For years people flocked in droves to weekend 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons and even marathons as a way to improve fitness and give them a goal to strive towards. Over the past couple of years, a new sport has replaced the weekend 5K—welcome to the world of Obstacle Course Racing.
You may have seen advertisements online for these events—pictures of smiling muddy people accompanied by a name like Reebok Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash or one of the many other obstacle course racing or mud run organizations splashed across your computer screen. After seeing these curious images, you probably asked yourself, “What is this mud run/obstacle course racing thing all about?”
What is Obstacle Course Racing?
Obstacle Course Racing and Mud Runs can best be described as a trail run with obstacles along the way. The obstacles mentioned often say their roots are from the military as well as your neighborhood playground. Common obstacles are walls to scale over, monkey bars to climb across, cargo nets, rope climbs, sandbag carries, barbed wire crawls, fire jumps (yes, fire), and mud…sometimes lots of mud!
How I Got Started
My adventure into the world of Obstacle Course Racing began in 2010 when I was first introduced to an organization called Spartan Race through Facebook. As a former Division 3 athlete in both alpine ski racing and women’s lacrosse, the combination of obstacles and running sounded fun to this non-runner. At the time, I figured the obstacles would be a good distraction from the running. After my first event, I was hooked! Only a couple years later, I have completed over 30 races with numerous different race organizers. In 2012, I found myself finishing fifth in the world for women in the Spartan Race points series, and on the podium seven times throughout the year.
Getting Seriously Fit
Over the last couple of years obstacle course racing has not only gotten my competitive juices flowing again, it has helped me regain my fitness, elevated me to head down a path of functional fitness and given me purpose again in my training and health. Reebok Spartan Race has the tagline, “You know at the finish,” which could not be more than true. Since I began racing in 2010, I went from a slightly unfit former athlete to a true competitor again. In the process, I became a runner, ultra marathoner, endurance athlete and more. It all began with trying something new—something a little out of the box.
ANYONE Can Do An Obstacle Course Race
Many people who ask me about races fear that they are not fit enough, strong enough, etc. The first thing to know is ANYONE can do an obstacle course race. Races greatly range in distance and difficulty. Many race organizers build their races around the 5K distance, which is very doable for a beginner. In some races, obstacles are optional. While in other races, there is a penalty for not completing them. Some of the events are untimed and allow you to enjoy the experience without the stress of a clock.
At any race, people of all ages, sizes and shapes are lining up to take on obstacle course racing. There are so many races to choose from, and you can certainly find one that suits your fitness and goals. There is probably one near you. Overall, obstacle course racing allows us all to step out of the daily lives and experience something real, something tangible and get a little dirty in the process.
Stay Tuned For More DIRTy GIRL TRAINING
Look out for my column weekly with tips on training, how to find the perfect race for you, proper gear for racing, race day nutrition, hydration and much more. Get all the dirt about straight from the source! Next week, we will be covering the difference between a mud run and obstacle course races.