A trend has swept the country, leaving people covered in mud, exhausted, and in incredible shape. Obstacle course-style races are a brilliant way to push yourself to the limit- and feel like a badass afterwards. Competitors at times crawl under barbed wire, leap over sky-high walls, and dash down treacherous hills of rocks and mud.

These races not only push your physical limits, but they boost your self-confidence. Not to mention the Instagram worthy photos that get posted afterwards: get covered in mud, hang a victory medal around your neck, and show all of your friends that you fought the course- and won.

Who’s running these races?

According to Running USA, more runners participated in non-traditional races than traditional events, such as half-marathons and marathons.

Director of Running For Adidas America, Mikal Peveto, says society’s shift toward a more localized lifestyle is at the root of non-traditional running events. He claims,”Today, the fastest growing events in the sport aren’t established marathons, but things like obstacle course races and the Tough Mudder, which are all very community based.”

Why do they run them?

Unconventional way to network: Some races, like Tough Mudder, actually encourage teamwork and camaraderie. In some cases you’ll need to boost each other over that climbing wall. It sure puts a new spin on the term “networking.”

“The atmosphere was fantastic.” Stuart Heritage reported of the Tough Mudder Race in his blog, The Running Blog. “So much effort goes into reinforcing the notion of teamwork and camaraderie that there wasn’t a trace of the sniffy competitiveness you often get at those things.”

Running is less expensive: Yes, these races come with a participation fee. But the sport of running has seen a growth in popularity because it’s dirt cheap. Just a pair of sneakers and shorts can get you in shape for the next race.

The goal is just finishing: Fun-runs and obstacle races are popular among those who like to compete with themselves. Many of these courses are so daunting that beating your competitors is the last thing on your mind. Just crossing the finish line is victory enough.

“I do believe that it is important for people to push themselves, and that our culture is way too coddled,” said extreme sport expert and blogger Kim Kircher on Seeker. “It makes you afraid to try things and unable to grow.”

A Breakdown of the Trendiest Races

These races are popping up across the country. Every race has its own level of physical demands. Are you a Color Runner, or are you looking for an Ironman-sized challenge? Here are some of the options:

Tough Mudder

With some of the most psychologically challenging obstacles in the business, Tough Mudder makes a big deal of teamwork and camaraderie: many obstacles seem to be designed to require a helping hand to overcome.

Sign up for Tough Mudder>>

Spartan Race

Perhaps one of the most competitive of the races, this course is timed with cash prizes at stake. The obstacles are unpredictable, the first aid is sparsely placed. You don’t need to pretend to be a Spartan; by the end you’ll practically be one.

Sign up for Spartan Race>>

Ironman Triathlon

Said to be the “granddaddy of all endurance races,” the Ironman is for the most hardcore of the bunch. You are allotted 17 hours to complete the course. Enough said.

Sign up for Ironman>>

Run For Your Lives

Can you escape the zombies who lurk near the obstacles and try to steal your three “health” flags from you at this unique 5k race? You can skip an obstacle, but then you’re considered a zombie and become ineligible for prizes.

Sign up for Run For Your Life>>

Survival Race

Claiming to “put the fun in fitness,” The Survival Race reaches out to those who might feel intimidated by some of the hardcore obstacle races. They fashion their 5k course so that average people can conquer the obstacles and have a good time in a family friendly atmosphere.

The Color Run

An event series and 5K paint race that was inspired by the Hindu festival of Holi. Runners come dressed in white shirts, and often other colorful garb, ready to get covered head-to-toe not in mud or bruises, but in all colors of the rainbow.

Sign up for Color Run>>

More Races

Savage Race

Cupid’s Undie Run

Rugged Maniac