This was my first Mud/Obstacle race ever, so I am afraid I don't have too much to offer in regards to what this race offers vs it's competitors. From what I gather, the Spartan race aims itself at more elaborate obstacles than some of the other races of its kind, and to that end I think they did a great job.
This year was the first for the Richmond location. The terrain wasn't especially hilly, but there were lots of portions through trails, streams, and woods. The obstacles were extremely impressive to me, and there were parts that went through paintball courses in the field, which added a pretty cool element.
The race was run extremely efficiently. The waves were very clear and things moved quickly. There was plenty of help at every obstacle. Aid stations were always full The expo area out front was great. The bad check ran quickly. Really impressive all around.
To anyone on the fence about these types of races, I would highly recommend it. The atmosphere is far more friendly and team oriented than most other races I have done. People are extremely friendly on the course and I enjoyed the race far more than I have others.
Once piece of advice I will give is to try to take a very early time slot. The later it gets, the muddies the conditions become. Also the course gets congested and people move very slow, at times walking. I hesitated to take the earlier "competitive" slots because I thought those people would really be out of my league. I can say, despite the marketing this event does to make it look like only crazy people can do it, most people who cross train regularly could hack it with the competitive waves.
Lastly, if you don't do a crazy move over the fire at the end, then you are just a loser.