Most extreme sports are a test of skill, physical ability, and courage. Still, no sport has ever made me feel like it was designed to spite me and to cheer me on at the same time the way that obstacle course racing does. This sport demands a great deal of endurance, strength, skill, and determination to compete in, and the courses are designed to make you question how you make your life decisions with mid-race thoughts like “Why in the world did I sign up for this?”.
Obstacle course races like the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, and Spartan Race are different brands of obstacle course races but they all have the same core principles. Racers compete against one another to finish obstacles as quickly as they can and they are also required to run long distances to get to these obstacles. These obstacles come in many varieties, from crawling under barbed wire to diving into mud, to climbing 10-foot walls.
Obstacle course races require a lot of strength, endurance, and even agility. As a general rule, if you’re able to carry your own body weight, then you should be able to successfully perform most obstacles. Your training will generally depend on whether you’re competing to rank or you’re simply trying to finish a course. Either way, resistance training, plyometric training, and endurance training are all required. Those who have training in extreme parkour have a big advantage.
Compression clothing is highly recommended as well as OCR-specific shoes like Salomons and even Reebok’s trail running shoes. The distance you’re running will also determine whether you need a hydration pack or not. If you’re going 30 miles, a hydration pack will be required.
Gloves are also important for beginners as there will be a lot of strain placed on your hands. Rope burns are nasty. Wear gloves.
Obstacle course races are held all over the world. You can either drive or commute to the race location. Be sure to keep a map handy, or more likely, you’re going to save a map through Google Maps or Waze on your phone. It’s important to go to the event venue at least a day early so you’re able to get enough rest prior to your race.
Online booking services will be your best friend, but you can also opt to camp out if you’re short on money. While you do save quite a bit of money, it’s important to make sure you have camping basics from places such as Outdoorcommand.com — you need a good night’s sleep to be at your best for race day.
The goal in every OCR shouldn’t be just to finish, but to finish injury-free. Always make sure to get proper rest after a race as it will put a lot of strain on your body. Give yourself at least a week to recover before you begin training for your next race (assuming that you want more). Training too early could exacerbate any injuries you might have sustained and training too late might mean that you lose progress.
Obstacle course races are some of the most physically-taxing extreme sports around. But they are also some of the most fulfilling. Besides the challenge and the glory that awaits every finisher, the bond you develop with the other racers and the sense of being part of a community of tough people is an experience in and of itself. OCR is not for the weak-bodied and weak-willed. If you truly want a challenge, give this sport a try.