Obstacle Race Series Rankings

OCR PodiumHere at Obstacle Racers, we want you to have the best possible obstacle racing experience. We rank every event we run so you can be confident that you’ll enjoy your next race.

Below are our personal rankings of the BEST and WORST races we have experienced (that are still in business). The races on these lists are those we have personally run, and more detailed information may be found in our reviews. If you would like us to review one of your races, contact us to have one of our contributors run an event.

Best of the Best

  • 1. Spartan Race (Beast/Ultra)
  • 2. Tough Mudder
  • 3. Spartan Race (Sprint/Super)
  • 4. Men’s Health Urbanathlon
  • 5. Warrior Dash
  • 6. Hard Charge
  • 7. Mud-Stash
Rankings - Spartan Race Beast & Ultra #1The Vermont Championship in 2012 was one of the most incredible races we have run to date, and there is no way we can keep this on par with the Sprint and Super. This event brings in some of the best racers in the world, and there’s no wonder why: Incredible use of terrain, difficult (though fairly simple) obstacles tailored to elite and everyday competitors alike, and penalties for failing at obstacles make this perfect for athletes looking for a true test. For those not as confident in their abilities, we suggest starting with one of the races below.

Get $10 off a Spartan Race, Use Code: SPEAR10

Rankings - Tough Mudder Cage Crawl #2Tough Mudder has nearly mastered the art of the obstacle course event. Long courses (11+ miles), incredibly innovative and difficult obstacles, good use of terrain, and more. Obstacles incorporate mentally-challenging aspects that set it apart from any other race in the industry, and the focus on camaraderie make it a great race for almost anyone. The electric shock obstacles are always a topic of conversation: Yes, you get shocked… no, it’s not bad at all.

Rankings - Spartan Sprint & Super #3Tough obstacles, great organization, and incredible camaraderie make this series a must-run on any racer’s calendar. The obstacles are not as impressive as the Tough Mudder, but don’t expect a cake walk by any means. The Indiana Founder’s Race certainly did not disappoint, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the longer races stack up.
(Read Reviews)

Rankings - Mens Health Urbanathlon Monkey Bars #4While the Urbanalthon doesn’t sport as many obstacles as other races, they make up for it in race distance and obstacle quality. Obstacles seriously test your upper body and lower body fitness, leaving you begging to get through them and back to the “easy” task of running.
(Read Reviews)

Rankings - Warrior Dash Barbed Wire Crawl #5The perfect “everyone can do it” obstacle course race. If you want to bring a bunch of friends, drink beer, and be goofy, you definitely don’t want to miss this race series. Unimaginative and relatively easy obstacles keep this series from being rated higher.
(Read Reviews)

Rankings - Hard Charge Tires #6Advertised at the first televised obstacle course race, Hard Charge has a small following but is run incredibly well. Sign up for the Charge for Glory waves, where camera crews capture top athletes battling it out on the course, or the Charge for Fun casual race. Championship heats are televised on major networks at a later date. There is no question… this is a RUNNERS’ course: the faster your 5k time, the better you’ll finish. Expect moderate distances between short, rather simple obstacles. This is a great event for runners looking to try out the sport of obstacle racing.
(Read Reviews)

Rankings - Mud-Stash Mud Pit #7This is an all-around fun, well organized race with a great venue and atmosphere. The course is definitely lacking in difficulty but is great for those looking to get into obstacle racing. They had some timing issues during our event, but are definitely learning and improving.

Worst of the Worst

  • 1. Chicago Beachathon
  • 2. Rebel Race
  • 3. 5k Foam Fest
  • 4. Mudathlon

If you consider running between tiny plastic flamingos and around giant beach balls an obstacle course, you need to run one of the races in the “Best” column for a reality check. Poor planning also caused a 2-5 minute backup on the final obstacle if you weren’t in the top 10% of finishers.

