Obstacle course races are growing in popularity, but people don’t know as much about them as your regular 10k or marathon races. Here, we’ve broken down the two most popular event organisers, Spartan Races and Tough Mudders, and then given you some tips about how to prepare for a race.
For those of you wanting a new challenge rather than just another half marathon or triathlon, this is it. It is as tough as you want to make it. You can just do this for fun in an age group or standard entry, or if you fancy your chances you could give the Elite race a go.
You will compete against some amazing people who live and breathe the sport. Even though it is competitive, don’t be surprised if someone holds out a hand for you when you are struggling. You’ve just got to be prepared to do the same in return.
Whether you spend hours in the gym or are a keen runner you will be challenged in every way. In this format you’ll be tested on not only general fitness but strength, coordination, technique and most of all mental resilience to just keep going.
This is as close a comparison to an assault course or steeple chase as it gets. When you have taken part in one of these races, you will never forget it.
If you are doing this for fun, a basic level of fitness or the willpower to finish what you have started will see you through. If you want to compete in the Elite class, a good standard of fitness will be required from running to gym work. The ability to run and lift your own body weight will put you in a good position and make it more enjoyable depending of course on whether you are doing the short or long race. However fit you are, expect a tough challenge.
Did you know?
You can also sign up to a Stadion Spartan Race, where all the obstacles take place within one gladiatorial arena. In London, you can sign up friends and family for the Twickenham event, and compete at the home of English rugby.
We have all heard our friends talk about Tough Mudder and what fun it is. You might be thinking, “Why would someone voluntarily jump down a slide into an ice bath or jump into a mud-filled pit and need pulling out?” Once you have taken part, you won’t be left wondering. You’ll see it as a great team building day out with your friends and have a lot of FUN in the process.
The friendly atmosphere is key to these events. Nobody barges past you trying to shave one second off their time or leaves you stranded in the mud. You’ll be sure to see people smiling and helping each other along all the way round.
All sorts of people take part in these events, and for some it will be one of the hardest challenges they’ve ever taken on, even up to the elite level. Whatever your body type, there will be some obstacles you are better at and some that pose more of a challenge. For example, if you are tall and lean, pulling yourself up might be a struggle and you’ll have to call on your teammates for help. Later on, though, shorter members of the team might need help over the high obstacles, so what goes around comes around. Completing the course as a team is one of the most satisfying aspects of obstacle course racing.
This doesn’t require any pre-existing level of fitness, so prior training isn’t essential, but you will find it more enjoyable if you’ve done a few runs first so you’re not always catching your breath. Remember: you’re only as fast as your slowest team-mate, so help each other along.
Preparation and Training:
Depending on what you result you are wanting or just to avoid injury, a basic level of fitness will help you and make the day more fun. Two runs a week combined with some basic bodyweight exercises will really help.
A basic training program to help you on your way to OCR glory could include:
- Monday: 5km Running (or some kind of cardio vascular exercise for 45 min to an hour)
- Wednesday: Circuit training (or gym work involving body weight exercises)
- Friday: 5km – 10km running, depending on your base level of fitness.
To compete in the Elite class, keep a good balance of endurance and strength: we’ve found that the best way is to combine 2 x 10 mile runs a week with 2 x Body Weight gym sessions. When you take part in these events, it is not just about being strong or super fit but also about being flexible and adaptable so that your body can handle the unexpected.
More and more people find that power yoga really helps here and will help keep your body injury free. It’s no surprise that one of the main slogans of obstacle course racing is “ready for anything”.