“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?