Bored With Running 10K Road Races? Try Tough Mudder Or The Warrior Dash

Around this time of year Cape Codders begin earnestly pursuing their resolutions to get in shape. Common goals are completing a local 5K, 10K or perhaps a more prestigious competition, like the Falmouth Road Race, at some point in 2013.

But to a select group of fitness enthusiasts those races are too mundane, or as Bourne’s Gregory R. Lanoue, former owner of North Falmouth’s Balanced Health & Fitness, might phrase it: they are “so 2009.”

That was the year he ran his first Mud Run in South Carolina with several high school friends. “It lives up to its name,” he said with a laugh last week. “You tend to throw away a lot of the clothes you wear during the races.”

Mr. Lanoue is an example of a growing number of athletes in the region who have moved on from the tamer distance races and have dived headfirst into those that require participants to overcome obstacles, from climbing rope ladders to carrying a large log over one’s shoulder a half-mile up a hill, while getting dirty in the process.

The competitions come with names like Mud Run, Tough Mudder, the Ruckus, Mad Dash, and Warrior Dash, and clearly are not for the faint of heart.

Since his first Mud Run four years ago, Mr. Lanoue has added another to the list as well as a Tough Mudder in Vermont last May. As a former participant in the Falmouth Road Race, Pan-Mass Challenge and various other 5Ks throughout Cape Cod, Mr. Lanoue said he has moved on to these more rigorous events. “They are more fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie, and some of them are run with a team, like the Mud Run in South Carolina. Even with the Tough Mudder, comprising individual races, everyone helps each other out, like getting over walls that are 10- to 12-feet high.”

Throw in the fact that these competitions are “more of a party atmosphere” with participants “cheering each other on” and Mr. Lanoue has largely said farewell to the typical road race.

Before he first began competing in these types of events, Mr. Lanoue admittedly had no idea how exactly to prepare for them. He combined a lot of running with strength exercises, such as pull-ups and push-ups, and subsequently focused more on the upper body once completing that first Mud Run.

The Mud Run, he said, is classified as an obstacle course race and requires participants to climb rope ladders, monkey bars, swing on ropes and crawl through various rivers and pools of mud. He ended up taking to the event, he said, which added a twist to the cardiovascular element of running. “It was a whole new experience and was a lot of fun,” he said. “I found them less taxing because you are not running the entire time and it is off-road so you’re running on grass and not on the pavement the whole time.”

Party-Like Atmosphere

Throw in the fact that these competitions are “more of a party atmosphere” with participants “cheering each other on” and Mr. Lanoue has largely said farewell to the typical road race.

Last year, he entered his first Tough Mudder, a 10-mile obstacle course that takes entrants up and down a mountain and through an intense series of obstacles that include swimming through a pool of ice, dubbed appropriately enough the arctic enema, and running through a field of wires that carry as much as 10,000 volts of electricity. “It was one of the most grueling things I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.

It is a sentiment shared by East Falmouth’s Karyn Menard, a manager at Anytime Fitness on Main Street. She took part in her first Tough Mudder in Vermont last May, and is training for her second this year. She was lured into it by her older sister, Lynda Menard of Burlington, Vermont, who had participated in it the previous year.

Her training consisted primarily of running, she said, even though the race is broken up with roughly 25 different obstacles. “There’s no super, crazy long distances you have to run,” she said. “A lot of it is sprinting followed by obstacles.”

While there are physical challenges, she said, the Tough Mudder is more mental. “You need to get yourself amped up to get through some of the obstacles,” she said, acknowledging she was “a little nervous about a couple of them,” listing the arctic enema and the electroshock therapy at the top of that list.

Her fears were diminished because of the support of friends and strangers alike. “Along the course people are helping each other to succeed and overcome those fears, so it is really cool,” she said.

Anytime Fitness Sending Cape Team

Last year, Ms. Menard was the only Cape Codder on her Tough Mudder squad. That will change this May as Anytime Fitness has already assembled close to 30 people who will be training together at the club on Sundays beginning later this month for the May event, which will be held outside the Boston area.

Among those joining Ms. Menard will be her co-worker Megan Carroll of Falmouth.

Over the past year, Ms. Carroll has lost close to 25 pounds as part of her New Year’s resolution in 2012. This year that resolution is to complete a Tough Mudder. “I’m really excited about it,” she said.

Although she does so with a sense of trepidation, she said, “I know it is all teamwork and I’m going with some good people,” which includes Anytime Fitness owner Eric Eskander. Do she and Ms. Menard have to let him win? “I don’t think so,” Ms. Carroll said with a laugh.

Also entering her first Tough Mudder this year is Tammy M. Knight-Gibbons of East Falmouth. Despite owning Main Street’s CupCapes, Ms. Knight-Gibbons keeps in shape through the numerous triathlons and marathons she regularly enters.

From the friendships she has made in those races, she said, she “was roped into the Tough Mudder” as part of a team that includes those from Ohio, New York and Somerville.

She anticipates a much different atmosphere from the more serious one she sees in the long-distance races she competes in. “Running people tend to be a little elitist,” she said.

She does not see that same attitude pervading these types of events. “I think they are really fun. I did the Jingle Jog [in Falmouth] this year where everyone dressed up in costume,” she said. “In the running world, when people pass another runner they call it a kill. You don’t find that in these themed events. They are not so competitive and are more about having fun and proving you can do something. I know they are just exploding in popularity and I see myself doing more of them in the future.”

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