Ten years ago if someone asked me what an obstacle course race was, in the first instance I would probably have described the Health and Safety nightmare of my Primary School sports days in the early 1990s. Being a proper country girl who grew up covered in mud and climbing trees, the obstacle course race was always my favourite and I relished the opportunity to climb over and under things, get covered in mud, and do my best to beat all the other children to the finish line.
Later in life when I returned to running, after growing tired of the roads, the countryside became my obstacle course once more. A long run would not seem complete unless I got the chance to cross rivers, hurdle fences and fallen trees, and return home muddy and bloodied, with a big smile on my face. To that end, as the stratospheric rise in popularity of the commercial obstacle course race became unstoppable, I have never felt drawn to participating in an official ‘OCR’ as they are now commonly known. Cost, location, and my perceptions of the dude bro jock culture which surrounds the sport are all elements which have made participation a low priority for me, despite regular pleas from friends to join their event teams.
When an email arrived from the PR team at Spartan Race, challenging me to participate in one of their Edinburgh events, I was initially a bit skeptical. This was sooooo not my scene; I’ve written in detail in the past about how I prefer small, low key events, and I wasn’t quite sure if this was the way I would want to spend a Saturday morning in the Pentlands. Also, having been the sole voice of dissent amongst obstacle course race converts, would I be ready to eat my words and take on the challenge? However, the opportunity arrived not long after I had decided not to run the Cateran Trail 55 mile race last month, and there was a small voice inside saying that perhaps a complete change might be fun. Doing something totally different might really shake up my training and they do say that…
“A change is as good as a rest…”
So on the 22nd of July, Kynon and I will be taking part in the Edinburgh Spartan Race, and will be participating in the ‘Beast’ event. This is between 12 and 14 miles in length, and features 30-35 Spartan obstacles around the stunning yet brutal Pentlands. Preparing physically for this event will require some extra work for both of us, as well as thinking about how to approach the race as a whole. I genuinely had no idea where to even start, so I asked a couple of blogger friends for their top tips…
Abby from Abbyadventures.co.uk
- Get the right shoes. Your standard running shoes are not going to cut it in all the mud. You want to try and limit the amount of falling on your ass you do (it will happen at some point) so grippy trail running shoes are a must. I use Inov-8’s and swear by them.
- Make sure you wear quick drying, light weight running gear. There is a high likelihood you’re going to get wet. Wet clothes plus running can cause some rather unwanted chafing (in ALL the unwanted places). The quicker you dry, the warmer you will stay and the less chafed you’ll hopefully end up.
- Lastly, but most importantly HAVE FUN. Completing an obstacle course race is all about the mindset. Things are specifically built to challenge you to push through mental barriers; dark tunnels, heights, water, you name it, the race will probably have it. Yes, they can be scary, but if you approach them with a positive mind set you are far more likely to succeed. Plus your race photos will look a lot more awesome if you’re having fun!
Stephen from Howmanymiles.co.uk
- My two words of advice are “Monkey Bars”. Find a set and make them your home. So many of the obstacles involve pulling your body up and perfecting a pull up will help you. If you can’t find Monkey bars, then invest in a cheap door frame pull up bar and get hanging. 30 days of hanging will help with your grip, pull ups and general strength.
- You are going to get mucky and there is sometimes barbed wire, so keep your expensive kit at home. The weather can make a huge difference, although once you are muddy and wet, it doesn’t really matter, apart from on the obstacles, so invest in a good pair of gloves. I’ve found that MTB cycling gloves are quite good but gripper gloves are better
Corey from Learning Patience
- When participating in an obstacle course race it’s helpful to wear full-length leggings or capris, as they can protect your legs from rope burns or other injuries from the obstacles.
- A good pair of gloves are essential – I use old sailing gloves. You can usual buy gloves at the races, but these ones are never usually as good as those you can bring from home. If you forget to bring your gloves or don’t have any on race day, definitely purchase some at the race as you will definitely need them, trust me.
- Take your time and make sure you enjoy yourself. These events are all about FUN! Relax and take your time – injuries happen when you rush so be careful and enjoy your day!
So – pull ups, gloves, have fun. This seems pretty straight forward, right? Spartan Race also provide a wealth of training guides and descriptions of their obstacles online which I’ve been examining carefully. I used to be quite good at Monkey Bars as a child, but since growing into a woman with thighs of steel yet the upper body strength of a gnat, a lot has changed. I also used to be quite good at climbing ropes in gym class, but 30 years later, looking at the 16ft rope climb out of a water pit has me doubting myself somewhat. As for getting over 8ft walls, I’m from a school of sporting thought where I believe that The Wall does not exist, but I’m not sure how efficient this will be in this race…
I have exactly a month until the race. I’m not sure how much I can do to strengthen myself within four weeks, especially without access to a gym, but I’ve looked out my kettle bell and I’ve been eyeing up the monkey bars in the play park across the street. This really is a journey into a different world for me and I’d be lying if I’m not a little bit excited to take on this new challenge!
Have you ever done an Obstacle Course Race?
If not, would you?
What are your top Obstacle Course Race tips?
Disclosure: Big thanks to Spartan Race who have given complimentary places at the Edinburgh Spartan Race for Kynon and I, and were also kind enough to send over some merchanise too.