Remember when blisters, sweat, and swamp-ass were sufficient badges of honor after a grueling race? Not anymore. Today’s weekend warriors aren’t happy unless they’re covered in mud and muck (and various other questionable substances) at the end of a competition.

Playing Dirty — Hello Mudder

Beer Runs

After months of stringent prerace training and diet plans, it’s no surprise that many runners reward themselves with a cold beer after a long race. Which means it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the ingenious idea of enjoying the celebratory brew during the race. In the most basic format of a “beer mile,” competitors run four laps around a standard quarter-mile track, chugging a beer after each lap. North American beer miles typically require runners to drink a 12-ounce can and keep it down — a penalty lap is charged for vomiting. It’s a far messier affair in the United Kingdom, where runners gulp down a full imperial pint after each lap, and bringing it back up is perfectly acceptable.

If that sounds like your average Saturday night, then you can sign up for one of the various 5K versions throughout the States where a beer is typically chugged after every kilometer. Or head to Germany for the Bierathlon, an annual race in which a two-person team attempts to carry and consume a crate of beer before crossing the finish line. Cheers!

The Warrior Dash

Mud runs are every-freaking-where right now, so it’s hard to imagine that less than five years ago, they were an innovative concept. The Warrior Dash kicked off in 2009 with the hopes of luring newcomers into the 5K circuit via mud-covered camaraderie. The concept was pretty simple: Take a boring old 5K; throw in some wall climbs, trenches, and mud pits; and finish off with live music and a killer postrace party. It turns out runners with dirty minds were an untapped market-the inaugural race sold out, and last year’s series of races drew in more than a million runners. Red Frog Events, the company behind the Warrior Dash, has added two spin-offs. The Iron Warrior Dash amps up the distance to 15 miles, and the Urban Warrior Dash replaces the mud pits with city-inspired obstacles, like crossing a full Dumpster on a narrow beam. (Suddenly the mud pits don’t sound so bad.)

Tough Mudder

According to the event’s website, “Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run.” How tough is it? Well, we’ll put it this way: On one particularly bad Tough Mudder race day in April 2013, the local hospital reported a fatality, two heart attacks, an electrocution, and a near-drowning, as well as numerous minor injuries.

If you’re wondering why anyone would sign up for that kind of torture, you’re not alone. The Tough Mudder was conceived by a Harvard student for the school’s annual business-plan contest, but professors doubted he could convince 500 people to sign up. The business plan didn’t get past the semifinals of the contest, but now tens of thousands of people show up for each race, and the Tough Mudder Facebook page has 3.4 million followers. But don’t let its popularity fool you into thinking this is a warm-and-fuzzy fun run. With obstacles designed by British Special Forces — such as greased monkey bars, mud-filled tube slides, a fire pit, and a field of live wires (no, really) — a little dirt is the least of your problems.

Zombie Races

We’ve got zombie movies, zombie TV shows, zombie flash mobs, zombie weddings, and even an official zombie-preparedness page at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It was only a matter of time before the walking dead invaded the running world, too. Across the country, zombie races like Run for Your Lives events are putting a gory twist on the standard 5K-runners are typically given three flags to protect as they race through obstacles like blood pits and mazes, all while being chased by hordes of zombies. (Another popular race, the aptly named Zombie Run, offers a slightly more low-key, obstacle-free, intro-to-zombies vibe.) In a zombie race, however, speed isn’t necessarily your friend, as leading the pack just means you’ll face the finish-line zombies alone; runners are forced to rely on strategy and teamwork to survive. One bonus? Regardless of whether you make it out alive or undead, many zombie runs include a wild apocalypse party after the event, which is the perfect place to use the pickup line: “If you and I were the last two people alive after a zombie apocalypse…”

The Color Run

If you’ve ever felt that running a 5K would be better if people were pelting you with paint, you’re in luck. At this fairly new entrant to the fun-run trend, runners are blasted with a different color of brightly dyed cornstarch at the kilometer markers. It was launched in early 2012 by a triathlete in Utah who wanted to attract first-time runners with a nonthreatening race. His plan worked — more than 60 percent of Color Run entrants are 5K virgins. There are no winners here, and not just because runners will spend the next few days digging sticky cornstarch out of every orifice. The event isn’t timed, so there are literally no winners. In its second year, the series is expected to attract more than a million runners — which is proof that everyone loves a hot mess.

Tuna Tossing

The name of this competition is vaguely cunnilingual, but don’t get your hopes up — they’re really just throwing dead fish around. Every year, the Southern Australian city of Port Lincoln host The Tunarama Festival, a weekend of festivities promoting the local tuna-fishing industry. The festival also features a prawn toss and keg rolling, but the highlight is the tuna toss, in which participants find out how far they can hurl a frozen 20-pound (give or take) fish. We can only imagine what several tons of tuna would smell like in an open field in the middle of a sweltering Aussie summer, but that doesn’t deter people from lining up for a chance at the World Championship title and $3,000.

The competition actually attracts some well-respected Australian athletes — turns out it’s an easy crossover sport for elite-level hammer throwers. Olympic hammer thrower Sean Carlin set the record in 1998 with a toss of 37.23 meters; this year, Aussie hammer-throwing record-holder Tim Driesen won the men’s competition with a distance of 30.26 meters.


