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Desert Companion

Leisure: Run 'til it hurts(or bleeds)

Mud, sweat and tears: Warrior Dash

Freezing water. Barbed wire. Electrified mud holes. Hell on Earth? Nah, it’s just the latest craze in extreme sports: obstacle runs. Runners looking to shake up monotonous marathons and tired triathlons are turning to hurdle-packed mud races to test their physical — and mental — mettle. Events such as Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are all the rage — and now they’re bringing their mud, sweat and tears to Southern Nevada.

Scared? Don’t be. Organizers insist that these messy mad dashes are friendly to newbies and amateurs as well as seasoned runners.

“It’s an attainable activity for novice and intermediate runners, and a nice change of pace for marathoners,” says Reese Hale of Run For Your Lives (runforyourlives.com). Plus, costumes are strongly encouraged. (Be careful what you wear, though. Ever tried to leap over flaming logs without your tutu catching fire?)

There’s a method to the madness. These races are usually off-road, and most are 5K (3.1 miles) in distance, with 10 to 20 obstacles. Some events go beyond insane obstacles and bump up the adrenaline rush. Tough Mudder (toughmudder.com) requires participants to sign a death waiver to run their 10- to 12-mile courses. Run for Your Lives has competitors evading volunteer “zombies” while navigating cargo nets, hay bales and giant water slides.

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What can possibly be the appeal? It’s not just about fitness — it’s also about having a shared, intense bonding experience.

[HEAR MORE: Meet the blind marathon runner  on “KNPR’s State of Nevada.”]

“Participants are looking for an experience they will never forget, and we create that with our challenging course, best-in-class obstacles and festival atmosphere,” says Kendra Alley of Warrior Dash (warriordash.com), coming in October. There’s a fantasy element as well. We may never see an actual zombie apocalypse, but you can live it with Run for Your Lives. “(There’s the) added motivation of being chased,” says Run for Your Lives’ Hale.

And don’t forget the post-race party. Most races feature a beer garden at the finish line, where runners are rewarded with a frosty brew as well as refueling options from sauce-oozing barbecue to turkey legs of prehistoric proportions. Best of all: bragging rights around the water cooler from all that self-induced suffering.

The rocky outcroppings of the Vegas Valley have made it an increasingly popular locale for obstacle races. Upcoming events include Dirty Girl Mud Run Feb. 23 (godirtygirl.com), St. Patty’s Day RhinO-Course 5K March 16 (rhinocourse.com), Devil Dash March 22 (devildash.com), Super Spartan April 6 (spartanrace.com), Mad Mud Run April 27 (madmudrun.com) and BADASS Dash May 25 (badassdash.com). Lace up your kicks — preferably a fireproof pair.

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