Toughest Summer Races For the Average Joe

Posted By: The Ski Channel on June 18, 2012 6:18 pm

Let’s face it.  Not everyone has the desire to put in the hours or effort required to run an ultra marathon or mountain bike across the continental United States or dogsled across Alaska—yeah, I’m looking at you, Iditarod.  But many of us work hard to stay in ski-shape and want to challenge ourselves into accomplishing something that will grant us the bragging rights at our next dinner party.  And jogging a 3k just doesn’t afford us that.

Here are some of the toughest races around that you don’t have to devote your life to in order to train for:

Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile obstacle course with features designed by the British Special Forces.  Drag yourself through, over, and around water, ropes, walls, and electric shocks, just to name of few things.  The tagline says it all: Probably the toughest event on the planet.  Want to score badass points with your friends?  Show them the tagline before the picture of you crossing the finish line covered in mud with fire in the background. A picture is worth a thousand words.  Is it hard?  Absolutely.  But is it doable?  You bet!

Tough Mudder Fire Pit

Photo credit: Tough Mudder

The Spartan Race Series was named Best Obstacle Race Series by Outdoor Magazine and has four different distances to choose from, three, eight, 13, or 26+ miles.  This makes it an excellent option for those not quite ready for the physical wear of anything over a 10-mile stretch.  The 26-mile choice is called “The Death Race” for good reason and should be reserved for the elite, this-is-my-purpose-and-I’ll-die-trying athletes.  What kinds of obstacles stand between you and the finish line? According to their website, “fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth.” 

Spartan Race Participant

Photo credit:

Both the Tough Mudder and Spartan Series have stops in several ski resorts, as mountains are part of what makes the events challenging.  Soldier Hollow, Blue Mountain Ski Area, and Killington Resort all have Spartan events coming up.  And Tough Mudder will be stopping at Northstar, Mount Snow, and Whistler.

Marathons and half marathons are difficult, but there are a few that have a few extra factors that make them extreme.  The Rock and Roll Marathon and Half Marathon Series have events all over the country, but the Mile-High City takes it to the next level.  Denver runners are fighting against 5100+ feet of elevation on top of what is already a grueling challenge.  Bands line the course, keeping you entertained along the way ending in a post-race blowout concert.   The artists haven’t been announced yet, but registration is still open for the race on September 22, 2012.

The Run Through Time Marathon and Half Marathon in Salida, Colorado is a hidden gem for runners really looking to test their endurance at altitude.  At around 7100 feet, it is one of the highest races of its kind in the U.S.  Only a little over 300 people enter this race each year making it ideal for anyone who enjoys running the route less traveled than, say, the 14,000+ that participate in the one in Denver.  While this is slightly earlier than summer—minor detail—it is a great way to keep up momentum from skiing as the snow melts and you head into the warmer months.

Run Through Time Marathon

Photo credit:

Make this summer count.  Dive into the mud and fire pits.  Be open to throwing yourself over a wall.  Consider a marathon in the mountains.  Because at the end of the day, you might be the last one to finish, but not everyone can say they’ve hurdled flames or maneuvered around barbed wire or run 26.2 miles.  

Feature photo credit: