If you’re the sort of person who enjoys sweating your way up muddy hills, shivering through freezing water courses and feeling the burn as you hoist yourself up yet another rope ladder – all while hundreds of frenzied competitors do the same around you – then it’s likely you’ll have ticked a fair few obstacle course races off your bucket list.
But to really get the most out of your passion, it’s worth venturing a little farther afield than the UK. Here, we’ve compiled the biggest and the baddest obstacle course races in the world, to help broaden your horizons and bring a little extra pain to your day. Have fun, won't you?
1. Spartan Races
The Spartan Race series is so popular that it even has its own television show on American network NBC, and has previously been voted the best obstacle course race in the world. It comes in three sizes, too: the 3-mile, 20-obstacle Spartan Sprint; the 8-mile, 25-obstacle Spartan Super; and the 12-mile, 30-obstacle Spartan Beast. But, as its popularity grows, there are even more options, with races cropping up in Chile, Taiwan and Indonesia – all of which sound like they’d be particularly testing outings. So what are you waiting for? Sign up here.
Whether you’re fundraising or not, there’s nothing better than joining a race with the aim of raising awareness of a particular charity or initiative. The Mudderella race aims to do just that. Part of the Tough Mudder umbrella, the five to seven mile races have been designed by women, for women (although, men can of course compete). You’ll crawl under barbed wire, brave icy water and give piggy back rides to each other through the mud sections, all the while supporting the Futures Without Violence charity. Races take place in the US, Canada and Australia, and you can sign up here.
3. Warrior Dash
This US series has been running for almost a decade now, and has raised more than $13.4 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in the process. As the name suggests, the race plays fast and loose with Nordic history, with Viking warrior helmets, turkey legs and steins of beer waiting at the finish line for the best athletes. Before that, though, you’ll have to navigate four miles of mud, climbing up barricades, card nets and a fire pit dubbed the ‘Warrior Roast’. Costumes are encouraged. Sign up here.
4. Savage Race
Continuing the theme of larger than life American races is Savage Race, which certainly appears to live up to its moniker. Over 100,000 people attend the 12 races each year, with a completion rate of just under 82%. Over six miles you’ll tackle some truly nuts obstacles, including Davy Jones’ Locker – a 15ft dive into a pool; the Shrivelled Richard – a swim through 60,000lbs of ice; and On The Fence – in which you must climb across and over a moving section of chainlink fence suspended over water. Sounds great, hey? Best of all, though is the post race BBQ. Sign up here.
5. Raw Challenge
Australia’s Raw Challenge is an obstacle course race with the emphasis on fun. Everyone from the age of 5-80 is welcome to enter, with 55+ obstacles waiting over a 7km course. You won’t all head out at once, either; there’s a competitive wave, a women’s only wave and a 5-12 year-old wave, meaning you can compete at your own pace. Races take place across the country, and throughout the year. Plus, there’s even a school trip booking option, should your kids and their friends want to put you through your paces. Sign up here.
6. ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Series
Technically a duathlon, each entry in the Otillo World Series will see you run, swim and run again across some of Europe’s most inhospitable terrain, from the Isles of Sicily to Hvar, Croatia. Those wishing to compete in all entries with the aim of winning the overall series are welcome to do so, but if a mild flirtation with ice cold water and sharp rocks is all you’re after, why not take part in one of the events this year, and take it from there? Sign up here.
Playing right up to national stereotypes, this Germany obstacle course race takes place in a brewery. Specifically, Pfungstädter Brauerei, in Hesse in West-Central Germany. Not only is there plenty of beer on offer, but the looped course is just 1km long, with obstacles made out of brewery barrels. Not bad for a race with just a 10 euro entry fee, although maybe not the most difficult race you’ll tackle this year… Sign up here.
8. Viper Challenge
With over 200,000 competitors, Viper Challenge is Asia’s biggest obstacle course race series. A total of three events will take place this year across Malaysia, starting with the Viper Tunnel Challenge, the world’s first obstacle course race to take place in 8.4km of underground tunnels. If that sounds a bit claustrophobic, the Great Eastern Viper Challenge, taking in 12km, 15+ obstacles and lots and lots of mud, might be more your speed. Sign up here.
9. Survival Run
With events in Nicaragua, Morocco, Canada and more, the Survival Run is the real deal. Over the course of this 24 hour + endurance race, you’ll traverse hills, rocks and rivers all the while carrying your water bottle and everything else you’ll need along with you. Prepare to be wet, muddy, aching and exhausted. Sign up here.
10. The Beast Challenge
South Africa’s number one obstacle course race certainly will give you a beasting. With events throughout the year, you’ll run through the bush, climbing, crawling and swinging over military-style obstacles. Luckily, there are three different levels, ranging from 5-11km, meaning you don’t have to dive right in at the deep end. Sign up here.