U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

The Loop

What kind of race should you run?

May 15, 2017
Marathon runners, Florence

Mark A Leman

If you page back through human history, you’ll find a pretty short list of reasons that people have had to run for long distances, which are all basically some variation of “I was being chased by this thing with blood in its teeth and meat-tearing claws, and what’s with all the questions anyway, Glunk?”

This is, it is logically said, the primary reason our ancestors north on the evolutionary scale developed foot speed in the first place. But in modern times, with the whole hunter-gatherer situation pretty well replaced by a land stuffed with a surfeit of Golden Corrals and/or meat-ish clumps stacked three high and available without your removing yourself from your car, there’s really only one reason people run long distances: they are crazy fools whose brains have been replaced by oatmeal and a deep enjoyment of simply-avoided injury.

Some of us indulge this by running, because when you’re dealing with a thing that basically goes step-step-breathe 400,000 times in a row there’s not a lot of room to get all creative. But there are different kinds of races now: Mud runs, color runs, and our favorite, zombie runs. Which of these would best make your lame boring run more exciting?


Prerequisites: Capacity for self-torture, pasta, some psychological problem you’re metaphorically running away from.

Pro: Free T-shirts, amazing crowd participation, all the free Gatorade you can drink if your throat’s swallowing mechanism works.

Cons: The way your joints stop functioning, the way your “entire gastrointestinal system” shuts down, kind of boring, guaranteed loss to at least 500 Kenyans

Select If: At age 50, you’ll no longer need your knees


Prerequisites: You like running, but you also prize human relationships, 50% of the psychological problems mentioned above.

Pros: They’re like marathons, but you get to keep your toenails.

Cons: The post-race selfies. You know you’ll take 50 of them, why are you even looking at us like that.

Select If: You’re comfortable running 13 straight miles, then being told you just did half of something.

Tough Mudder

Alyson Aliano


Prerequisites: Adventurous spirit, athletic constitution, ability to drink pondwater, enjoyment of running around in footwear that feels like it’s full of applesauce, interest in running with 3,000 other lunatics wearing expressions of primal, jungle-warfare ferocity (note that this is also the case for some of the dudes).

Pro: The extremely satisfying kick of getting to run a grownup obstacle course, discovering the scope and volume of material that can be stored in the human ear.

Cons: You will almost certainly contract dysentery.

Select If: You’ve ever thought “races are fun, but I’d really rather be swimming through a municipal drainage pipe.”

Two happy men standing together after completing a mud run challenge

Jodie Griggs


Prerequisites: Fear of death, calmness under pressure, ability to keep a straight face when someone tells you how much he trains…. trains!

Pros: Zombies are slow as shit, everyone knows that. Let’s get some werewolves out here already.

Cons: Tough to be afraid of zombies jumping out at you when you’re rocking some Pitbull on your Beats headphones.

Select If: You’d like to pretend you’re in a horror movie, just one that takes place in broad daylight at 6 p.m. and starts in the parking lot by the Piggly Wiggly.


Prerequisites: Charity involvement, shirts you don’t like.

Pros: Generally attached to a good cause, friendly camaraderie, makes you look like a member of the Insane Clown Posse.

Cons: Some people don’t like getting dye thrown at them, or looking like a member of the Insane Clown Posse.

Select If: You like the look of tie-dye, but would prefer to make the process more complicated and sweaty


Prerequisites: Runner friends, iron constitution, like three days off in a row, ability to split work among a group, ability to overlook when the slowest one of your group pulls a hammy getting out of the van the night before.

Pros: Brings people together, builds bonds and togetherness.

Con: I mean just the being trapped in a van with sleepless sweaty people for 48 hours.

Select If: You thrive on the solitary pain of running, but would like to share it with others