Extreme Racing


AVERAGE RACE FEE: $135 (Based on the Tough Mudder). AVERAGE BURN: 1,200 calories. COST PER CALORIE: 11¢. (Photograph by JJ Miller)


By Sandy Hill

I was at this twice-a-week strength-training-and-conditioning class I’d signed up for, designed to help new moms get back in shape after pregnancy—basically, I wanted to locate my abs—when I overheard some of the women discussing an obstacle race called the Ruckus, held at the Marshfield Fairgrounds. There would be mud, apparently, and lots of it, as well as ropes, cargo nets, a field of spikes, and a massive wall of hay bales. It sounded like fun! (Also: potentially the least fun activity ever.) “Sure, I’ll do it,” I heard myself say, immediately plotting a scheme for roping my sister in, too. Who doesn’t love a good goal? I was terrified.

The race was in June, six months later—and muddy, it turns out, was an understatement. My sister and I set out on the 5K course in the heat with a few hundred other people of similarly questionable decision-making abilities, braving the sloshy terrain. It didn’t sound like much (5K, for me, isn’t a difficult run), but somewhere between hoisting myself up the back of a tractor-trailer and crawling “like a crustacean” (in the words of official Ruckus literature) through a minefield of lobster traps, it dawned on me why they didn’t call this a turkey trot. And yet the best, most exhilarating part—why people sign up for these things, I realized—was that physically, I could do everything, even when I came pretty close to not. For instance, I didn’t think I’d make it up the A-frame wooden wall that followed a pool of muddy water. I was sure I’d wipe out. But after my sister got up, her encouragement (read: my competitive nature) got me through.

The crowd—a mix of young, old, thin, less thin, moms in costumes, 9-to-5’ers in face paint, my mailman—wasn’t as competitive as I’d heard the participants in some of the longer races, like the Tough Mudder, can be. But if you wanted to push yourself, you could, or you could simply have fun. My personal goal was to finish the course in under an hour, and I did it, thanks in part to that conditioning-and-strength-training class. Of course, the truth is, there’s no perfect way to prepare for bear-crawling through a field of cargo nets. The best you can do is sharpen your claws, let out a roar, and hope for the best.

Ruckus Boston, runruckus.com.

Do You…Zumba?

Dodging barbed wire and jumping through mud pits will keep you on your toes and improve agility—a good match for Zumba’s choreographed dance routines.

Ultimate Accessory

Track your speed, distance, and beer-tent ETA.

Garmin Forerunner Watch with heart-rate monitor, $450, marathonsports.com.

What You’ll Get

Cardio, agility, concentration.

How You’ll Pay

Ankles, knees.

Check out more of our winter fitness package, “Stronger, Faster, Dirtier.”