Adventure Racing

These obstacle courses will take you to your limit

© Tough Mudder
Thinking about doing an obstacle course challenge? Look no further, this is our guide to 10 of the best around the planet.
By Will GrayPublished on
Obstacle course racing (OCR) has boomed in recent years and every event will lay claim to being the biggest, the baddest and the best. From the original Tough Guy race, designed to be so hard few could make it through, the sport has developed and is now more about mass participation, with big players like Tough Mudder, Rat Race and Spartan dominating the scene.
Most competitions offer varying distances and levels, including extreme versions of their toughest events – and here are some of the ultimate challenges on offer…

Green Beret Challenge - Commando

Participants carry a body during the Commando Challenge race.
Push, pull, carry and climb as the military would
  • Location: USA
  • Distance: 13km+
  • What’s so special: A team challenge based on the US Army’s toughest
This event is based on the gruelling Special Forces Assessment & Selection Course (SFAS) known as ‘three weeks of hell’. Unlike traditional OCR, it goes beyond obstacles and requires teamwork and brains.
They say: “The Commando is arguably the most demanding one-day event in the industry.”

Shale Hell/Polar Bear

A competitor takes on an obstacle on the Shale Hill Adventure obstacle course.
Shale Hill offers natural and man-made obstacles
  • Location: Benson, Vermont, USA
  • Distance: 10km
  • What’s so special: 24-hour summer and 8-hour winter races on a permanent course
This permanent course with over 80 obstacles is offered as a training facility for OCR fanatics – but every year organisers run two endurance events that challenge competitors to run the most laps without skipping an obstacle.
They say: “The 24 Hours of Shale Hell is something to be survived, not conquered, and you’d better be ready for it.”

Iron Viking

Competitors slide down a massive slide into water at the Iron Viking obstacle race.
Iron Viking has some spectacular obstacles
  • Location: Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Denmark
  • Distance: 42km
  • What’s so special: ‘World’s toughest marathon’ with 100+ obstacles
This race series offers regular water, hills and mud editions with Viking-themed obstacles, but the Iron Viking is the ultimate challenge, with three consecutive races on 20km, 14km and 8km courses. Intriguing obstacle names include Storm the Castle, Dragon Tails and Fjord Drop.
They say: “Vikings were known to be tough people, adventurous, strong and sharing a sense of brotherhood.”

Spartan Agoge

A competitor crosses a frozen river on a rope line during Spartan Agoge.
Be prepared for cold weather and mixed terrain
  • Location: Iceland
  • Duration: 60 hours
  • What’s so special: It’s not racing, it’s ‘training, testing and evaluation’
Spartan run traditional obstacle races all around the world, taking their roots from the legendary Peak Death Race. But this one is a little different. You have to have done at least one of their Hurricane Heat or Ultra Beast events just to gain access to the Agoge – which is a unique 60-hour ‘training, testing and evaluation’ event based on Seventh-Century Spartan systems and mixes classroom education with elite military-style challenges.
They say: “The Spartan Agoge brings together every physical and mental strength as well as everything a person has learned in life.”

World’s Toughest Mudder

Participants take part in the US Tough Mudder contest in the USA.
Tough Mudder is a name recognised by everyone
  • Location: Lake Las Vegas, USA
  • Duration: 24 hours
  • What’s so special: The ultimate 24-hour version of this popular series
The flagship of the famous Tough Mudder events, this intense 24-hour race laps a five-mile (8km) course with one obstacle every quarter mile (400m) – including an ice-filled skip and a field of live wires with up to 10,000 volts of electricity. It’s televised and there’s US$10k each for top man, woman and team.
They say: “The most extreme, insane, imposing, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping 24-hour obstacle course challenge on the planet.”

Dirty Double

Participant crawls underneath a net at the Dirty Double event in the UK.
No one leaves the Dirty Double clean
  • Location: Stamford, UK
  • Distance: 64km
  • What’s so special: Monster obstacles combined with a massive after party
This double lap of the world’s largest assault course requires competitors to complete 400 obstacles in 40 miles. Challenges range from carrying a traffic cone and crawling through cars to a 30ft tower jump, the world’s longest monkey bars and a lake swim. The after party, where top bands perform, is just reward.
They say: “The biggest and best obstacle racing weekend in the world – on the world’s largest assault course.”

Ridiculous Race

A participant takes part in the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge in Australia.
Epic obstacles that are out of the ordinary
  • Location: Australia
  • Distance: 5km
  • What’s so special: TV-inspired giant inflatable ‘Wipeout’ obstacles
Ok, so this is not the ultimate challenge and in a completely lower league to the rest, but it’s a bit different – a TV game show-inspired inflatable course with 12 obstacles including giant wrecking balls, the ‘leap of faith’, a four-storey-high waterslide... and plenty of foam.

Red Bull Neptune Steps

Swimmers climb up the locks during Neptune Steps
Neptune Steps
  • Location: Glasgow, UK
  • Distance: 420m
  • What's so special: Swimming through 420m of cold water while climbing 18m over seven canal lock gates
The icy-cold waters of the Forth and Clyde canal sees up to 600 swimmers line up to swim, climb and conquer the ultimate open-water endurance test. The 420m swim is broken up by seven locks which competitors have to climb up before continuing on their way.
Applications for the 2020 event are now open - sign up here.

OCR European Championships

A participant takes part in the OCR European Championships.
Innovative obstacle design to test the best
  • Location: Denmark (2018)
  • Distance: 3km short course, 15km standard course
  • What’s so special: It’s the European Championships of the European Obstacle Sports Federation
Entering it's third year, this pinnacle event is run on a course with 50 obstacles, including some from the best events in Europe and others purposely designed to make it one of the hardest courses around. The event now attracts the biggest names in the sport.
They say: “A chance to compete against the best athletes in Europe on one of the most technical courses in the world.”

OCR World Championships

Participants jump over obstacles at the OCR World Championships in Canada
Being the best means taking a leap of faith
  • Location: London, England
  • Distance: 15km
  • What’s so special: It’s the World Championships
Only those who have achieved a top finish in one of the qualifying races can contend for the World Championship – making this field the elite of the elite. The course and location changes each year but takes on mountainous terrain, 50 obstacles and, this year, the greatest finish line in obstacle course racing.
They say: “With over 65 nations representing in 2017, this is the biggest stage in Obstacle Course Racing that draws the best of the best.”