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Get Into... Obstacle Racing

10:00 2nd May 2013 By Peter Rees
Scrapheap challenge has changed. Photo: mudstacle.com

Scrapheap challenge has changed.
Photo: mudstacle.com

If running a regular 10k race has lost it’s edge, then maybe you should consider something with a few more things in the way. Obstacle racing is big news in the world of outdoor fitness these days.

It's fine. It'll come out in the wash. Photo: mudstacle.com

It’s fine. It’ll come out in the wash.
Photo: mudstacle.com

There’s a good chance that you’ve already seen a picture of one of your mates on Facebook covered in mud and scrambling over army-style obstacles. They would have been taking part in an exciting new craze that’s swarming the UK – obstacle course racing.  These events blend together all-terrain running, mud, water and man-made obstacles into a challenge that appeals to fitness freaks and fun-runners alike. Think of them as marathons on acid!

You’ll notice that many of the events promote how “tough” and challenging they are but don’t let that put you off. There are a massive range of events that are suitable for all different fitness levels. Event distances vary between around 5km and 30km. Most people with a half-decent base fitness should be able to trot around the shorter courses without too many problems. Of course, for the longer and more obstacle-heavy races, you’ll need to do a fair amount of running and strength training if you don’t want to be left behind collapsed in a puddle of mud.

Mudstacle Plank Walk

That big guy on the right has definitely cheated on the last obstacle.
Photo: mudstacle.com

Distance doesn’t tell the whole story; a course’s terrain can significantly increase the challenge. Events will vary massively with the amount of hills you climb, rivers you cross and mud you wade through. Most organisers will also throw in a few man-made obstacle, which is what really spices the experience up. There are some basic obstacles that you’re likely to see at most events: wall climbs, crawling under barbed wire, walking on balance beams, cargo net climbs, crawling through tunnels, carrying sandbags and clambering along monkey bars. The amount of obstacles you face along the way can vary between 5 and 200. In a lot of cases these obstacles can really throw you off your running rhythm and can drain your energy faster than you’d expect.

Unlike a lot of sports, you really don’t need much kit. The only must-have item is a decent pair of trail shoes with quite a deep tread. Other things that are nice to have are some grippy gloves, and something to cover your elbows and knees – If you’re not wearing long legs and sleeves, just get some elastic bandage supports.

Although many of these events are tough, they’re a lot of fun and are like big-kids adventure playgrounds. You’ll basically be climbing about and rolling around in mud – who doesn’t want to do that? Boring people, that’s who!


Good Places to Start

So where do you start? You may well have seen the likes of Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and Survival of the Fittest advertised, all of which are great, but there are many more events out there that you should definitely check out.


Mudstacle – A website dedicated to running over, under and through things (normally muddy). Head there for a full run down on what’s happening in the world of running through mud.

Tough Mudder - The big boy on the scene and the one that really started the boom in obstacle racing. Started in the US, but is now moving swiftly through the UK.

Spartan Race – Bills itself as the tougher version of Tough Mudder, with longer events. There are actually four length to choose from: 4+ miles, 8+ miles, 12+ miles and a mysterious 48 hour ‘Death Race’

Hell Runner – A big event in the UK mudrunning calendar, with a course using all natural obstacles. Think mud, mud and more mud.

Nuts Challenge - Run by ex-Paras on a tank proving ground. That probably says enough.

Adventure race navigation

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