Muddy Buddies

Meet the new face of extreme races—soccer moms.


Photograph by Marshall Troy, Prop Styling by Paul Petzy

When Chris Perault put on her sleek black costume and gray tie to run last year’s Warrior Dash in Amesbury with her team, 50 Shades of Mudd, she admits she was looking for a thrill. “It’s the adrenaline, the unknown,” Perault says of extreme races, a new breed of physical contest gaining popularity throughout Greater Boston. “Rather than go to a workout class where you know what the routine will be, or going for a run and you know what route to take…. You don’t know what’s coming next.”

Crawling through barbed-wire-topped trenches, perhaps, or jumping over pits of fire? Those were just two of the obstacles thrown at runners on the 5K course, which Perault ran with her neighbors from Natick, who ranged in age from 42 to 47.

Jeffrey Brown, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, sees these down-and-dirty challenges as particularly appealing to the fairer sex. He believes women enjoy them because they offer the chance to not only test physical prowess, but also to process emotions. “Women’s brains are naturally designed to deal, even as a group,” Brown says. “Doing a mud run adds a dimension of self-confidence. For moms, I bet they are especially pleased to know that their husbands and kids are proud of them.”

It turns out, in fact, that women occasionally outnumber men at these events, and there’s even a women-only race called the Dirty Girl (in Amesbury on July 13). Meanwhile, over at the coed Hardcore Mudd Run (September 7 to 8 in Hancock) the average runner is between 25 and 35, but many boomers come to compete in the slop, too. Last month’s popular Tough Mudder attracted a similarly diverse crowd.

Tori Tierney, of Windham, New Hampshire, says participating in these types of events isn’t just about adding spice to her life. She ran six extreme races in 2012 and plans on tackling four more this year alone. The 43-year-old mom says she does it mostly to inspire her two daughters. “They’re our little cheering section,” Tierney says. “They think it’s fun. Now my 12-year-old can’t wait until she can do a 5K.”