An introduction to Obstacle Racing with Obstacle Racers Australia
Have you ever seen photos on social media of adults covered head to toe in mud, being helped over walls or carrying heavy sandbags up a hill?
Have you ever wondered why those adults are shedding their office attire in favour of exercise clothes and a face full of mud?
Well, wonder no more…
Welcome to the wonderful world of obstacle racing!
“What is obstacle racing?” I hear you ask. Obstacle racing is one of the world’s fastest growing sports that challenges participants both physically and mentally as they tackle obstacles over a set course. It’s like someone has taken trail running, thrown in man-made obstacles and added a bunch of mud.
The sport has two sub-categories: competitive (timed) races are known as obstacle course races; and non-competitive races are known as mud runs. They are often collectively referred to as OCRs.
OCRs can be anywhere from 3km to 42km+ long, with the majority being around 5-10km long. There can be anywhere from 10 – 50 obstacles in any race, ranging from monkey bars, high walls, and rope climbs, to sandbag carries and mud crawls. Each obstacle is designed to test you physically and mentally, and sometimes the terrain can be the toughest obstacle.
It can seem quite daunting at first, but I encourage those who are new at the sport to not be put off by the distance or the obstacles. One of the best things about OCR is the community and the comradery. If you can’t reach the top of a wall, there will be someone nearby who will get down on one knee to give you a boost. If you need help on a balance beam, there will be someone to hold your hand. And for those of you who aren’t runners, you will find plenty of other walkers on the course along with people yelling encouragement from all locations along the course.
OCR isn’t about being the fastest or the strongest – it’s about challenging yourself physically and mentally and having fun in the process!
Even amongst all the fun, there are some important things to consider when taking on your first OCR:
- Avoid cotton clothing – loose fitting, cotton clothing will drag you down as it gets wet. Stick with tighter-fitting, light clothing such as compression gear. Anything that you don’t mind getting dirty!
- Pick the right shoe – ideally you want some grip on the soles of your shoes to avoid sliding on the mud. You don’t need OCR specific running shoes, but try to avoid completely flat shoes.
- Hydrate – you can be out on course for upwards of an hour, so be sure to stay hydrated in the days leading up to and the day of the race. All OCRs will have water stations throughout the course so stop and hydrate.
- Leave the gloves at home – it’s tempting to use weightlifting gloves on course but they can often hinder you more than they can help you.
- Tie your laces properly – you may be tempted to tie duct tape around your shoes to keep the laces from coming undone, but it just makes them heavy and prone to slipping. Instead invest in some SafeLaces to keep your laces secured during the event, or stick with the humble double-knot.
- Try everything once – If you can’t complete an obstacle, give it a go before skipping. You’ll surprise yourself if you give each one your best shot.
- Take a dry bag – after the event your clothes will be wet and muddy, so bring along a dry bag to hold all your wet gear as you enjoy the festivities.
- Last but not least – HAVE FUN!
If I’ve managed to convince you to try an OCR, then head over to the Obstacle Racers Australia website and check the Race Calendar to find a race near you, or check out the international races and make a holiday out of it.
On the website, you’ll also find race discount codes, a mailing list and link to the Obstacle Racers Australia Facebook page where you can keep up to date on what’s happening in the wide world of OCR.
Sign up. Show up. Never give up!