You're asking and I'm answering.
The Olympics inspired me to get out and race, but I am looking for something more fun than just running. I would like to do some kind of obstacle race or fitness challenge. I guess I am looking for the thrill of adventure with a fitness element. Can you help me find a race?
— East Coast Adventure Gal
Wow! Sounds like you are looking for something that is a cross between parkour and an open water swim. The craziest race I could find was the Nettle Warrior Tough Guy race in the UK with obstacles like burning bales of hay, electric fences, and icy streams. Nettle Warrior also has the Guy Gorilla race on Feb. 1, 2009, but sounds like you want some stateside options, so read more.
- For serious fitness competition, there is the Navy Seal Fitness Challenge. The event combines a 500-yard swim, calisthenics (read: pull-ups and more!), plus a 1.5-mile run. You can participate in Chicago, San Antonio, LA, and Dearborn, MI.
- The Urban Dare is part photo treasure hunt, part trivia, and part dares. The dares are mental or physical challenges such as climbing a wall, shooting a few baskets, solving a riddle, or eating something, but nothing slimy like you see on Fear Factor.
- Urbanathlon is sponsored by Men's Health in Chicago on Oct. 18 as well as NYC on Sept. 27 (but this date is already sold out), and it is not just for the dudes. The entrance fee is $90, but you get a month's free membership to Crunch gym for training. This race is an urban obstacle course that uses features of the city to create challenges.
- Rat Races are urban adventure challenges that take place all over the UK. Participants run, mountain bike, and kayak as they navigate a course revealed hours before the race begins. These could be an excuse to travel to the other side of the Atlantic without having to endure the downright craziness of the the Tough Guy races I mentioned above.
- City Chase is an urban adventure laced with challenges designed to test not only your physical abilities, but your mental and spiritual ones as well. It is part obstacle course, and part scavenger hunt.
Hope you can fit one of these races into your schedule. If any of you have an "alternative race" to recommend, please share the details in the comments section below.