts of electricity? Could that be right? Or legal??

This probably won’t surprise you, but I confess that when I read that all I could think was: It would take an entire team of people to drag me to the race course … And another one to carry me through it.

However, now that I know that getting shocked, burned and frozen is part of the “fun” at Tough Mudder … well, it kinda makes the Dirty Girl’s description of their 5K course — “The 11 military-inspired obstacles are fun and unique but with just enough hell to keep your palms a bit sweaty.”— sounds like it was made for real party-poopers.

It should be noted that The Tough Mudder site (and PR team) are beyond reproach in their deft handling of trash talk in advertising. I felt so positive about the awesomeness of the race after perusing their FAQs, I almost felt like something was wrong with me (me!!) for not wanting to participate in this civilian re-enactment of Full Metal Jacket. And then I saw this picture and remembered that I actually don’t like the taste of blood very much. Too metallic.

During my research, I found that there are two other big names in the “booming” obstacle race business, as well. But first: Really? Booming?? The Muddy Buddy and Warrior Dash also provide filthy obstacle course races designed to make bored athletic people more smug — NOT to be confused with the Tough Mudder, of course, because “Completing a Tough Mudder requires camaraderie and a degree of toughness that other mud-runs will not even begin to test.” I added the italics so you could really feel the crazy in that declaration.

Remember: Tough Mudders eat Dirty Girls for breakfast.

But wait, there’s more! “Triathlons, marathons, and other lame-ass mud runs are more stressful than fun.” Yeah, I’ve always thought those triathlons were freakin’ lame. And TOO EASY. Pfffft. Talk to the hand until you’ve experienced a race at high-altitude and duress brought on by electroshock-charged cardio! The Tough Mudder races “are meant only for truly exceptional all-around people, not for people who have enough time and money to train their knees to run 26 miles.”

Let me tell you what makes me stressed out … trash talking. Which makes one more reason why these mud runs sound like way more “fun” than this lady can handle.

I guess the real question here is WHY do these mud races even exist as an athletic option? Are they filling some sort of Fight Club-like ennui and dissatisfaction bred by boredom of a consumerist society that is devoid of morality and consequence? Are people participating in these punishing races to “discover a camaraderie with [their] fellow participants that’s experienced all too rarely these days,” as the Tough Mudder site says?  I accept that strong bonds can be made by going through extreme adversity with people, but I question the strength of bonds created at one-day events that one purchases a ticket to participate in.

In conclusion, I will happily concede that I’m just a big “lame-ass” who was never that great at sports, so I am dead serious now: Will someone PLEASE explain the appeal of these races to me?

Photo Credits: Top photo – ©Matt Costa via Flickr. Bottom Photos: ©Nathan Forget via flickr.

Read more of Amy Windsor’s writing at Bitchin’ Wives Club.
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