Obstacle Course Races For Women: A Run Down

obstacle course races

Mudderella is the newest women’s obstacle race series in town. (Photo: Mudderella)

Obstacle course races are more popular than ever, and ladies are getting in on the action. New obstacle course series like debutante Mudderella are popping up, and existing series like the SHAPE Diva Dash are expanding. Why? Women’s obstacle course races are proliferating thanks to the obstacle racing and women’s running booms. It’s a happy meeting of women who want to run—and jump, and climb, and crawl, and maybe even get a little dirty.

Here’s a run down of the biggest series in the genre, the newest series, what makes each one different, and why they’re so darn popular.

The Obstacle Running Boom Meets The Women’s Running Boom

Obstacle course races are one of the fastest growing trends in the entire sports industry. Forget growth — it’s been more like an explosion. In 2010, approximately 41,000 people entered about 20 obstacle races in the U.S., according to Outside Magazine. By 2012, those 20 events had grown to 150 with 1.5 million people participating. Competitor magazine reports that 2 million people competed in obstacle races in 2012 and the number of obstacle racing events in 2013 will surpass 500.

obsctacle runs, osctacle course races, obsctacle races, 5K

Women run together at SHAPE Diva Dash. (Photo: Adventure Fit)

At the same time, one of the drivers in the current running boom is the participation of women. A record 7.6 million ladies finished a road race in 2011 and women now account for 55 percent of all road race finishers in the U.S., according to Running USA. While men’s participation in road races has not quite doubled since 1990, female participation has increased more than 600 percent in the same time frame, helping to fuel year over year records in road race participation.

It’s no wonder that women-focused events have flourished as a result. In 2011 there were more than 200 women-only events in the U.S., where at least 95 percent of participants were women.

Now, the women’s obstacle running category is booming as well.
The New Mudderella Series

Mudderella officially launched in June as the newest obstacle series for women. Their 5- to 7-mile races have 12 to 15 obstacles designed to test stamina, willpower and strength. Like the vast majority of women’s obstacle course races, there is no time clock. It’s not about speed, but about teamwork.

obstacle course races, women's running, women's obstacle race

Mudderella encourages women to “Own Your Strong.” (Photo: Mudderella)

“We wanted to create an athletic challenge that empowers women to come together, push themselves and gain a memorable experience,” said Cristina DeVito, Chief Executive Officer of Mudderella. “We challenge our participants to own both their inner and outer ‘Strong.’”

Some of the obstacles are even designed to encourage women to help each other. One obstacle called “I Got Your Back” asks runners to carry each other piggyback style. “New Heights” has women help each other over a wall. Other obstacles can be done solo, but with the aid of someone else.

Mudderella will debut in Tamiment, Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains on Saturday, September 21, 2013. Come 2014, Mudderella is rolling out 18 obstacle course races in the U.S. and Canada, four in Australia, and three in the U.K.

Obstacle Course Races For Women: A Run Down of the Biggest Series

The Dirty Girl mud run has the most obstacle course races for women running in over 50 cities nationwide. The LoziLu Women’s Mud Run races in 13 cities around the U.S. SHAPE Diva Dash is still growing. The series went from one race in 2011 and four races in 2012 to 10 in 2013. Pretty Muddy Women’s Mud Run has eight events around the country, Kiss Me Dirty puckers up in six cities in 2013, and Muddy Mama has five events nationwide. Mudderella is starting with one race in 2013 and expanding to 18 events in four countries next year.

obsctacle runs, osctacle course races, 5K

SHAPE Diva Dash bans mud in favor of dirt-free challenges. (Photo: Adventure Fit)

With an increasingly crowded field, many of the obstacle course races try to differentiate themselves from the pack. The industry standard in this category is an untimed, 5K mud run exclusively for women. Let’s break it down and see how some events differ.

Most women’s obstacle course races are 5Ks. That’s where Mudderella is unique by putting on longer races up to 7 miles.

