Top 5 obstacle races in the UK

Run, jump, crawl – and get very, very muddy

Virgin Money Giving

by Virgin Money Giving | Experts in fundraising and taking on crazy challenges for a good cause

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Obstacle courses aren’t just for police training, school sports days and The Krypton Factor – gruelling races for adults have popped up all over the place in recent years. For the vast majority of people, these wet, muddy and intensely exhausting runs would be totally horrendous. But for a small and growing number of dedicated obstacle racers, there’s nothing more satisfying than pushing your body to the limit – and raising money for charity while doing so. Read on for the best obstacle races in the UK.

Tough Mudder

What is it? The name doesn’t lie – this is as tough as it gets. Tough Mudder run obstacle races between 5 and 12 miles long (as well as a non-stop 24-hour annual race in Las Vegas) where you need to work with others to make it round the course. This race isn’t timed, so it isn’t about getting a personal best. Expect to take on 20-plus obstacles, some of which make you nervous just thinking about them (diving into ice, swimming through live electric wires, running over fire) and, as the name suggests, mud in abundance. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Who is it for? You don't have to be mad to run here but it helps. And if you do run, take friends. It’s tough on your own as you need to work together to get over some of the obstacles.

Difficulty rating – 5/5

Find out more about Tough Mudder

The Major Series

What is it? Organised by the team behind British Military Fitness, this event offers a less painful five-mile course with all the mud of a typical obstacle event. It’s classed as a beginner’s event so it’s ideal if it’s your first dip into the muddy waters of obstacle racing. Expect to leopard-crawl under barbed wire, leap through the windows of a ‘burning house’, and find yourself up to your armpits in cold water as you wade, swim and scramble through lakes and bogs. The downside is that there are only three Majors in the country, each taking place twice a year, so you might have to travel some distance to take part.

Who is it for? First-time mud runners.

Difficulty rating – 2/5

Find out more about The Major Series and sign up

Pretty Muddy

What is it? Turn your bright pink T-shirt an earthy shade of brown at Pretty Muddy, a 5k or 10k mud obstacle race organised by Cancer Research. Obstacles include slides, spider webs, cargo nets and tunnels. You should also expect to encounter a large number of pink inflatables.

Who is it for? Any female over the age of 13 is welcome to take part. It’s an entry-level obstacle race; as long as you have decent level of fitness you can take part in the 5k.

Difficulty rating – 1/5

Take part and show cancer you’re putting up a fight

Spartan Race

What is it? A partner of Virgin Money Giving, Spartan Race offers something for everyone, with the minor caveat that you need to enjoy running through deep mud, jumping over very high things and carrying extremely heavy objects. They’ve got races ranging from 5k to 20k and, for the hardcore, 41k and 60k+ ‘Ultra Beast’ courses. Spartan races are timed and there are three core levels (sprint, super and beast) in addition to a junior race for young competitors and, presumably, children who have misbehaved.

Who is it for? Fundraisers. As Spartan’s a Virgin Money Giving partner it’s really easy to raise money for good causes.

Difficulty rating – Various depending on the level

Find out about the various locations at Spartan Races UK

Gauntlet Games

What is it? Do you feel the power of the Gladiators? If so, the Gauntlet Games could be for you. Like the 90s TV game show but with more soapy water and see-saws and less Ulrika Jonsson and pugil sticks, Gauntlet Games is held in four places in the UK but what it lacks in variety of locations, it makes up for in wacky fun. The event offers both 5k and 10k options.

Who is it for? Anyone looking for less mud from their obstacle race.

Difficulty rating – 2/5

Sign up at Gauntlet Games

If you’re big and brave enough to take on a race this year, why not take on the challenge for a good cause?

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