How to Choose Which Mud Run to Attend

The mud run phenomenon has blown up in the past 3 years and isn’t going away anytime soon. With the increasing number of options, this article is intended to help you understand the differences between runs and guide you on basic steps to choose the mud run that is right for you.


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    Identify runs in your area. Unless you are willing to travel (which many people do once they become addicted to mud runs) search Google for mud runs in your area. Many mud run companies travel from city to city setting up temporary facilities for one or two day events. Often smaller companies or charities host local events, which are also temporary and only one day per year. There are a couple of courses such as THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ in St. Louis, MO and the USMC Ultimate Challenge in Columbia, SC that are permanent but they too, only have a few events per year. There is one website that gathers upcoming event info about all race organizations.
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    Once you know what is available in your area, and the dates of upcoming events, decide what’s important to you. All mud runs advertise toughness, fun, party, etc. but each one is geared more towards one genre or another.
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    Consider the distance. The Distance/Amount of Running- races can be anywhere from 1 mile (1.6 km) to 10–12 miles (16–19 km) or more. Typically local and charity benefit races are 5K’s.
    • WarriorDash = 5k
    • Tough Mudder = 10–12 miles (16–19 km)
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ = 5 miles (8.0 km)
    • MS Muckruckus = 3 mile (4.8 km) or 5 mile (8.0 km) option
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge = 5.2 mile (8.4 km)
    • Spartan Race = 3 levels; 3, 8, or 10 mile and 48 hour death race
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    Consider the number of obstacles
    • WarriorDash = 12-15
    • Tough Mudder = 28-30
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ = 28-30
    • MS Muckruckus = 20-25
    • Spartan Race = 3 levels; 10, 15 or 18 obstacles
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge = 36
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    Consider the party- the music- Most events, except MS Muckruckus and smaller local charity events have Live music. Check out your venue to see who’s playing.
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    Consider the costumes/dressing up aspect- Warrior Dash tends to have the most costumes.
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    Consider the physical fitness/strength required- Tough mudder and Spartan Races are typically regarded as the toughest competitions. Although permanent courses like THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ and USMC Ultimate Challenge are introducing more challenging courses due to their ability to build large permanent sturdy structures.
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    Consider the camaraderie- On no other course will you see camaraderie like you will see at the USCM Ultimate Challenge Run. This course cannot be done without your teammates! Tough Mudder offers a lot of camaraderie also because it “isn’t a competition”.
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    Consider the uniqueness- THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ has some of the most unique challenges around. The Guantlet Time trial challenge is the closest to American Ninja Warrior or Wipeout available in the mud run market today.
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    Consider the charitable cause- Most events have a cause (see below) however only USMC Ultimate Challenge and MS Muckruckus are completely non-profit organizations.
    • WarriorDash = St. Jude's
    • Tough Mudder = Wounded Warrior
    • MS Muckruckus = Multiple Sclerosis Society
    • Spartan Race = Homes for our Troops
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge = Greater Columbia Marine Foundation
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    Consider the cost: Majority of runs have a variable cost based on when you sign up. The sooner you sign up the lower the costs. Prices also vary by location so the below is just an average.
    • WarriorDash = $50- $80
    • Tough Mudder = $90 - $200 + required $15 insurance fee
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ = $60-$100
    • MS Muckruckus = Base $40-$75 Plus $100 donation requirement
    • Spartan Race = $90-$205
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge = $160 team of 4
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    Consider what you get for your money:
    • WarriorDash = Event participation, 1 Free beer, fuzzy Warrior helmet, WarriorDash t-shirt, WarriorDash finisher medal, Live music, Post-race snack and water, WarriorDash race bib
    • Tough Mudder = Event participation,1 free beer, Tough Mudder shirt, Tough Mudder sweatband, entry to the post-party.
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ = Event participation, Qualification to attempt The Guantlet Time Trial Challenge, THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ Moisture Wicking T-Shirt, THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ Finishers medal, music and Post Party Activities- including access to Cedar Lake Cellars Winery, Post-race snack and beverage (Yes, a free beer!), Race bib with timing chip, Interactive Individualized online results – find photographs and videos of yourself!, Mobile event updates to your friends and family letting them know where you are on the course, Social Media race updates that can be posted to your Facebook and Twitter accounts including an Online Finishers Badge
    • MS Muckruckus = Event participation, Muckruckus T-Shirt, 1 Free Beer (sometimes- depending on event location)
