NEW YORK, June 27, 2013—Obstacle races are having a field day; and women’s focused events like the new Mudderella series are getting in on the action. Women’s obstacle events are proliferating thanks to the obstacle racing and women’s running booms.
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 runs, there is no time clock. It’s not about speed, but about teamwork.
“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 helping hands. 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 races in the U.S. and Canada, four in Australia, and three in the U.K.
Obstacle running is 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.
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 Dirty Girl mud run is the largest series with races in over 50 cities nationwide. Other events like the Pretty Muddy Women’s Mud Run and Muddy Mama have smaller footholds in the market with eight and five events respectively around the U.S. Many are still growing, like the Shape Diva Dash, which went from one race in 2011 and four races in 2012 to 10 in 2013.
With an increasingly crowded field, many of the series have a component that differentiates them from the pack.
Most women’s obstacle 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, in six cities in 2013, 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 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.
Many also have strong charitable components, but interpret that in different ways. The LoziLu Women’s Mud Run, in 13 cites around the U.S., 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 events 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.
It’s all part of a common aim to foster camaraderie over competition in a welcoming environment for women. And to attract those ladies who keep turning up at running events in increasingly record numbers. Mudderella may the latest addition to the genre, but it likely won’t be the last.
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.
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