Over the past few years, the world of semi-competitive distance running has changed dramatically. Basically, it’s becoming popular. It’s shocking, I know. As anyone who knows anything about anything could, and should tell you, distance runners are a strange breed. They do, after all, subject their bodies to constant abuse, for no good reason. In this advanced day and age, there are much more efficient and infinitely less boring forms of transportation than simple bipedal parambulation. Like, instead of running, you could ride a bicycle. Or drive a car. Or ride on a bus. Or stay home and lie on your couch, because really, there’s nowhere you actually have to be.
So why is it that various running races are so popular all of a sudden? Why are they no longer populated exclusively by shaggy-headed, granola crunching, subaru driving, short-shorts wearing weirdos?
Simple. Obstacles. Within the past few years, various organizations have come into being that host obstacle course races, and their popularity has risen at an exponential rate, and really, why wouldn’t it? Instead of clogging up some poor city’s downtown street grid with a shuffling mass of wheezing, coughing, foul smelling fish-eyed humanity, races are moving off road, and incorporating various aspects designed to make the runner forget that they are running around in circles for no reason, and to trick them into thinking they are having fun. Let me tell you, it works.
First off, consider the names of these events. When I hear of something called “Mother Theresa’s 5K for change”, I think “Yeah, I’m not going to do that, that sounds like the worst thing ever.” Something named the “Tough Mudder”, or “Warrior Dash”, or “Spartan Race” or “Rugged Maniac”, or my personal favorite, “Run For Your Lives” (A Zombie themed run) on the other hand, sounds epic, and like something I want to be involved in, regardless of the fact that all these events are obscenely expensive, and judging from their website photos, populated mostly by soccer moms and alcoholic fraternity types.
That is why, this past weekend, Mistress Kay and I took part in the second annual Southwick, Massachusetts Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle course race. The 3.1 mile course makes use of an actual dirtbike track, so the terrain is naturally hilly, confusing, and consists purely of thick, viscous mud and sasquatch poo, on top of which a series of US military designed and fabricated obstacles are thrown in for good measure to weed out the men from the boys. And girls. And old people. And everyone else who successfully completed the course. But, no, you’re totally a rugged maniac if you did it.
Mistress and I prepared ourselves differently for the big event. My training basically consisted of a month of looking at myself in the mirror and calling myself hurtful things, until I was sure I could complete the course fuelled entirely by rage and self-loathing. Mistress Kay actually made the effort to run a little bit beforehand, but I have a feeling that was mostly so she could lounge around the house for hours after every jog, demanding I rub her calves and whisper sweet nothings to her disgusting little toes.
The night before the race we made the excellent decision to go party in Boston, so after drinking all night, and spending an uncomfortable 3 hours trying to sleep on someone elses sofa, we drove to the event exhausted, malnourished, and violently hungover; which still made us healthier and better prepared than about 3/4 of the contestants there. There were, of course, a large amount of run-freaks looking to push themselves to the limit, but for the most part people just came out to get dirty, get some exercise, and have a good time. That’s the draw of events like this, and the reason they’re becoming so popular, so quickly. Whether you’re a washed up former athlete, trying to not vomit last night’s whiskey or crap your pants, like myself, or Grandma Ester, hoping to spend some quality time crawling under barbed wire with the gals from her church group, these things are fun, and completing them does leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Plus, afterward they throw a big party with live music, vendors, and free beer from craft brewers like Harpoon.
All in all, it was an excellent experience, and a fun day spent with my lady. My only complaint is that they have yet to post our run times online, despite having an electronic chip timing system, and my only concern is that i’m pretty sure Mistress now thinks she actually is a rugged maniac, and she’s become quite physically aggressive.
You can check out the Rugged Maniac website HERE. If you want to check out any of the other cool races around New England, Google them yourselves you lazy schmucks.