Getting down at the Dirty Dash.

We all know the long-term benefits of running—stronger heart and lungs, longer lifespan, calorie zapper—but it's hard to appreciate the cardiovascular boon of runnning when watching TV is more fun. Around 2005 (depending on who you ask), some entrepreneurial souls realized that the general populace preferred 5 Guys burgers to 5Ks, and it set out to inject some excitement into the asphalt doldrums of road racing.

From these efforts came the Mud Run, along with a number of its ideological offspring Utah hosts throughout the summer months. These races utilize a classic formula for success that every child knows: The dirtier you are, the more fun you're having. Today, mud runs and obstacle races vary in difficulty from 3-mile romps to 48-hour dates with Hell. Here are standouts:


Celebrating after completing the Kiss Me Dirty.

KISS ME DIRTY // 3.1 MILES

Kiss Me Dirty is a 5K designed to get women of all ages and athletic abilities "off the couch and having fun together." It's a zany contest that doesn't reward finishing first, but who has the best team name, best costumes or happens to be the oldest participant. In this spirit of competition, men are only allowed to participate by joining the Drag Race, a vanguard wave of 170 Y-chromosomes dressed in their best "Chick Suit." If properly attired, these contestants will be given all the race-day rights and privileges of the ladies running with them.

June 29 at the Golden Spike Fairgrounds in Ogden and Aug. 24 at the Salt Lake Co. Equestrian & Events Center in South Jordan, kissmedirty.com

DIRTY DASH // 3.5 to 5.5 MILES 

The folks at the Dirty Dash are happy to suggest their 175-foot slip n' slide as a suitable alternative to a brush with the afterlife. The 5.5-mile course is one of the longer mud runs in Utah, but the designers snuck in a shortcut if dashers only want to tackle 3.5 miles. The metaphors of the Dirty Dash—hog wash, piglet lunge, pig sty—give dashers an idea of how they'll feel after slogging through miles of earthy goop. Though the race is untimed, organizers encourage participants to "stay out of the way of those crazy runners," as the competitive fire of some athletes can only be quenched by the water balloon barrage at the finish line. The Dirty Dash is family-friendly, with activities for kids 2 and up, but scrambling up "mountains of sludge" will still pose a challenge if you don't take the easy way out. If you enjoy fun, friends and filth, there's no more awesome race than the Dirty Dash.

June 8 and Sept. 14 at Soldier Hollow in Midway, thedirtydash.com


Competitors climb a wall obstacle during the Spartan Beast.

SPARTAN BEAST // 12 MILES 

If the racing equivalent of a Saw movie sounds like your kind of event, you'll never find a better match than the Spartan Beast. It takes everything competitors know about mud runs-trail running, obstacles, and of course, copious amounts of mud—then lights it on fire, wraps it in barbed wire and beats the racers for a dozen miles. Sound brutal? For even the fittest athletes, it is. 

No two Beast races are alike, and no details about the devious course are revealed until race day, when runners meet the 25-plus obstacles with 12 miles standing between them and the finish line. There are some constants: precarious stretches of rope over icy water pits, mud crawls under barbed wire, heavy objects that need lifting and the barbarous moment when paid professionals knock you on your butt as you stumble towards the finish line. 

This beast requires you be in the best shape of your life—or close to it. Either that, or your compulsive love of race swag will have to sustain you to the T-shirt, free beer and finisher medal that await.

June 29 at Soldier Hollow in Midway, spartanrace.com.

There's more to a fun run than mud. Here are some other 5K spinoffs.

COLOR ME RAD

If the annual Festival of Colors turned into a 5K it would be known as Color Me Rad, and it would be awesome. Eye protection is recommended. June 22 in SLC, colormerad.com

FOAM FEST

The Foam Fest will drag you through the mud before sending you through their human car wash. You have to be dirty before you can get clean, right? Sept. 28 in SLC, 5kfoamfest.com.

NIGHT OF THE RUNNING DEAD

What's your personal best for a 5k? We bet it's at least two minutes faster with a zombie running you down. Oct. 12 in SLC, undeadrace.com

LEGACY MIDNIGHT RUN

A race that requires glowsticks and flashing wristbands? The only thing making it cooler is the late-night start time. Race distances include half-marathon, 10K and 5k. July 19 in Farmington and June 28 in Provo, legacymidnightrun.com.

Next>>>Meet the Spartan, and Get the Gear

Back>>>Read other stories in our June 2013 issue.