Beginners Guide to obstacle racing

Hi there and welcome to what is one of the UK’s newest and fastest growing sports. Commercial obstacle racing (ie outside of a military or training environment) has been around for over 25 years but has really surged in popularity over the last 2-3 years, mainly thanks to the marketing budgets of the two biggest brands on the scene – Tough Mudder and Reebok Spartan Races

What is obstacle racing?

An obstacle course race (or OCR) is an off-road running race with a variety of obstacles thrown in at regular intervals. The addition of obstacles generally make it a more interesting and exciting running experience that will tax not just your leg strength and stamina, but also your upper body, core strength, balance and technique.

If you've ever watched parcour or freerunning and thought – that looks amazing fun, but I’m not nearly athletic or confident enough to throw myself off a building – then this is the sport for you. You’ll get to climb high walls and leap over logs in a reasonably safe environment – then throw yourself into a muddy ditch for good measure!

The obstacle racing world is currently booming - in the US last year, more people took part in Tough Mudder (just one of the many event organisations) than a marathon. Here in the UK there are now more individual obstacle races happening this year than half marathons and marathons combined!

In tunnel

Why take part in an obstacle race?

Obstacle racing has obvious health benefits and is a great way of setting fitness goals but, most of all, they're a lot of fun. Of course there are a handful of people who race seriously and go for the top few places every time, but the vast majority of people are there to have a great time and to enjoy the challenge. It's great to take part with your friends and, of course, reminisce in the pub in the days, weeks and years that follow.

The one aspect of obstacle racing that everybody talks about is the camaraderie of runners – as you go around the course, everybody else you’re running with (or against depending on how you view it) is so friendly, you’ll always be able to break up long running sections by chatting to someone you've never met before or get some assistance at obstacles by offering a leg up to another racer. Everyone generally takes on each challenges with a smile on their face, which really makes it impossible not to have a good time.


Dos and don’ts for beginner obstacle racers:

DO ask for assistance if you’re lost or are struggling with an obstacle, I can guarantee you’ll get help

DON’T forget to thank the race marshals as you go round – they’re often giving up their time for free to help out

DO bring a towel, empty bin bag for your muddy gear and a full change of clothes – you’ll need it afterwards

DON’T wear spiked or studded shoes… Trail or off-trail running shoes are perfect

DO say hi on the Mudstacle forum before the race – you’re likely to get some top tips

DON’T wear cotton t-shirts – always wear technical materials that won’t get waterlogged

DO bring as many mates as you can – think of races as social events rather than serious competitions

DON’T come with an aggressive, win-at-all-costs attitude – even the elite racers help each other out

DO make sure you do some of your training off road, as road running and trail running is quite different

DON’T think that there are only a couple of obstacle races that are worth doing - there are hundreds of events up and down the country who put on races that are just as much fun as the big boys. Keep an eye on our events calendar here.

DO make sure you tie your laces tightly (without cutting of the circulation), with no dangling laces, so that they don’t get stuck in the mud

DON’T leave the rest of your family at home, most races have great facilities for spectators as well

DO get involved with the competitive side of the sport (if that's your thing) - you can compete nationally in the Mudstacle League

Stay tuned for the next articles in our Beginners' Guide series: “How to train for an obstacle races” (now live) and “What to wear at an OCR”.

For more news, tips and info about obstacle course races and mud runs. Follow Mudstacle on: Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

To get annual obstacle racing insurance, loads of discounts, entry into our league and a bunch of goodies, check out Mudstacle Membership. It's a Bargain!



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