1. Spartan Death Race, 2. The Tough Mudder, 3. Rugged Maniac, 4. Run For Your Lives, 5. Savage Race, 6. Jungle Ultra Footrace, 7. Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic, 8. The Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, 9. Antarctic Ice Marathon, 10. Badwater 135. Challenge courses are a relatively new phenomenon in the world but have exploded in recent years. In the 1980s, there were under 1,000 challenge courses operating in the United States. Today there are over 15,000. There are also no formal rules over what makes a challenge course. In the beginning, they were little more than simple obstacles that involved running and rope climbing. Now they run the gamut from simple obstacle courses to complex races that span hundreds of miles in extreme conditions or challenging terrain. They may have themes or set goals. It’s really up to the creator of the course to decide. It’s safe to say that some definitely stand out more than others. Here is a list of the top 10 most Insane Challenge Courses.
- Spartan Death Race
- The Tough Mudder
- Rugged Maniac
- Run For Your Lives
- Savage Race
- Jungle Ultra Footrace
- Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic
- The Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race
- Antarctic Ice Marathon
- Badwater 135
Spartan Death Race
The Spartan Death Race is one of several Spartan races that a person can participate in if they so desire. It is also regarded as one of the most hardest to complete, and has been dubbed “the world’s toughest race period.” The Spartan Death Race, which forces racers to run up to 50 miles on rocky trails in rural Vermont, is distinguished by an assortment of tough, unique, and occasionally ludicrous tasks. The objectives in the race are centered around a topic, and this year’s theme was religion. The pre-race gathering was conducted in a church and consisted of a sermon describing the world’s major religions. Each of the 14 tasks assigned was designed to illustrate a different aspect of religion.
The second obstacle was a twist on the fable of the loaves and fishes: racers had to walk three miles up a fast-moving, stony stream to catch a fish that would feed the multitudes. Challenge 11 required competitors to hike five miles to the top of a mountain while carrying a burden – in this example, a log weighing 50 pounds for males and 25 pounds for women (the only concession to gender in the event). The final half-mile of that hike, a mud-soaked 40% uphill grade covered in barbed wire, was dubbed “The Gaza Strip.” The 2018 winner set a world record by crawling through mud, rocks, and barbed wire for 31 laps of the track in 12 hours. That was only phase one, of course. The entire race was 60 hours. Eighty people started the race and only 12 finished.
Founder: Ultra athlete and Joe Desena
Time: last more than 70 hours
Location: the Green Mountains in and around Pittsfield, Vermont
The Tough Mudder
The Tough Mudder is one of the most insane challenge courses in the world. If Spartan had a rival for the title of toughest obstacle course in the world, it would be Tough Mudder. In fact, Spartan purchased Tough Mudder in 2020, thus they’re now technically the same thing. Tough Mudder is a series of endurance events in which athletes undertake 10-to-12-mile (16-to-19-kilometer) obstacle courses. Will Dean and Guy Livingstone co-founded it. Common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity, and heights, are frequently exploited by the obstacles.
Mudder distances ranging from 5K to 10K, with a 15K option for those who want to test their limitations all the way. Some of the events are similar to what you’ll see at Spartan, such as crawling through mud or under barbed wire barriers. You may even be required to run through water while avoiding electrical lines for added excitement. Another challenge was slipping down a pole through a ring of fire. The basic idea is to overcome some of humanity’s most primal fears, and it is clearly not for everyone. Mudders are not without dangers, even if they are not immediately apparent. Previous participants have become seriously ill after slopping through mud contaminated with cow feces.
Founder: Will Dean and Guy Livingstone
Location: Brooklyn, NY
When Mark Cuban chose to invest in Rugged Maniac in 2014, the show Shark Tank made him famous. It’s comparable to Tough Mudder, but Rugged Maniac is noted for having some more innovative obstacles that are borderline brutal in their cleverness.
