A preview of this year's biggest and baddest obstacle course races

A preview of this year's biggest and baddest obstacle course races

Perhaps the most thrilling way to get a first taste of this burgeoning new style of fitness is by participating in the obstacle course races and mud runs proliferating across the country. Here, we offer a selection of upcoming regional contests of varying intensities and distances. Find the one that's right for your current fitness level, and prepare to be humbled.

National Ninja League competition, Jan. 21

Movement Lab Ohio, 400 Lazelle Rd., Ste. 5

Admit it-you watch American Ninja Warrior on TV and think to yourself, "I could do that." Here's your chance to try. In January, Movement Lab Ohio hosts a qualifier for the National Ninja League finals held in Concord, California, in March. The top three men and women will earn finals spots by jumping, climbing and running their way through this one-stage competition. Pray your confidence is well founded-one fall and you're out. $50–$60. mlabohio.com/events.html

The Reebok Spartan Races, May 20–21

The Wilds, 5600 Zion Ridge Rd., Chandlersville

The notorious Spartan Race has earned a reputation as one of the most grueling obstacle courses in the nation. In Ohio, it sends participants across the prairies, creeks and woodlands of The Wilds conservation park, battling dozens of manmade challenges in addition to the terrain. The Sprint race includes 20–23 obstacles over 3–5 miles, and the Beast race covers 30–35 obstacles over 10–12 miles. Hurdling a charging rhino is not one of those obstacles. $139–$184. spartan.com/en/race/detail/1885/overview

Ohio Savage Race June 3

1000 Snow Valley Rd., Zanesfield

At the foot of the Mad River Mountain ski resort, the Ohio Savage Race sets its course along the rolling hills of Zanesfield, where the 5- to 7-mile route includes an elevation change of 1,471 feet. The race features 25 branded obstacles, like Sawtooth, a 35-foot span of ascending and descending monkey bars suspended over water. It's the most difficult aspect of the course, with only a 40 percent completion rate. $71–$121. savagerace.com/?event/ohio-2017

Tough Mudder Kentucky, ?June 3–4

1 Speedway Blvd., Sparta, Kentucky

To the disappointment of Ohio's Mudderers, there's no event scheduled for the state this year; however, the Kentucky iteration of the popular obstacle course will be held just 40 minutes southwest of Cincinnati. Challengers have the option of the Mudder Half (5 miles, 13 obstacles) or the full shebang-10–12 miles of hills, trails, mud pits and more than 20 obstacles. Careful with Electroshock Therapy, an insidious zone of dangling electric wires, some crackling with 10,000 volts. $55–$125 toughmudder.com/events/2017-kentucky

Mud Ninja, July 29

2093 Pricer Ridge Rd., South Salem

Want a compressed version of the obstacle course trend? Mud Ninja offers the chance to battle 25 obstacles in just 5K. Held at the J.L. Parker family farm half an hour west of Chillicothe, this race was the brainchild of Marty Parker, the Dublin man also responsible for many Columbus escape rooms. Conquer a rock wall, a barricade, a tunnel maze and, of course, a mud pit. $40–$75. mudninja.com