#45 Atlas Race from America's 45 Best Adventure Races

America's 45 Best Adventure Races


It’s hard to believe that Tough Mudder is only 4 years old. It’s increasing popularity proves just how great of a race it is. Testing their endurance through a 10 to 12 mile-long military-style obstacle course, teams work together to complete mental and physical challenges. Every year obstacles include tests of common fears, such as the Arctic Enema, Electroshock Therapy, Funky Monkey, and this year Fire in the Hole and Pyramid Scheme. The obstacles are difficult, but the most impressive aspect of the competition is the genuine teamwork and camaraderie that shines through. toughmudder.com
—Catarina Cowden

#45 Atlas Race

Atlas Race

$31,100—that’s the total amount of prize money awarded to the toughest, strongest and fastest competitors at each Atlas Race event. If that isn’t enough incentive to try your luck in one of these courses featuring 20+ obstacles, maybe it would help to know that a portion of the proceeds go to local and national charities. Take on the military-style obstacle course and be prepared for a few surprise hurdles—as they say, “train accordingly.” atlasrace.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#44 Great Glow Run

Great Glow Run

This race’s slogan cleverly reads “glow hard or go home.” Held in several different locations across North Carolina, this race scored extra points because one hundred percent of its proceeds benefit Easter Seals UCP, an organization that supports the troops through services across the state. greatglowrun.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#43 CerebRun


Put your brain and body to work through this mentally and physically challenging obstacle course. Run through 6 to 8 miles of rugged terrain as you take on over 15 obstacles and 8 mental challenges. The Cerebrunner’s oath says that life is more than just the physical, “the human condition is a test of mental aptitude, observing natural surroundings, manipulating and transforming the environs until discovering a logical method that benefits our fellow being.” Take on this challenge that goes beyond mud running, and test your mental stamina as well. cerebrun.com
—Catarina Cowden

#42 Bushido Challenge

Bushido Challenge

Get ready to prove yourself as a warrior and follow the Bushido Code on this military-style obstacle course that will challenge more than just physical strength. The importance of the code is reinforced throughout the race and each contestant is given a time chip, but the event is more of a challenge. Competitors can skip obstacles but then must forfeit a flag, which will affect their rank at the finish. As of now, there are two races being held in 2014 and 1 percent of all race profits go to Operation Enduring Warrior, a veteran operated non-profit. bushidochallenge.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#41 Gnarly Neon 5K

Gnarly Neon 5K

Although this colorful 5k is technically a race, organizers say that it’s not about crossing the finish line first. Instead, the aim is to pack as much fun as possible into the 3.1-mile course. The Gnarly night run series features finger lasers, glow sticks and a handful of other fun neon accessories so that you can get your glow on while you run to the beat of the best local DJs. gnarlyneon5k.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#40 Living Social 5K Dance Party


Run through a ‘history of great dance tunes’ at this 5K dance party. The course is divided into five zones, each with their own genre of music. The race starts with Early Dance, moves into Disco, then Iconic Pop, Hip Pop and finishes with Modern Music in an epic dance party. Dress up in your favorite decade apparel, and run through the dance party of a century. 5kdanceparty.com
—Catarina Cowden

#39 Firefly Run

Firefly Run

This nighttime run affords you the choice between 5k and 10k distances and between walking and running—the only rule? You need to light up the night. The 2014 tour isn’t finalized just yet, but you can pre-register to race in one of ten cities, take part in the costume contest and enjoy the post-race celebration. fireflyrun.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#38 Epic Fail Challenge

Epic Fail Challenge

This race sort of reminds us of that show Wipe Out. You know the one; eager contestants attempt to conquer a ridiculous obstacle course, only you’re not cheering for their success, you just want to see them fall on their faces. Well it makes sense, because the Epic Fail 5k is TV-inspired. With obstacles like Plummet Peak, the Over Under Plunder and the Foam Pit Frenzy standing between you and the finish line you’re sure to take a few spills along the way, but who cares because we bet you’ll have an awesome time anyway. epicfailchallenge.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#37 Survivor Mud Run