More difficult than the Warrior Dash with the option of running either a 5k or 15k course. It lacks the organization and atmosphere of the Warrior Dash, and many people’s times were not registered at the finish line. Expect to see this move up in the rankings if the organizers can get their act together.(Read Reviews)
Don’t be fooled: there is still mud in this Foam Fest… which would be more aptly named the 5k Wait Fest. Inflatable obstacles add a nice touch of originality to this race. However, they allow only a few racers at a time to go through and have the tendency to pop, leading to long backups. If they fix the horrible throughput issues, this could really be a well-ranked series.
The Mudathlon series stumbles onto this side of the list mainly due to a lack of originality. While the race organization was great and the post-race amenities were some of the best we’ve experienced (including a medal that doubles as a bottle-opener), the race itself was simply not memorable… obstacles were short, simple and repetitive.


  1. Done 3 Tough Mudders 2 Spartan Sprints 1 Super Spartan and a Spartan Beast. The toughest and best organised was the Spartan Beast 22K plus I counted 47 Obstacles

  2. I just ran the Rebel Race in NJ on Saturday April 14, 2012 and give it a C-. I paid $55 (the early fee) + $10 for parking. It was not an acceptable race. I have asked for a partial refund. The course was lacking much of the mud one would expect, a bunch of the obstacles were lame, and the water truck at the end had only one garden-sized hose that trickled water for all the runners. Had to wait about 45 minutes to rinse my face and hands. Asking runners to stop-drop-and-roll, or do some push ups, should not be counted as a obstacle. Also, there should be mud in places where a hole was dug!

  3. Done 2 tough mudders and 2 spartan sprints, and i have to respectfully disagree and say that the spartan races were much more challenging, fun, and overall a better experience

  4. Every race has it’s pros and cons. I’ve competed in every Ruckus, multiple local events, and the death Race. it really all depends on the organizer. I think the first priority is safety on obstacles. I’ve ran some I won’t mention and was scared for participants with less seasoned experience.
    The level of difficulty really depends on the I individual. If you are running to have fun have fun! But if your like me and alot of others and haven’T left it all out there and blame the race and it’s organizers. It’s really your own fault for not giving it your all.
    If you pr’d or got close than you know. Give it everything you have every time and don’t stress about the music and after party. As for me. I came to race! Love this stuff! Be the change my friends!

  5. You guys should try running a Rugged Maniac. They are a happy medium between the difficulty of Spartan Race/Tough Mudder and the festival of Warrior Dash.

  6. Never heard of Ruckus before. Going to have to give that one a try. Done everything else.

  7. The Spartan Sprint is absolutely better than the Ruckus, at least in Boston.

  8. I did the Civilian Military Combine in Boston a couple weeks ago. The “pit” element is AWESOME and the organizers had the best water slide that I have seen. The course was muddier than Tough Mudder (probably because of the rain all week) and the obstacles were unique and challenging. The best part was that I didn’t have to help 14 people over a wall before doing it myself, the feel of the entire day was very competitive and fun. The dog tag finishers “medal” and awesome shirts from MuzzleJab made the day well worth the money I spent. I hope that my friends will join me next year though – they are the people I usually help over the walls. Here they are on their own!!

    • I also did the CMC in Boston! It was AMAZING! The PIT was unreal, overall coolest race experience I’ve had, and I’ve been to them all!

  9. Just did Foam Fest…there was very little waiting along the route…it was great fun! I have done 4 of these races in the last 6 months and FF had the shortest waits.

  10. Cant believe savage race didn’t make the cut it is one tough run. I did tough mudder and other than the running it is just as hard if not harder.

    • Thanks for the feedback barber. We’ve heard good things about Savage Race but haven’t had the opportunity to race one yet… which is why it doesn’t appear on the list. We don’t rank races that we haven’t personally run. Hopefully we’ll be able to race one in 2014.

  11. I have run multiple time at “The Survival Race”. Although it is not the toughest course, it is perfect for someone like me to get a start back into fitness. I am 45 and somewhat out of shape. I was able to run this race with my 9 year old son and the experience was life changing. So often, we get lost in life and neglect the commitment to fitness we deserve to give ourselves. The Survival Race had an amazing family atmosphere. It was well run and organized. The staff was friendly and best of all, I felt welcomed amongst the athletes and non-athletes alike. On an extremely positive note, I see my completion time improvements. My first race was 55 minutes. That motivated me to train and my last race was 38 minutes. Not a superstar but still proud. :) Thank you to all race organizers for the incredible experiences you deliver.

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