Most are untimed. SHAPE Diva Dash stands out by offering timed competitive waves and prizes for women who want to race, along with untimed starts for non-competitive runners.

Most of the events are women only. Kiss Me Dirty breaks the mould by having a “Drag Race” wave for gents. And Mudderella allows men as long as they’re on a team with women.

Most of the obstacle course races are mud runs. SHAPE Diva Dash, however, bars barbed wire, mud and fire pits — staples of the mud run experience — in favor of obstacles that challenge agility, balance, strength and speed without getting dirty.

obstacle course races, women's running

Mudderella allows men if they’re on a team with women. (Photo: Mudderella)

Many also have strong charitable components, but interpret that in different ways. The LoziLu Women’s Mud Run donates 5 percent of every registration fee directly to LIFE, a charity dedicated to fighting cancer. Kiss Me Dirty gives 5 percent of registrations and 15 percent of expo booth fees to a variety of charities that support gynecological cancer research, most often in the communities where runners are racing. Dirty Girl donates to a range of breast cancer charities and gives up to 300 complimentary bibs at each event to cancer survivors. Mudderella encourages runners to raise money for Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit that aims to prevent and end domestic violence. Participants who raise $250 or more for the charity receive a $25 refund on their race registration.

All of the obstacle course races share a focus on bringing women together in the spirit of community in the guise of a festive, full-day to-do. At Mudderella, the day begins with a “Stretch + Strengthen” warm-up. After the finish, runners can “Rinse + Revive” with showers, food, and music. Runners receive a Mudderella sport band and a cider to toast their accomplishments. Indeed, most of the women’s obstacle runs have post-race parties with food, entertainment and even prizes. Who doesn’t like a good party?

I’ve never run any obstacle course races myself. But I’m certainly curious to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve enjoyed the women’s focused road races I’ve done—NYRR Mini 10K, Disney Princess Half Marathon and Tinker Bell Half Marathon—so a women’s obstacle run sounds like fun.

Have you done any obstacle course races? What did you think?

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ show about running. She has finished six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla at RunKarlaRun.com, The Washington Times Communities, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

About The Author

Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

Other posts by

Author his web sitehttp://runkarlarun.com


07 2013

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I have heard of some of these but not others, thanks for sharing. I haven’t done any obstacle course races, I’m a clutz and worry too much about hurting myself for my other races that matter more to me. Maybe one day!
    Laura recently posted..I’m cheating on my Kinvara’s with the A5’sMy Profile

    • 2

      That’s kind of the same reason I haven’t done any! My husband has done two and he hurt his knee in one two weeks before our big fall marathon. He was still able to run, but had a tough race. He loved the obstacle races he’s done, but regretted the timing. Maybe I’ll do one after marathon season this fall or next spring before hard training begins!
      Karla recently posted..Obstacle Course Races For Women: A Run DownMy Profile

  2. 3

    I did a Warrior Dash with some longtime friends, and I did a local obstacle course near my hometown. Both were fun — I really enjoyed the camaraderie and fussing around with face paint (we were too disorganized to do team costumes) — but I’ll likely leave them as group activities and not routine parts of my sked. My favorite nontraditional races have been a run through a local forest preserve at night and the Woofin’ It 5K with a shelter dog.
    Sadye recently posted..You know nothing, Little Runner!My Profile

  3. 5

    Dare you to do Muderella in your Cinderella costume 😉 Obvious sponsor opportunity for laundry detergent companies!
    Ewen recently posted..Personal BestMy Profile

  4. Deb Kopacko #

    Can I receive the dates for this race for
    2013 & 2014? Thanks!

    • 8

      Deb, just follow the links in the article (in purple) for any of the races you are interested in. That will take you to the race’s website where you can finds dates and more information. Thanks for reading!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Happy Anniversary To My Favorite Running BuddyMy Profile


  1. I'm in SHAPE Magazine! Running Diva Dash Minneapolis with EAS | Run, Karla, Run! 08 04 14

Your Comment

CommentLuv badge