Flickr/Jeremy Brooks

Test yourself against the extreme terrain of Survivor Mud Run. This 5k will ask you to run, climb, crawl and jump through a series of difficult obstacles. Call yourself a “True Survivor” by completing the muddy and epic adventure. Everyone receives a medal for completing each obstacle and crossing the finish line, along with a Survivor Mud Run headband, snacks and beer. survivormudrun.com
—Catarina Cowden

#36 Dirty Dash


This swine-themed race is predictably muddy with an emphasis on fun. Each race takes place in one of 18 cities and each time they partner with a local charity. Ranging in distance from around 3 miles to roughly 5.5 miles, the race is not timed—coordinators say it’s just for fun but that those on the course should try to “stay out of the way of those crazy ‘runners’.” thedirtydash.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#35 The Ugly Sweater Run


This event is hosted across the country all through the holiday season and is self-proclaimed as the merriest 5k on the planet. Race organizers say that this playful 5k is a great way to burn off some calories before you’re treated to hot chocolate and your choice of one free beer. Of course, all participants are expected to don the absolute ugliest sweater they can find, but our favorite thing about this race is that the course is lined with stations stocked with hot chocolate instead of water and Gatorade. theuglysweaterrun.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#34 Beach Beast

Beach Beast

Make your trip to the beach a challenge by competing in Beach Beast. The competition is for all ages and over a 3 mile course you will be expected to run through ankle-deep water, climb over walls, run through tires, jump hurdles, crabwalk and more. The beach becomes a playground of team challenges and fun with an included beach party. beachbeast.com
—Catarina Cowden

#33 The Great Inflatable Race

The Great Inflatable Race

Remember that bouncy house you loved when you were a kid? This race is kind of like that—only better. Ten inflatable obstacles line the 5k course and though it’s not timed, this race can be plenty competitive. Bring along friends or family—the course is open to everyone 5 years old and up, with a special heat just for families—and challenge each other to climb, dive and run through the course. “Take the most fun you’ve ever had in your life, times it by 100, add a jello slip ‘n’ slide and you’ve got this run,” says the event’s website. thegreatinflatablerace.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#32 Armageddon Ambush

Armageddon Ambush

Armageddon Ambush combines mud, obstacles and color all in one extreme event designed to challenge your endurance and power over the course of 3.1 miles. Obstacles along the way are designed to mimic end-of-the-world disasters and if you make it through to the other side  you’ll be rewarded with a medal, an after party with live music and maybe most importantly, plenty of beer. armageddonambush.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#31 Terrain Mud Runs

Terrain Mud Runs

Anyone can complete in this race with the choice of three different level courses. The options include the 5k course which includes jumping over 6-foot walls, climbing rope walls, and cargo nets. The course includes 5  to 7 miles of more than 20 obstacles. And the 20k course is over “10 times as tough” with a $100 cash prize. terrainracing.com
—Catarina Cowden

#30 American Mud Race

American Mud Race

“[This is] the dirtiest, grimiest, muddiest obstacle race you’ve ever seen,” says the American Mud Race website. “We promise you one thing…after completing American Mud Race, your shower drain is going to hate you.” The American Mud Race is fairly new, but they have races planned in ten states across the country. Get a spot, compete and feel good knowing a portion of the proceeds from the race go to Home at Last, a non-profit that helps disabled veterans get into mortgage-free, accessible homes. americanmudrace.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#29 Lozilu Mud Run


This women’s only mud run scored extra points on our list for its focus on giving back. Described as a “filthy 5k festival,” five percent of all race entry fees are donated to the Leukemia Ironman Fundraiser for Eric (LIFE).  It’s Lozilu’s mission to provide a fun future for young cancer patients and an exhilarating girl’s day filled with exciting obstacles, plenty of mud and a lots of music, too. (Red carpet, after party and race medal included.) lozilu.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#28 Bone Frog Challenge

Bone Frog Challenge

Be prepared for a hardcore course at the Bone Frog Challenge. Designed and sponsored by U.S. Navy SEALS, the 9+ miles, 36-obstacle challenge is definitely not an entry-level event. Your running ability alone can not carry the day, as there is an obstacle every quarter mile. Expect to get muddy and sore by the end of this exhausting race. Bone Frog warns, “As Navy SEALS, we know what tough is – and we don’t mean Harvard.” bonefrogchallenge.com
—Catarina Cowden

