Obstacle Course Racing 101: How to Get Fit, Have Fun, and Succeed in Mud Runs From A to Z

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Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), though officially originated in 776 B.C.  with the Pentathlon in the Ancient Olympic Games, has quickly become the fastest growing sport in America if not world-wide.  Athletes are expected to negotiate a course, of various distances by foot while traversing physically demanding obstacles along the way.  Such obstacles include swinging, hanging, throwing, crawling, jumping, scaling and climbing.  OCR, aka Mud Runs, are put on by several different groups such as Spartan, Tough Mudder, Rugged Maniac and Savage Race, just to name a few.  Each event differs from the others by bringing its own flare and signature obstacles to the course, but the 3 things that are similar in all of them are the running, the mud and the camaraderie.

Whether you run or walk the whole race is up to each participant but the goal is always the same… to cross the finish line.  Only then can the athlete receive their victory finisher’s metal and bragging rights. The distance of each race varies and can range from 3 to 100 miles.  The longer the race, of course, the more obstacles you’ll be expected to conquer.  Some races will have a penalty if you are unable to successfully complete an obstacle.  In the case of Spartan race, it is 30 Burpees per incomplete obstacle. However, the majority of the events allow you to skip an obstacle that you don’t feel ready for, penalty-free. 

As far as the running conditions go, you can’t very well call these events “Mud Runs” without mud, so expect to be covered in it.  Prepare to run, crawl, climb, and roll in it.  Rain or shine, the race will take place.  Rain will only make it muddier- bonus!  Getting dirty is part of why these events are so popular.  Where else is your success partially judged on how filthy you get?  Somehow, looking disgustingly dirty isn’t as embarrassing when your fellow runners are equally as messy.

The comradery is unsurpassed.  Instead of completing one obstacle and then running off to attack the next, many people stay behind to help their fellow racers complete it too.  A 12 foot wall that is caked with slippery and foul smelly mud is much easier to accomplish when someone is there to help.  Often times, it’s someone you don’t even know.  Life- long relationships between runners are created at OCR events.

The overall feel at the events is light and fun.  However, for some runners, the challenge runs a little deeper and it’s all about how much they can ask of their bodies and how far they can go?   So, whether you enter the race to win as a serious competitor or a weekend warrior out to have a good time, the obstacles are both physically and mentally demanding and require the athlete to strategically plan the most efficient route. Therefore, expect to challenge your physical abilities and mental fortitude.

The amusing part is that not only do we all volunteer for this fun and messy abuse we’ll receive on the course, but we paid good money for it too.  Is it worth it? 


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