Jon Albon, the UK's leading obstacle racer, taking on the Tough Nuts challenge. Photo: Pete Rees

You would have to be living under a fairly large rock to not noticed the rise of obstacle racing.

The likes of Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have lead the charge but there are now a wonderful variety of races around the world to suit every taste.

"We thought it our duty to warn you before you accidentally sign up thinking it'll be a romp in the countryside..."

The race organisers often pitch themselves as being the “toughest" thing you’ll ever face but really they’re just a bit of fun and there’s a good chance that most people will survive and actually have a darn good time.

However, there are a few races that push things that little step further.

We thought it our duty to warn you about them before you accidentally sign up thinking that you’d be having a fun little romp in the countryside...

[part title="Tough Guy"]

Photo: Tough Guy

tough guy

Where better a place to start than at the beginning?

Obstacle racing has been a staple part of military training for many years. It was back in 1987 that it was made available to the public for the first time by Tough Guy in Wolverhampton, England.

Over the last 25 years, the Tough Guy course has developed a legendary status and its magnitude is still unsurpassed.

A large part of the 15km course is a tangled monstrosity of wood, rope, metal and barbed wire that forms punishingly exhausting obstacles, some of which tower up to 40 feet high.

With the event taking place in January, it’s not unusual to have thick ice covering the many lakes and rivers that contestants jump into, swim through and dunk under. Those that aren’t dangerously hypothermic by the end have done pretty well!

Find out how to enter Tough Guy here

[part title="The World's Toughest Mudder"]

Photo: Tough Mudder

We’ve all heard of Britain's Tough Mudder and their 20km obstacle races but once every year they step things up a notch… significantly!

The annual World’s Toughest Mudder challenges contestants to complete as many laps of a gruelling five mile obstacle course as they can in 24 hours.

Obstacles include a huge quarter pipe named Everest, a stretch of 'Hang Tough' suspended rings and a 'Leap of Faith' from a high platform to a suspended cargo net.

Taking place in November, it’s a wet and cold experience throughout, forcing athletes to run for the majority of the time in full wetsuits. Amazingly, the course record currently stands at 20 laps or 100 miles!

Want to get involved? Click here

[part title="Spartan Death Race"]

Photo: Spartan Race

Death Race 2

Spartan Race are best known for their obstacle races that range between 5km and 20km in length around the UK.

The idea is that you progress your way up the ladder of events, achieving more and more as you go.

However, at the very top of that Spartan ladder is where it all gets a little crazy, with their 'Death Race' where contestants are cheerily warned “You Might Die!".

"Racers may spend hours chopping wood, slicing onions or even translating Ancient Greek!"

The event lasts somewhere between 48 and 72 hours but the participants have no idea when it will start and when it will end. They are simply told to arrive at a particular place with a (seemingly random) kit list.

They then face a relentless onslaught of grueling mental and physical challenges that are unique to every race. They might spend two hours chopping wood, carrying huge rocks, slicing onions, crawling through nettles or even translating Ancient Greek.

Participants are expected to fail and very few have ever made it to the end.

Ready to "die"? Find out how here.

[part title="Fuego Y Agua: Survival Run"]

Photo: Zachary Herigodt/See Far Photography

You must agree that "If I get lost, hurt or die, it is my OWN damn fault!" before you're eligible to face Survival Run's brutal 50 to 70km challenges.

At their last race in Texas, contestants started by making their sandals out of sheets of rubber and strips of leather. Making a good job of it was key, because it was all the contestant had to wear on their feet for the next 50km.

"Sandals made of rubber and strips of leather were all contestants had to wear on their feet for 50km"

In Nicaragua, runners were given a raw egg and instructed to run for 3km along a beach and swim half a mile to an island where their unbroken egg would be exchanged for their registration pack.

Once they’d done that, they could return to the start line and face 70km of climbing volcanos, crossing jungles and all kinds of other craziness.

Take on the Survival Run here

[part title="The Nuts Challenge"]

Photo: Pete Rees

Back to a more traditional obstacle race is The Nuts Challenge.

Although their 7km event is filled with fun runners having a great time on a course packed with military obstacles and natural challenges, things get a little more serious when you approach their 28km Tough Nuts challenge in March.

In 2013 only six people finished the challenge, which even stopped the seemingly unstoppable Jonathan Albon, the UK’s leading obstacle racer, who came down with hypothermia.

He returned this year to complete with only 16 others (less than 7% of those that started), some of which spent six hours wading through water, climbing walls and slipping around in churned up clay, with little or no grip.

Sign up for the brutal Tough Nuts challenge here

Pete Rees is the founder of Mudstacle, an independent community website for mud runs, obstacle courses and endurance races. Check out his website here