Getting down and dirty in the name of filthy fitness is gaining popularity in Central Alberta.
Picture an off-road race where participants are asked to complete military-style obstacles while running through muddy terrain over a distance between five kms and 14 kms.
That’s the basis of the Mud Hero and the Spartan Race coming to Red Deer for the first time this summer.
“Who doesn’t love to play in mud?” says Sylvan Lake’s Darrell Elsbett who is drawn to these adrenaline-infused races because of the fun factor and the chance to be a child again.
“You jump in the mud without even thinking about it just like when you were a kid again playing in the mud, jumping over walls and all the good stuff,” said the 41-year-old father of two.
Blackfalds athlete Tracy McAuley who is no stranger to getting dirty will be testing her physical and mental strengths at both races in Red Deer.
The 39-year-old proved she was “tough as nails” when she finished her first Spartan Race in Calgary last summer.
“The Spartan is tough,” said McAuley.
“It draws on everything. It’s not just arm strength. It’s not just your endurance. It’s a bit of everything.”
In order to train for her upcoming races, McAuley runs a little and does a few crossfit workouts at Ignite Fitness in Red Deer.
And she likes to throw some burpees into the mix every now and then.
Typically when a participant fails to complete a Spartan Race obstacle like moving across a 30-foot muddy monkey bar, he or she will be penalized 30 burpees before he or she is permitted to move on to the next obstacle. McAuley admitted she has done her fair share of burpees.
“To be able to set a goal and accomplish it was great,” said McAuley. “The Spartan motto is — You will know at the finish line.
“It’s so true. You really do. It’s such a great feeling crossing the finish line knowing that you made it.”
At first blush the races can be intimidating for the average runner or coach potato but Elsbett says anyone can do them with a little training. He said the mud races can be as competitive as you want them to be and encourages those looking to step it up to try the Spartan races.
They were designed by a Royal Marine and seven ultra endurance athletes.
Competitor Becky Murray raised a few eyebrows when she ran the Mud Hero in Kananaskis while she was seven months pregnant and the Spartan Race in Calgary a month later.
“The reactions from people seeing a big pregnant lady running around and crawling through the mud was hilarious,” said Murray, 26, of Red Deer. “I remember a group of girls walking that I passed saying, ‘Did I just get passed by a pregnant chick?’” It was awesome crossing the finish line for both those races, knowing I accomplished more than most people would do not pregnant.”
Murray says there’s no better feeling than doing a bunch of crazy challenges and rolling around in the mud with your friends.
“These kinds of races kind of make you feel bad-ass once you complete one,” said Murray.
“Who wouldn’t want that feeling?