‘Obstacle racing’ is taking off

What do you do when running an ultramarathon isn't tough enough? You take on barbed wire, of course.

What do you do when marathons have lost their lustre? When running an ultramarathon or doing an Ironman isn’t tough enough? You take on barbed wire, of course.

Yes, for those people who find endurance events like marathons, ultramarathons and ultratriathlons just aren’t cutting it anymore, it looks like obstacle racing is the way to go.

According to an article in USA Today, a million people signed on for these grueling competitions where races are at risk of everything from catching fire to slashing themselves on razor-sharp wires.

Obstacle races are nothing new, of course, with a number of runs in Canada like Mud Runs, Spartan Races and Warrior Dashes taking place throughout the country. But their popularity is rising quickly.

In an article in the November/December 2011 issue of Canadian Running, editor-in-chief Mihira Lakshman takes a look at the rising popularity of these races in Canada and finds Canadians are jumping to the challenge. About 25,000 people participated in Spartan Races in Ontario and B.C. this year, while Warrior Dashes drew about 16,000.

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And it looks like the challenges are here to stay, at least for a while. The Tough Mudder race is coming to Canada in 2012, with races already planned for Toronto and Vancouver and a possible race in Montreal in the near future.

Tough Mudder events are “hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie,” according to the website. As for them being an alternative to marathons, the website says it all: “Marathon running is boring.”