Looking For a Messier Way to Get Involved? Try an Obstacle Run!

By Laurie Silverstein, CCE Marketing and Social Media Intern

If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box opportunity to give back to your community, as well as a weekend of fun, an obstacle run may be the perfect fit. These events range in length from 3 to 26 miles, and are interspersed with obstacles such as mud pits, walls, climbing ropes, tunnels, and barbed wire, making the (sometimes) long distance seem shorter and more manageable. The events also differ in intensity: some are timed and highly competitive with cash prizes while others allow runners to skip obstacles and work together. People of all skill levels are encouraged to create a team, find a race that works for them, and go get muddy!
           The very first obstacle race, “The Tough Guy,” was held in the United Kingdom in 1987 and is still being held today. Obstacle races have gained a significant following in the United States with over one million Americans registered for various events in 2011[1]. Taking advantage of this popularity, the events’ founders have turned the races into a way to give back. A portion of the proceeds from most major races supports a specific philanthropic cause, and race participants are also encouraged to fundraise on their own or find sponsors who will donate to the organization on their behalf.

Examples of obstacle races and the organizations they benefit are listed below:
-           Warrior Dash, a noncompetitive 5K, supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
-          Spartan Race, which holds three different events of varying length and difficulty, supports Home for Our Troops, an organization that builds adaptive housing for severely injured veterans.
-          Tough Mudder , largely considered to be one of the most difficult obstacle races, supports Wounded Warrior Project, which provides counseling and services for soldiers who have returned home.
-          Atlas Race, which emphasizes athletic ability and prior training, supports the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and counseling to the children of Special Operations personnel who have lost their lives.
-          Hard Charge, the only nationally televised race, supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
-          Superhero Scramble, which encourages participants to dress as superheroes in order to “battle” obstacles, supports the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation as well as Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, which is committed to sending care packages to soldiers overseas.

            During the summer of 2013, I participated in my first obstacle run, a Warrior Dash in upstate Windham, New York. I ran with three of my closest friends and my aunt, and it was an exhilarating experience. After sprinting uphill for the first quarter mile, we were met by three walls to climb over, barbed wire to belly crawl under, rope nets, balance beams, mud pits, and fire pits to leap over. A total of twelve unique obstacles broke up the 5K race, and after almost an hour and a half my entire group had finished. The best part was knowing that part of our $60 registration fees went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The race wasn’t exactly a day of volunteering but we went home with mud in our sneakers having had a rewarding experience.
            For more information or to register for the races listed above, visit their websites. If you’re looking for more opportunities to get involved, visit the Center for Civic Engagement in Library South Ground 548.

[1] Weir, Tom. "'Obstacle Racing' Is Latest Challenge for Endurance Jocks." USA Today. Gannett, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

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