A MUD RUN is a fun and challenging obstacle course for all fitness levels, athletic abilities, and ages—and once you get dirty, you’ll be hooked.

The first time Brad Vaccaro, 43, participated in a mud run, he was as a spectator. His girlfriend, Danielle Irish, 32, was running a New York State Warrior Dash, a worldwide racing series in which participants brave 12 challenging obstacles, including fire, mud, rope cages, ropes, and walls, over the course of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Although the Warrior Dash is open to everyone, from couch potatoes to novice runners to extreme athletes, Vaccaro, who has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and was a personal trainer and high school sports coach for two decades as well as a gym owner, watched in awe and wondered whether he’d actually be able to do one himself. (Did you know running helps you live longer?)

It took two years before he actually gave it a try. In the interim, Vaccaro designed his own muddy obstacle course and organized his own racing event with the goal of introducing novices, including children, to the sport. That was how Your First Mud Run (the spelling— a mud run vs. mudrun—seems to vary by event) came to be in 2011. Its inaugural event was held at Garrett Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Open to adults and kids ages 6 and up, it attracted 133 participants. Since then, the annual Garrett Mountain event has grown to 600 participants. In addition, Your First Mud Run holds at least nine other mud run events per year, each attracting an average of 300 participants of all ages and athletic abilities, including children in wheelchairs.

“A lot of these people would have been too afraid to try it,” Vaccaro explains, “But it shouldn’t be that way. We do everything we can to make it fun and not intimidating.” Although Vaccaro’s events also attract high-level athletes, he estimates that at least “80 percent are just there to have fun rolling around in the mud, being active, and hanging out with their friends.”

Like many mud runs, Vaccaro’s events are one and a half to two miles long with about eight obstacles or challenges, each of which offers two or three options depending on fitness level. For example, the “Sandbag Carry,” which requires participants to pick up and carry a sandbag for 200 meters or so, offers sandbags of 6, 8 and 10 pounds. According to Vaccaro, the average finishing time is 20 minutes; however participants can take as long as they need, and some take as much as 45 minutes to an hour to cross the finish line. And as you can tell from the photos, they’re loving every filthy, muddy minute.

Vaccaro says he’s “hooked” for the same reason everyone else is: “They’re super-fun, they’re great for groups, they get you outside, and they inspire you to be healthy and fit, challenging your strength and agility as well as your grit,” he says. Vaccaro’s events are designed for families and groups to participate together, for fun and for fundraising. In addition to running his own events, he races in about five other mud runs per year, including the Warrior Dash, the Spartan Race, and the Savage Race.

As far as preparing for your first mud run goes, Vaccaro offers these mud run training tips. And don’t forget to follow up your training with these workout recovery foods.

For a directory of events in your area, check out this mud run guide.

Source: Reader’s Digest Article

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