#27 The Walking Dead Escape

The Walking Dead Escape

Inspired by the award-winning comic book series and hit TV show, The Walking Dead Escape debuted in 2012 at San Diego Comic-Con. The zombie survival race now has five locations around the country and a loyal fan base. Either form a team or go it alone in this ultimate zombie apocalypse race that will test your speed, strength and, above all else, courage. thewalkingdeadescape.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#26 The Neon Run

The Neon Run

What do you get when you sign up for The Neon Run? 3.1 miles of six different color zones filled with glow-in-the-dark neon paint and powder. Event organizers say this isn’t your ordinary running race. In fact, it’s not about racing at all. “It’s about enjoying a night of illuminating lights and neon glow,” says the Neon Run website. theneonrun.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#25 Mud Factor

Flickr/Ray Bouknight

No one is keeping score at Mud Factor, this obstacle race is measured by fun. The 5K obstacle run is filled with teams working together to complete obstacles such as the Slip & Slide, Wire Crawl, Rope Swing, Halfway House, Cargo Climb and Border Crossing. Run through the mud in your team costumes. Previous teams have shown up as pirates, ninjas, and even the Avengers. mudfactor.com
—Catarina Cowden

#24 Bubble Run

Bubble Run

If all those mud runs seem a little too messy for you, the Bubble Run is the perfect alternative. This “giant, effervescent party” will take you through four different colored foam pits over the course of three miles and into another party as soon as you cross the finish line. Unlike other races, the Bubble Run isn’t timed, so the only competition is seeing who can collect the most colorful foam. bubblerun.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#23 World Famous Mud Run®

World Famous Mud Run

In terms of military-like obstacles this mud run may be one of the most legitimate races around. The World Famous Mud Run takes place at Camp Pendleton, a real Marine Corps base camp located in California, and features a 10k course complete with cargo net climbs, jersey barriers and a mud pit/wall. There’s even an obstacle labeled “combat town.” We’re not exactly sure what that might constitute, but we do know that it sounds epically intense. worldfamousmudrun.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#22 Civilian Military Combine

Civilian Military Combine

Civilian Military Combine (CMC) brings together the quickly growing community of hybrid athletes in an obstacle race of over 4 miles including their first challenge The Pit. The Pit is a 5-minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) workout that is designed to test endurance and strength through athletic, military-inspired fitness movements. You choose your degree of difficulty, so everyone can be challenged. And as CMC states, “Mud washes off, wounds heal, and sore muscles recover, but the pride that comes from conquering a CMC will never fade.” civilianmilitarycombine.com
—Catarina Cowden

#21 Dirty Girl Mud Run


Spanning 25 cities, this women’s-only mud run is all about having fun, getting muddy and feeling accomplished. Open to women of all fitness levels, the course features climbing, water and, of course, mud obstacles. The course is not timed and there is no pressure to compete in every obstacle so this one is for the girls who just want to get out there and have fun. godirtygirl.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#20 Zombie Mud Run

The Zombie Mud Run

The fun in this mud run lies in choosing whether to participate as a zombie or a human, but the best part is, either way you’re guaranteed an epic adrenaline rush. Zombie Mud Run courses cover a 5k distance and along the way you’ll encounter boot camp like obstacles to test your strength and endurance, and of course the added challenge is that you’ll have to avoid infected zombies along the way. Unless you are one, that is. thezombiemudrun.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#19 The Great Bull Run

The Great Bull Run

The Great Bull Run wants you to “grab life by the horns” by bringing the Spanish tradition of running with the bulls to the U.S. This race is definitely for the adrenaline junkie as it entails running beside 1,500-pound bulls stampeding down a quarter-mile course. After finishing (and surviving) the race, celebrate with Tomato Royale, an epic tomato food fight. thegreatbullrun.com
—Catarina Cowden

#18 Mudderella


Mudderella courses are 5-to-7-mile long obstacle courses designed by women to help competitors realize their strength. With the tagline, “own your strong,” it’s easy to see that the main goal is self-improvement and camaraderie, not the fastest finish time. Each team needs a female captain but men are allowed to race when invited onto a women’s team. With sold out events all over the country and in the UK, Mudderella is a popular alternative to some of the more strictly competitive races. mudderella.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#17 Battle Frog Race Series


This race series features obstacles designed by U.S. Navy Seals and hosts events that cater to adventure racers of all different levels. The most challenging of all covers 15k and includes a minimum of 25 obstacles. But if you’re looking for a course that’s more beginner-friendly you can sign up for the Bullfrog 5k or the Bullfrog mile. And for younger runners, there’s also the Tadpole Dash. battlefrogseries.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#16 Rugged Maniac


With over 20 obstacles in 3.1 miles, Rugged Maniac claims to have more obstacles per mile than Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. The race itself is filled with obstacles such as towers of shipping containers, 50-foot waterslides, trampolines, underground tunnels, fire and more. Party before and after you run at the day-long festival complete with adult bounce houses, a foam pit, mechanical bulls and beer. ruggedmaniac.com
—Catarina Cowden

#15 Diva Dash

Flickr/Chad Horwedel

SHAPE Diva Dash is a women’s-only 5k obstacle race, minus the mud—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. The obstacles on this course will test your agility, balance, strength and speed and the first ten competitors to complete all obstacles and the race, receive prizes. Costumes are strongly encouraged and the typical dress code includes tutus, boas and bling—so come prepared to tackle the course in an outrageous outfit. divadash.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#14 Neon Vibe


Registration with this race will get you some swag, an after party and of course, entry into what race creators call “the sickest night-time glowing color 5K on the planet.”  Basically, it’s like a color run, but glow-in-the-dark style. When you’re finished you’ll be a brilliant, glowing masterpiece. theneonvibe.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#13 Neon Dash


Get pumped up at this glowing 5k color fest as you are covered with neon paint. The charity 5k allows you to give back while having fun, as Neon Dash donates to a chosen Charity Partner every year. As you cross the finish line you enter the “After Dash Bash” filled with music and performers, food and drinks, and fun Ultra Violet Blacklight festivities. neondash.com
—Catarina Cowden

#12 Zombie Run


Ready, set, survive. This action-packed thrill race will take you through a zombie-ridden obstacle course where your only goal is to make it out alive. Still not frightening enough? Try the Black-Ops night course and dodge blood-hungry zombies while maneuvering through fire, smoke, mazes and, perhaps worst of all, pure darkness. If being human doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you can sign up to be a zombie and after the race everyone can enjoy a crazy party complete with bonfires, food and beverages. thezombierun.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#11 Color Me Rad


Like the other color run events on our list, a dash in a Color Me Rad 5K race will dye you and your clothes all different colors. In fact, creators of this colorful event claim that the “tsunami of color will make colored tears of joy run down your cheeks and renew your will to live.” We can’t attest to whether or not this claim is true, but this fun run scored high on our list because it has a fully packed schedule with events planned all across world. colormerad.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#10 Electric Run

Flickr/Cesars Snaps

Join in on the electric wonderland that is Electric Run. The 5K is just part of the nightlife fun, as you run or walk you are integrated in the show. The course features “Lands of Light” and electric sounds that promise to “transport the mind, body and soul into a new world in a healthy and drug-free way”. This active rave-styled race is filled with funky dressed participants covered in glow sticks and other rave essentials. electricrun.com
—Catarina Cowden

#9 Glow Run

Flickr/Phil Roeder

What sets the Glow Run apart? It could be the pre-party with glowing face paint or the after party that goes late into the night with local DJs, but it’s likely the fact that this 5k takes place at night with other runners lighting the way. Enjoy the glowing 3.1 mile course with DJs playing the hottest music and then cross the iridescent finish line and get a medal, t-shirt and entry to the after party. glowrun5k.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#8 5k Foam Fest


