Obstacle course racing is the fastest growing sport in US history, with millions of athletes each year braving the water, mud, barbed wire, and fire.  Competitors range from some of the best athletes in the world to people beginning a weight loss journey or just out to earn that free beer at the end.  If you are ready to give this amazing sport a go, I have some tips for you that will make sure your first OCR is not your last!  

Like any sport, obstacle course racing requires some training, the right gear, and, most importantly, the right attitude.  I have been doing OCRs since 2013 and I have been and seen unprepared people get injured or frustrated, or just flat out quit, all because there was a lack of preparation!  When I did my first OCR, I showed up in tennis shoes and cotton workout clothes.  I had no idea what I was in for and I suffered my way through the 9 mile course.  If you follow these tips, you will have much more enjoyable first OCR than I did:

1.  Pick the correct race – OCRs range in distance from 3 miles to well over 30 miles and vary in terrain from fairly flat trails to black diamond ski slopes.  Make sure that you choose a race and venue that fits your current ability level.

2.  Wear the correct gear – First things first, you need to know going in that you will be wet and trudging across slick, muddy terrain.  Invest in a pair of trail running shoes.  They don’t have to be the top of the line, but the running shoes you use on Sunday morning to stroll through the neighborhood do not have the grip or strength to deal with the obstacles and terrain.  I have seen too many rolled ankles and other injuries because people are not wearing the right shoes for this type of race.  Next, replace anything cotton with synthetics.  Cotton gets heavy and very uncomfortable when it is wet and muddy.  Everything from socks and undergarments to pants and shirts should be made of quick drying material like Lycra.  You will thank me for this one later! 

3.  Bring nutrition and hydration – If you are doing a race that is longer than a 5k, it is a good idea to bring some nutrition and hydration with you.  The event will likely have water stations, but most do not have food on the course and the water stations are few and far between.  You can pick up a cheap hydration pack online and throw some gels or bars in your bag on race morning.  I have seen a lot of people have to quit on a race because they didn’t have adequate food or water:  don’t let this happen to you!

4.  Come with the right attitude – These races are intentionally difficult and designed to make you suffer; it’s what makes them so rewarding.  Come to the venue with a smile on your face and a can-do attitude.  Follow all of the rules, attempt all of the obstacles, help your fellow racers, and smile…after all, you paid to do this!  

If you come to your first OCR prepared, I can guarantee you will have a much more enjoyable and memorable time.  Come unprepared and you may be leaving without a finisher’s medal or the free beer!