    • Spartan Race = Event Race Shirt (If you finish), Chip Timing and individual race time, Awesome Finisher Medal, Post Race Party – music
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge = Event participation
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    Other things to Consider:
    • What is around the race location?
    • Most events are held on farmers land, off-road mud terrain parks, or in other remote locations. Consider “destination” sites like THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ which is located on a winery property which allows for a place for your friends and family to hang out while you are running, provides a place to have an air conditioned meal, and make a day of the event. This kind of a place is great if you’re a runner but your significant other isn’t- it allows you to do what you love but still spend time with your partner.
    • What are you kids going to do during the event?
    • Some of these events such as MS Muckruckus and THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ have kids courses. If you have a family this may be important to help your kids feel involved and understand the value of fitness and fun getting muddy! Tough Mudder has a “least amount of clothing” category in their costume contest, which might not make it a good place for you to bring your little ones.
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    Consider what will the event be like for spectators?
    • WarriorDash: All spectators are corralled into one area. We could only see the Start Line, Finish Line, the fire obstacle and 1 mud pit.
    • Tough Mudder: You could wonder around pretty freely. You could easily see Electroshock Therapy, Mount Everest, The Fire pit, army crawl, an icy mud pit, and monkey bars.
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™: Had long berm which spectators could stand on. You could see 15 obstacles and you could walk up next to the 5 biggest obstacles in the main arena, including the 100 foot (30.5 m) water slide, rope traverse, 15 foot (4.6 m) wall, 12 foot (3.7 m) jump, The Trenches and mud hills. They also had a 20 feet (6.1 m) tall observation tower you could go up in.
    • MS Muckruckus: All spectators corralled in 1 area but you could see many obstacles including the Spinner, Big Balls, the cargo nets, the start and finish lines.
    • Spartan Race: All spectators corralled in 1 area but you could see Start, Finish (complete with Gladiators), fire jump, rope climb, an a-frame structure, a rope traverse across a lake, traversing walls, and off in the distance some mud pits. Spartan Race by far had the most activities for spectators to participate in throughout the day.
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge: I haven’t been as a spectator so am unsure what spectators can see.
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    Research the additional costs? All of the events typically have additional food and beverage for sale.
    • Warrior Dash: Additional $10-$20 parking fee per car. Merchandise for sale.
    • Tough Mudder: $20 per spectators fee and additional parking fee. Activities available for spectators to participate in but it cost to throw the barrels. Merchandise for sale. Additional mandatory insurance fee.
    • THE BATTLEGROUNDS™: None- The Battlegrounds offers free warm showers, free parking, and free spectator viewing. However do bring money if you plan on sipping wine next door. Merchandise for sale.
    • MS Muckruckus: None- they do a great job of making it an all-inclusive no need to bring money day. No merchandise for sale.
    • Spartan Race: Additional parking fee. Merchandise for sale.
    • USMC Ultimate Challenge: Unknown
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    Understand and be prepared to sign a waiver. Every race will require a waiver. Keep in mind this is a dangerous sport. In order to participate you must sign a waiver.
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    Sign up! Once you’ve picked the race that is right for you, your significant other, and family register and register as EARLY as possible. Many events sell out and prices increase the closer it gets to the event.
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    Start Training! Although in most events you can bypass an obstacle and if you walk no one really cares, it is still in your best interest to train in order to prevent injury. Practice running on local trails to get the stabilizer muscles in your ankles, legs, and hips toned up to prevent sprains and to help you get a feel for how to place your feet when trail running. A little practice will make the event more fun!


    • If you are running as a team- get team shirts made for more camaraderie.


  • Please keep in mind these events are different all over the nation and world. Some of the more subjective categories such as what will spectators experience is based on the events I’ve attended. Your experience may be different.

Sources and Citations

  • About THE BATTLEGROUNDS™: THE BATTLEGROUNDS™ was developed because of a passion for health and a desire to provide a unique fitness activity in the Midwest. The course has been called the “Best Mud Run Course of them all”. The permanent obstacles offer bigger challenges and the facility was built with free warm showers so you can make a whole day of it by visiting Cedar Lake Cellars winery next door after your run. For a destination run that offers 5 miles (8.0 km) of huge obstacles, warm showers, live music, a killer after party, spectator friendliness, and free parking go to and sign up for our mailing list to receive special offers, health, training and nutrition tips, recipes, updates and more.
  • All other information was gathered from respective companies website.

Article Info

Categories: Running | Outdoor Recreation