Plenty of color runs and zombie races made it onto our list, but one of the only events that involves running through enormous clouds of foamy bubbles is the 5k Foam Fest. This extra-fun mud run features challenging obstacles like mud pits and rope courses but ups the fun factor by also including bounce houses and blow-up slides filled with foam. Races are currently scheduled in 29 U.S. states and across Canada, and the event has been such a success that it plans to expand to Mexico and Australia soon. 5kfoamfest.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#7 Run or Dye


Smiles all around at this colorful 5K. Walk, dance or run through the course as eco-friendly, plant-based powdered dye gets thrown at you every kilometer. By the end of the race, you will be covered in all colors of the rainbow. At the end of the race, join the Finish Festival where you get to open one of the provided free color packets and “Tie-Dye the Sky”. The race is family-friendly with kids under 6 running for free and each participant gets a swag bag including a t-shirt, bracelet, dye pack, temporary tattoos and a race bib. runordye.com
—Catarina Cowden

#6 The Color Run


The “Happiest 5k on the Planet” is also one of the fastest growing races in the world. The original paint race, founded in 2011, now hosts more than 170 events in 30+ countries. Last year, more than one million people ran in a Color Run event and more than half of those people were first-time 5k runners. The fun-filled accessibility of this race makes it a perfect choice for everyone from beginners to expert runners—just as long as they don’t mind getting colorful. thecolorrun.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#5 Color Vibe

Flickr/SnapUphoto @ verizon

With more than 75 events planned across the U.S. (plus more scheduled in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand) the Color Vibe 5K is in high demand by fun-run racers and may just be the most popular “color race” around. Race organizers aim to provide an experience akin to seeing a double rainbow, which seems quite feasible since you know, there are so many colors involved. thecolorvibe.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#4 O2X Summit Challenges

O2X Summit Challenges

This adventure race series won extra points in our book thanks to the fact that events are held amidst rugged mountain landscapes. O2X creates  races for athletes of all fitness levels, marking course difficulties with one, two or three black diamonds. Those brave enough to tackle the toughest will embark on a 9-mile steep hill trek over mountainous terrain. No man-made obstacles or mud pits needed. Just you and the authentic challenge provided by Mother Nature. o2x.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

#3 Tough Mudder


It’s hard to believe that Tough Mudder is only 4 years old. It’s increasing popularity proves just how great of a race it is. Testing their endurance through a 10 to 12 mile-long military-style obstacle course, teams work together to complete mental and physical challenges. Every year obstacles include tests of common fears, such as the Arctic Enema, Electroshock Therapy, Funky Monkey, and this year Fire in the Hole and Pyramid Scheme. The obstacles are difficult, but the most impressive aspect of the competition is the genuine teamwork and camaraderie that shines through. toughmudder.com
—Catarina Cowden

#2 Warrior Dash


Since its 2009 debut in Joliet, Ill., more than one million warriors have taken on the course across six countries and over four continents, but the most impressive statistic of all is the $7.5 million (and counting) raised for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The course, however, is a stark contrast to the charitable soft spot. Out in the field, you’ll trek 3-4 miles and face 12 insane obstacles—the warrior roast, deadman’s drop and Alcatraz are just a few examples of the challenging hurdles. Finish the race and enjoy turkey legs, beer steins and the well-deserved sense of pride that comes with being a true warrior. warriordash.com
—Diana Gerstacker

#1 Spartan Race

Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy Bowcock

Finishing a Spartan Race will get you some swag, a medal and access to an after party; all typical adventure race extras. But above all, the best thing you’ll receive is a sense of true accomplishment for completing a course designed to test both your physical and mental limits. (Can’t get passed an obstacle? That’ll be 30 burpees!) What most sets Spartan Race apart from the other races on our list is the fact that its founders aim to inspire participants (and potential participants) towards pursuing a healthy lifestyle.  “Spartan is treating this like a sport,” Joe DeSena, Spartan Race CEO and co-founder told me over the phone. “Other [races] are like mud parties more akin to Woodstock. That’s not in our DNA and that’s not what we’re pushing. We’re pushing this healthy lifestyle. It’s a human sport; anyone can go out and do it.” spartan.com
—Katie Rosenbrock