Hardcore Athletic Events Hit New England

Running 26.2 miles? Psh. Competing in 24-hour-long relay races while riding in a van with 12 of your closest friends? Puh-lease. Dashing from bar to bar for beers between miles? Get real.

Forget about the Boston Marathon, Reach the Beach, and Hash House Harriers. The standard for hardcore athleticism has changed — in the next year, new adventure races and challenges cropping up around New England will require people to sprint away from flesh-eating monsters, scramble through mud, dart between hot wires, and plunge into chilly water.

Jumping over the fire pit at the August 2011 Spartan Race in Amesbury. (Courtesy of Nuvision Action Image)

Here’s a pain preview:

Run for Your Lives (May 5 at Amesbury Sports Park): Organizers describe it as an “apocalyptic 5K obstacle race.” Basically, you can sign up as a zombie, chase runners, and snatch “health flags” off their belts; or, you can sign up as a runner and dodge the undead and scramble through the course. It all sounds like the perfect setting for a campy horror flick. Be sure to stick around for the post-race party.

Tough Mudder (May 5-6 at Mount Snow, Vermont): CEO Will Dean came up with the idea for this event, designed by British Special Forces, while attending Harvard Business School. Don’t call it a race; participants aren’t timed and the only goal is to survive the 12-15 mile trail run and 20 military-style challenges (see: log carrying, monkey bar and rope climbing, snow wall scaling, etc.) Teamwork is encouraged and we’re told that only 78% of people entered will complete any given race. Gulp. And if you had any doubt about the badass nature of Tough Mudders, tattoos and free mullet haircuts are given at the finish line. They’re a generous lot, too, raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project and other charities for servicemen and women in the U.K., Australia and Canada.

Spartan Race (Aug. 11-12 at Amesbury Sports Park — is there something in the water up there?): Ultra-endurance athletes and a Royal Marine are behind the harrowing races, which began in 2010. There are different levels of timed competition, replete with fire, water, mud, barbed wire, and surprises, including the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles, 10+ obstacles); Super Spartan (8+ miles, 15+ obstacles); and the Spartan Beast (a “10-12 mile obstacle race from hell,” apparently). Who could blame you for beating your chest and yelling “This is Sparta” à la Gerard Butler in “300” when you’re done?

A scene from last May’s Tough Mudder at Mount Snow (Courtesy of Tough Mudder).

If just reading about these events tires you out, we suggest that you stay firmly rooted to your couch and watch 30 Rock reruns until the feeling subsides.