The first Rugged Maniac event was held in Southwick, Massachusetts, in October 2010, with approximately 2,000 race participants. Scudder paid for the event with his funds from the previous two years as a lawyer. The main race featured 330-person waves every half hour, as well as a festival with music, food, and beer for the racers. Since then, the festival has grown to 30 event days throughout the United States and Canada. In the fall of 2015, the largest event, held in the inaugural New England location Southwick, MA, attracted approximately 12,000 total race participants.
Primary sponsor: Men’s Health, Women’s Health (magazine), Harpoon Brewery, American Cancer Society
Established: September 2010
Location: 30 Locations United States / Canada
Run For Your Lives
Reed Street Productions’ Run For Your Lives (RFYL) is a 3-5K obstacle course adventure run series (RSP). Runners pass through diverse terrain and physically hard obstacles, as in other obstacle races. Unlike other obstacle races, racers must avoid and dodge zombies roaming the course, attempting to seize flags from runners’ flagbelts, akin to flag football. The course was developed to include zombies as well as SERE training learned by an RSP management member who is now on active duty in the navy. The inaugural race drew approximately 12,000 participants and was covered by numerous news outlets.
The event is promoted as preparation for the real zombie apocalypse. People attend the Apocalypse Party, which has live music, alcohol, food, vendors, and games both during and after the race. Each competitor is timed separately and divided into nine competitive age classes. At the event, costumes, team uniforms, and zombie make-up are encouraged and add to the fun atmosphere.
Human Movement Management (HMM), based in Colorado, took over the Run For Your Lives Zombie 5k on October 31, 2013, and will continue with the rest of the 2013 and 2014 races. Run For Your Lives Asia (RFYLA) is situated in Singapore and is completely owned and operated by Action X, an independent event production business. The first Asian leg was held on January 11, 2014 in Singapore, right in the heart of the city at Marina Bay, and was a huge success. The event attracted nearly 10,000 participants and lasted from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Asian franchise has been rebranded, with the word Asia replaced by the country’s name following the parent brand.
Founder: RSP managing-member
Locations: United States, Europe, Asia, Australia
Savage Syndicate is a program created to reward its most dedicated and die hard participants. They adore that you are willing to fly across the country to try out their latest hurdles, climb Colossus, leap off of Davy Jones’ Locker, freeze your bits in Shriveled Richard, and go for a spin on Wheel World. Savage Syndicate is our way of saying “Thank You” to those of you who put on multiple events throughout the year.
Savage Race takes place in 17 different cities around the United States. It provides a plethora of challenges to put your mettle to the test and brutalize you in some way. Submerging yourself in a swimming pool packed with 60,000 pounds of ice was the Shriveled Richard difficulty. The Teeter Tuber requires you to climb up within a 24-inch diameter tube until you reach a pivot point and are thrown out again. The savage rig is a complete obstacle course featuring rings, monkey bars, and other elements that are never setup the same way twice. Only half of the contestants advance. The remaining 25 obstacles will have you crawling, climbing, and struggling your way through miles of course. Though races like Spartan are generally thought to be harder and longer, the Savage Race has been praised for having some of the most fun and creative obstacles of any of the major challenge races available.
Founder: Sam Abbitt
Locations: 17 different cities around the United States
Jungle Ultra Footrace
The Jungle Ultra is one of the most insane challenge courses in the world. It is an incredible footrace in the Amazon Rainforest. Run, scramble, and fight your way across 230 kilometers of wild rainforest, from the cloud forest to the Amazon basin. The Manu National Park is deep in the Amazon Rainforest, an unspoiled expanse of boiling jungle and breath-taking cloud forest stretching from the Andes mountains to the Madre de Dios River. Its lowlands are only accessible by boat, and its impenetrable nature is both why so many people are drawn to its dark undergrowth and why it has stayed so well preserved.
