Adventure Racing: The Next Big Thing for Mud Run Fans?

mud runs and adventure racesAlmost a decade ago, our race director got a permit from the city of San Luis Obispo to hold a mud run, a la the Camp Pendelton Mud Run (World Famous Mud Run), one of the few events like it at the time (that and the apparently defunct Muddy Buddy).

I didn’t get it. Having put on adventure races, climbing events, all manner of serious things, I couldn’t see why a 5k run dotted with mud pits was fun for anyone.

That is, until we actually put one on five years ago. We giggled as we waded waist deep in the mud of Laguna Lake, winding our way through the reeds creating choose-your-own-adventure mazes. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. Once you commit to getting dirty and not thinking much of what comes your way except to enjoy it, it clicks. This mud run stuff is pretty awesome. And it gets people outside, enjoying nature, and out from behind the TV or computer screen.

Lots of media outlets call these mud runs and obstacle races adventure races to the chagrin of the purists, but there’s a reason adventure race old schools like Joe DeSena, Ian Adamson,  and Don Mann have dropped the traditional format to cash in on the millions of people flocking toward the new event offerings. They are adventurous. Maybe not expedition-length, multidisciplinary adventurous, but try telling the devotees of OCR that are busy seeking peak fitness in order to carry sandbags up mountains that it’s not. Mud runs are accessible, can be fun, and they build a real community of thousands of people to traditional AR’s few hundred. And it’s enough to make them feel like a champion for a while when they return to their cubicle, just as AR can do for us.

mud runs and adventure racingA Mud Masher takes the plunge into one of our obstacles in the lake.We’ve been fortunate to have some influence in the mud run world, thanks to having very creative obstacles at our disposal, good connections, and good support. We and our friends are talking to the mud run world (they prefer to call it obstacle course racing – OCR), and they’ve been listening.

In September, Mud and Obstacle Racing will be running an article about our Checkpoint Challenge, and we’ve already converted a number of OCR devotees to the dark side. You can check out what they think by following the links below.

As OCRs get more rote, and the adventure wears off, those millions of people are going to need something to do, and you bet we’re ready to be there when they come looking – because the more people we can get to commit to a life of appreciating  the outdoors and become advocates of it, the more outdoors there will be for us all!

Video & Article: “Dawn to Dusk.” Adventure Nation. June 2014.

Article: “Checkpoint Challenge Review.” Mud and Adventure. April 2014.

Podcast: “Critical Hit.” Getting Dirty Podcast. April 2014.