Be an unrepentant voyeur and Dirty Girls 5K.

This race is for women only — and with obstacle names like “You go girl!” and “PMS (Pretty Muddy Stuff),” we doubt you would’ve signed up for it anyway. But if you like to watch girls get covered in mud and hoist one another’s sweaty bodies over eight-foot walls, then pack up the cooler and find a spot along the sidelines. Spectators are welcome.

Cow-Chip Throwing

Here’s a little history lesson: The Midwest pretty much sucked for settlers. With no easy fuel source available in the plains, pioneers resorted to burning dried buffalo poop to heat their homes and cook their food. That meant that autumn was spent loading up their wagons with “cow chips,” and since winning the West was apparently boring as fuck, they made a game out of hurling the cow chips into the wagon. You’d think this would be one of those unpleasant parts of pioneer life that people would like to leave in the past, like dysentery, but in 1970, the town of Beaver, Oklahoma, revived the rancid competition. Now residents flock to the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw to see who can toss their handful of shit the farthest. (Free coaching tip: Throw overhand, not like it’s a Frisbee.) There are more casual competitions throughout the Midwest, including a Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival where, per the festival’s website, “licking your hands is allowed to get a better grip.” That website also features the lyrics to a song called “Poop Scoopin’ Boogie.” You can thank us later.

The Poop Scoot

They say your biggest competition is yourself, but in this bizarre race through Meridian City, Idaho, your biggest competition is a shit-covered tennis ball. Seriously. The competitors don’t actually get dirty here, unless you count sweaty, but its fecal inspiration means we just couldn’t leave it off the list. Runners follow the path of the city’s main sewer line, crossing the finish line at the Meridian Wastewater Treatment Plant. If that isn’t weird enough, the competitors are all trying to outrun a tennis ball that’s floating through the pipes below. Which begs the question: What the fuck, Idaho?

Hog Wrestling

Pigs are basically limited to two wrestling moves: Weigh a lot, and run like hell. But that hasn’t stopped hog-wrestling competitions from popping up around the country. As you can imagine, there are few things dirtier than a full-body embrace with a squealing farm animal. The concept is pretty straightforward: Hop into a mud-filled ring, wrangle a hog into a barrel within the given time limit, and try ta avoid taking a hoof to the face in the process. The pig might be greased for an added challenge, and at some competitions the pig is also the prize-yeehaw!

Gravy Wrestling

Think of this as Jell-O wrestling’s greasier cousin. Every summer in Lancashire, England, contestants dress in fancy garb and grapple in a vat of brown gravy for the honor of taking home the Gravy Wrestling World Championship Trophy. The charity event is all in good fun — in fact, referees will stop a bout if either competitor seems to be taking things too seriously. Points are rewarded for the usual takedowns and reversals but also can be earned for getting a laugh from the crowd — or deducted if you act like a dick. Showers are provided at the end, courtesy of a fire hose. Is it wrong that we’re suddenly craving shepherd’s pie?

Greasy Pole

If you still have a bit of post-traumatic stress from the rope climb in gym class, you might want to steer clear of these slippery competitions. The concept is pretty simple — grease up a pole, and either climb it or cross it — but it’s become a surprisingly global phenomenon, with several variations held around the world. During La Tomatina festival in Spain, competitors attempt to scale a greasy pole to claim a ham from the top. The U.S. Naval Academy greases up the Herndon Monument each year and challenges plebes to replace a hat at the top. Other greasypole climbs have been held in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Australia, and beyond. And in a horizontal version held each year during the St. Peters Fiesta in Gloucester, Massachusetts, contestants attempt to cross a greased-up telephone pole suspended over the water to capture a flag. If you’re envisioning oily feet, broken noses, and splinters in unmentionable places, you’re not far off.

Bog Snorkeling

A peat bog is a sludgy, spongy area of stagnant water-picture a swamp that’s been clogged with rotting plants. In other words, not exactly the ideal place for a quick swim. But every August, more than 200 brave souls grab their snorkels and flippers and head to the tiny Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells, where the bog-snorkeling world championships are held. Competitors swim two lengths of a 60-yard trench dug through the muck, and standard swim strokes are prohibited — swimmers have to rely on their flippers to power through the peat. For the truly masochistic, the town has added a bog-snorkeling triathlon: a seven-and-a-half-mile run through the hills, the 120-yard bog swim, and a 19-mile mountain-bike course. How does one prepare to plunge into the swampy waters? One former triathlon champ’s wife said, “Dan spent the months prior to the event flushing his head down the toilet to get acclimatized.” Sounds about right.

As it turns out, several of these events have quit their dirty ways. sadly. However, should you still wish to Get Your Mud On — or whatever filth of choice you can find Tough Mudder still going strong with 550k followers on IG. People still turn out for Bog Snorkeling as well as Cow Chip Throwing (because some people never had to work with cows as part of their summer jobs), and even Tunarama made a come Post-COVID, 2023, comeback. You can also still do a Color Run should you desire, but honestly that looks very messy, and we’re still not sure how everyone keeps from being blinded. Very pretty to watch virtually, though.

Have Something to Add?