The Big Question

“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'” – Peter Maher

Is simple running not hard enough anymore? For me, the marathon and the 5K are two very different kinds of hard. The marathon just grinds on you and takes what you will give it. The 5K is a fine line between red line and vomit. I have yet to race either without pain.

So someone please explain the phenomenon of the Tough Mudder, of the Spartan Race and the proliferation of other “extreme” running events. Why in the world would I want to enter something that isn’t a race where I am guaranteed to fall, get muddy, be shocked by up to 10,000 volts and run through fire. Should that happen in the course of a training run, fine, but pay for that experience?

Maybe I’m a slow learner and someday too will reach a point where only crawling under barbed wire fence mid-run will placate my need for stimulation. I went on an adventure run yesterday in fact. We decided to find a new path back to the school, which required bushwhacking and orienteering through a bog. As the light was fading away, I stood on the edge of a bog on a rotted tree. There was one line through the bog that wouldn’t result in completely soaked shoes and it required almost perfect foot placement. With a deep breath, I moved and managed to get across the bog with minimal mud/wetness. Eventually, we found the trails we knew existed and happily popped up across from the school. I should mention that this run also included plenty of barbed wire, which is plentiful in the backwoods of Vermont where old stone walls still run. The run wasn’t for cardiovascular benefit; my heartrate averaged 127. It was for fun and agility.

Despite being a firm believer that fun runs are as important as spot-on tempos, I’m still baffled by the number of people signing up for these extreme events that are only peripherally running events. If you want excitement in running, try cross country. The start of a cross country race is much like these events, only it’s a race and the obstacles aren’t predetermined. And if you fall, you may just get trampled. Don’t worry though, they’ll bring the herd back over you for a new start.

Have you done one of these adventure races? What’s the appeal? Were you a runner first or an athlete from another sport who came to running later?

 

5 thoughts on “The Big Question

  1. Ryan

    I found your blog while looking around the Vermont City Marathon website after registering for my 1st marathon. I ran my first adventure race, a Warrior Dash, in Windham NY last summer and really enjoyed it. I ran track (sprints) and did a few other sports in highschool and for 7 or 8 years after college ran the occasional 5k to 5mile race. I have always been into strength training and logged a lot of hours on the treadmill. About 2.5 years ago I started running outdoors more often and running more races and longer races. Initially I didn’t want to do the Warrior Dash, I mainly ran it because my wife and some friends really wanted to try it out. I went into the race expecting to hate it, but finished having a great time. The obstacles allowed me to incorporate upper body strength in completing the race course. I know how strong I am with regards to moving a kettlebell or barbell, these types of races give me an opportunity to see how that strength translates in a competitive non-gym environment. I am definitely doing the Warrior Dash at Windham again and I will probably try the Spartan Beast at Killington next September. I do agree that paying to get shocked is ridiculous and is the main reason I have no intentions of running a Tough Mudder. I view adventure races as a fun change of pace from standard races that provide a different type of physical and mental test.

    Reply
    1. runnerunderpressure

      Ryan:
      Thanks for the perspective! I agree with you that it’s nice to find out what all our work in the gym really amounts to in the “real world.”

      Congratulations on signing up for Vermont City! Let me know if you have any questions and I’d be happy to answer them by email or on the RunDown if they’d be of benefit to everyone.

      Sarah

      Reply
      1. Ryan

        Thanks Sarah.
        What are your thoughts on foam rollers? I do a definitely non-standard running training plan – a longish run (lately a 7 to 10 miles) on the weekend and 3 or 4 kettlebell workouts during the week. I think because of the general lack of running volume my legs (especially my calves) are very sore for 2-3 days after my run. I suspect as I start bumping the mileage up on my weekend runs the soreness will only become more pronounced and annoying. I have never used a foam roller, but would definitely get one if I thought it would help out.

        Reply
        1. runnerunderpressure

          I think foam rollers are indispensable. I use one for my always-sore calves, but more so for my IT band to prevent ITBS. If your soreness is limited to your calves, I would also recommend checking out the Stick. http://www.thestick.com/. Pricey, but well worth it. I typically use the Stick before bed every night and definitely notice when I miss it on the next day’s run.

          Reply
  2. Pingback: A Followup About Adventure Racing « Under Pressure

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