Just running isn't enough; adventure races add mud and obstacles
LINCOLN - Some enter for fun, some for fitness, others for competition, but whatever the draw, increasing numbers of runners are coming to New Hampshire for foot races that involve a variety of challenges and frequently end with participants covered in mud.
Lincoln's Loon Mountain Resort last weekend held its fourth annual Monster Mud Run on a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course filled with 25 obstacles and culminating in a literal mud bath for many of the 400-plus entrants.
The MMR was one of several, similarly themed events that have or will take place in the Granite State this year.
Saturday, the Rochester Fairgrounds hosted the Renegade Playground Challenge, wherein runners were encouraged to do everything they were prohibited from doing during elementary-school recess: running fast, climbing over walls, crawling through mud.
On Sept. 27, the 100-Acre Challenge returns to the White Mountains community of Intervale, where competitors will run, swim, crawl and climb over the 5-kilometer-long course. One week later in Litchfield, competitors in the Spooky World Zombie Charge will run a similar distance while doing their best to avoid hordes of flesh-eating undead.
Big names in the field of adventure racing include Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and Spartan Race, all of which put on events around the country, challenging runners with a variety of obstacles and distances. Spartan Race, for example, offers distance ranging from 3 to 26 miles.
Before it resumes hosting the sport for which it's best known, skiing, Loon on Oct. 18 will be the site of the inaugural O2X Challenge, offering two options: a 4- to 6-mile "single-diamond" or 6- to 9-mile "double-diamond" trail run to the summit, with obstacles naturally occurring rather than man-made.
Kevin Bell, Loon's marketing manager, said the Mud Run, O2X Challenge and Loon Mountain Race - which was held earlier this month and also served as USA Track and Field's Mountain Running Championship - are a nice fit for the resort in between the end and beginning of skiing season.
The Mud Run, though infinitesimally small compared to the multiple-thousand-person events of Tough Mudder and the like, is the perfect size for Loon Mountain, said Bell, adding that the resort owns the race and sets up the course itself.
With input from racers, he said, the event is continually modified.
"It's a family event. We're not trying to be this huge, daunting race," Bell said.
Nevertheless, with 25 obstacles, it still poses a good, physical challenge.
At Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, which previously has hosted both a Tough Mudder and a Warrior Dash, the more participants, the better, said spokesman Bill Quigley.
Gunstock's 2012 Warrior Dash drew more than 8,000 competitors, and its 2013 Tough Mudder topped 23,000.
Tough Mudder isn't returning this year due to a shortage of parking in the immediate area, Quigley said, but the company hasn't ruled out a return in the future. In the meantime, Gunstock is considering a race that would have participants making their way up, over and around inflatable obstacles.
Mountain resorts increasingly are looking to offer year-round events and activities, said Quigley, and adventure races fit the bill for many of them.
There certainly seems to be a market for them.
Among the participants in the Loon Monster Mud Run were Melissa Camire of Tilton and Kimberly Drouin of Andover, half of Team Little and Fierce. For Drouin, the race was a tune-up for bigger Spartan series events coming up later this year. For Camire, it marked another check on her personal bucket list.
"We can say we did it," Camire said.
And she recommended the experience.
"Anybody can do it," she said, "and everybody should."