A 230-kilometer race divided into five stages through suffocating jungle foliage, river crossings, and cloud-shrouded mountain valleys. Runners should expect stifling humidity and sweating in an effort to stay cool. There will be a lot of mud and a lot of rain. There may also be times when you run in the dark, using a head torch to follow the specified path. You are responsible for carrying your entire kit, including food, safety equipment, and a minimum of 2.5 litres of water, which can be refilled at checkpoints along the stages, as this is a self-sufficient race. To take on the hostile rain forest, you’ll need some specialized equipment.
Location: Manu National Park, Peru
Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic
The Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic is the polar opposite of the Jungle Ultra footrace. While a walk through the Peruvian rainforest would expose you to scorching heat, the Alaskan Mountain Classic pushes you against a different extreme well up north. The distance varied every year, with some versions covering 130 miles and others going up to 280 miles. The race passes through areas where grizzly bears are plentiful. Mountains, valleys, and rivers are all part of the scenery. And, while it takes place in the summer, it is still set in the highlands of Alaska, where temperatures are rarely above freezing.
There are no specific requirements for finishing the race, other than carrying your stuff and not leaving any waste behind. You can walk, take a boat across the sea, or even use paragliders in the past. The duration is obviously determined by the length of the course itself. Some have been completed in as little as three days. Others can take a week or more.
The Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race
If you’re looking for a race that seems to go on forever, the Self-Transcendence 3,100 mile race might be for you. It is the world’s longest certified footrace. Regardless, you never have to leave the same neighborhood to get the job done. The entire race is held on a single city block in Queens, New York. You only need to complete 5,649 laps. The race must be completed within 52 days. To complete it in that time, runners must traverse 60 miles per day. In 2006, a German runner set the record for fastest time, finishing in 41 days and 8 hours. That equates to an impressive 75 miles per day.
Founder: Sri Chinmoy
Location: Queens, New York
Antarctic Ice Marathon
Races in Alaska and the rainforest may appear difficult, but they fall short of the Ice Marathon, which sees athletes attempt to complete a 100-kilometer marathon across Antarctica. The marathon begins near the South Pole and requires runners to endure temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius on average. The elevation is 3,000 feet, and the course circuit is 25 kilometers long, which participants will complete four times. The path is clearly signposted, and there is assistance available, so nothing too risky is likely to occur.
There is a minor registration cost if you are inclined to participate. Signing up costs $17,900. This includes being flown from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Antarctic base camp. You also get three meals a day, lodging, and limitless hot beverages. Aside from the obvious difficulties of running a marathon in subzero weather, there are additional considerations to consider. For example, most runners who are unfamiliar with these conditions overdress. They begin to sweat once they are out on the ice and snow. The severe cold then freezes the sweat, increasing the danger of hypothermia. There’s also a high risk of sunburn because there’s no shade and the sun reflects off the snow and ice. Needless to say, this is not a race for the faint of heart.
Founder: Richard Donovan and Polar Running Adventures
Established: January 28, 1995
Location: in the interior of the Antarctic
The Badwater Ultramarathon claims to be the world’s toughest footrace, and it has a fair case for it. The race begins in Death Valley, California’s Badwater Basin. There are 282 feet below sea level there. The race travels 217 kilometers (135 miles) to Mount Whitney, which rises to 8,360 feet above sea level. All of this, plus mid-July Death Valley temperatures that have reached 57 degrees Celsius at times. With a record high temperature at the starting line in 2018, 30 racers dropped out.
Runners must learn how to deal with the extreme conditions. Dehydration can be fatal, and even means of staying cool might be hazardous. All runners must travel with a crew, and water must be provided at all times. Ice water melts quickly, and many runners carry ice on their bodies, which can be dangerous as it melts and causes chafing. The road gets so hot that even shoes have melted. Runners can finish the race in 20 to 40 hours and consume 65 liters of water or more during that time. Along the way, runners may suffer from heat exhaustion and other severe side effects. Hallucinations are not uncommon. One runner who finished the race in 2019 reported falling asleep a few times while running.
Founder: Chris Kostman
Location: Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley