I would consider myself to be in decent shape - I run a couple times each week and go on the occasional South Mountain hike, but on Saturday I watched as nearly 2,000 people showed me up and put my workout to shame.

If I could redo my New Year's resolution (or maybe three or four years running) it would be to do one of the increasingly popular obstacle course, mud runs and not totally embarrass myself. On Saturday at Rawhide in Chandler there was an 8-mile marathon obstacle course complete with fire, mud and people brave enough to do it.

The event was called the Spartan Race and it brought in people from around the state and the country. There is something about these obstacle course runs that has garnered so much interest from the athletic public and if I were to venture a guess, I would say it is because it is a raw test of a person's physical ability.

"I've never done something like this before, so I am just hoping I finish strong," Omar Alvarez, a junior at Mountain Pointe, said before the run. "I'm just going to push myself."

There are also the people who push themselves, take down a challenge, and come back asking for more.

"The mental challenge is the hardest part," said Nicole Bryant, 28, who traveled from Illinois to do the Spartan Race. "It's just finding out whether or not you can do it."

I would say it boils down to our natural instincts for competition and the survival of the fittest. It's also because humans can be stubborn creatures, when we get challenged to do something, even something as tough as the Spartan Race, it's hard to back down. And these athletic junkies train hard and I wish I knew what it felt like to push through, after eight grueling miles, and cross that finish line.

"It was pretty incredible," said Armando Aparicio, Jr., 20, who is in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska. "There are times when it got difficult. I had to carry sandbags, and they probably weighed about 50 pounds, for a half mile. That was the hardest part. But, yes, I had a goal of two hours and I did it in two and a half, so it went pretty well."

When you think about it, if you did 8 miles in two hours, that works out to 15 minutes per mile. It doesn't seem that bad, but adjust it for stops to lift weights, runs knee-deep in mud, and a dude spraying you with a fire hose right before the finish line and, suddenly, you can see why a guy like Aparicio, someone in top physical shape, finished it in closer to 20 minutes per mile.

I don't think the mud runs and obstacle courses are just the trend of the week. In Arizona the past year, there were at least three of these courses. Including the Spartan Race, the others were the Tough Mudder, a 10- to 12-mile course designed by British Special Forces, and the Warrior Dash.

I believe they will be around for some time, because I am going to need a lot to have a chance of finishing.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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