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Written by Ann Gibson for Matcha in partnership with OrthoCarolina.

Remember when you were a kid and swinging on monkey bars was part of the routine at recess and splashing through the mud was fun? On a dare, you’d jump in an icy cold lake, never even considering temperature, wind chill, and hypothermia risk.

Take the free-spirited play of childhood, mix it with heaping helpings of adrenaline and competitive drive, and you have one of the hottest trends in fitness and competition events. Adventure racing amps up those playground challenges you remember so fondly, with technical terrain, monster walls, deep mud pits, and marathon distances for a total body challenge that demands strength, grit, and iron resolve.

What draws people to adventure racing is the variety and novelty. You’re battling the elements and your own fears, along with physical challenges that test your body in unexpected ways. There’s less repetition than distance running and less structure than triathlon. It may be best described as organized chaos that’s high on teamwork without the focus on a personal win. And it’s that camaraderie that keeps adventure racers coming back.

With its abundance of outdoor venues, Charlotte boasts a growing adventure racing community, and local races include everything from family-friendly and women’s races to punishing distance events for seasoned race veterans. Crossing the finish line is the goal, and there’s a supportive group of adventure athletes ready to help you get there. Start training with our guide to Charlotte’s top adventure races.

Spartan Sprint Charlotte

Porter Farms in Concord is the site of the Charlotte Spartan Super & Sprint Weekend in April. The course is moderately flat and technical, with 20 obstacles over three miles on the sprint and up to 29 obstacles over eight to 10 miles on the super course. Teams of four or more get ranked, and the weekend also includes half-mile, mile, and two-mile races for kids.

Warrior Dash NC

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The Warrior Dash, at Historic Rural Hill in early June, is a perfect event for first-timers and early-season training. You’ll navigate cargo nets, flames, swinging planks, ziplines, and floating islands on your way through the one-mile, 5K, and 10K courses, with a DJ, beer garden, and food at the finish.

Muddy Princess

For women only, the Muddy Princess 5K at Porter Farms in September throws mud, tire towers, cargo nets, mud, barrels, and more mud at you for up to 20 obstacles over 3.1 miles. Compete solo or with as big a team as you can pull together.

Savage Race

Run the wooded hills near Reedy Creek Nature Preserve in the Savage Race in June. The five- to seven-mile standard course includes more than 27 obstacles, while a Savage Blitz option starts you out on a course with about 20 obstacles over three miles. Tube crawls, fire jumps, slippery wall climbs, and a lumberjack carry are just a few of the challenges you and your team will face.

Bonefrog Charlotte

This Navy Seal-designed obstacle race at Porter Farms in October has options for kids, beginners, ultra athletes, and everyone in between. The Bonefrog packs in an unrelenting series of up to 50 obstacles over three-, six-, and nine-mile courses, with options for quarter-mile and half-mile kids events and a timed endurance race of as many laps as you can cover.

Ride & Seek MTB Adventure Race

An adventure race for mountain bikers, Ride & Seek in early March, puts your team of two on the tight and technical singletrack mountain bike trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a race against the clock to checkpoint stations all over the 40-mile trail system.

Mud Factor Charlotte

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Mud crawls, net crawls, and wire crawls put you face down in the dirt in the Mud Factor 5K, a family-oriented beginner race at Hodges Family Farm in August. You and your kids can register as a team, or adults and kids can compete in separate waves and cheer each other on from the sidelines.

Insane Inflatable 5K

If you want obstacles without the mud, the Insane Inflatables 5K at Historic Rural Hill in September is for you. The entire 3.1-mile course is like an extended bounce house, with ball mazes, inflatable climbing walls, slides, and oversized inflatable towers and balls designed to knock you off your feet.

The Scrambler Obstacle Trail Race

The Scrambler in early October pits you and your teammate against a series of obstacles set up on the singletrack trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. There’s a three- to four-mile short course for beginners and a six- to seven-mile route for distance runners, with the finish for both at the Whitewater Center Fall Festival. Get extra props, and maybe even an award, for best costume.

Long Creek Adventure Race

Get a taste of backcountry navigation in the Long Creek Adventure Race, a foot, bike, and paddle event over 40-60 miles of forests, fields, and rivers at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in late November. Enter solo or compete as a team of two or three, using a map and a compass to locate a series of checkpoints with the most efficient route you can find. For beginners, there’s a free adventure race clinic the Friday before the race to cover map and compass navigation and plotting UTM points with a map protractor.

Written by Ann Gibson for Matcha in partnership with OrthoCarolina.

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