How to Run an Obstacle Course Race, Part 1

Part 1: Before the Race
I frequently hear people say, "I could never do an obstacle course race."

If you are one of those people who've said those words because you're intimidated or don't think you're fit enough or whatever the reason, this post is for you!

Train. I posted about how to train for an OCR here. You want to be doing some strength training and running. (But you should be doing that for general health!)

Choose. There are a variety of OCRs out there-- large, small, long, short. Do your research. Check their Facebook page and website to see what type of reviews the company has earned. Here are the national companies are pretty solid:

  • Spartan offers 4 distances around the country. 
  • Warrior Dash is great for beginners. 
  • Merril Down and Dirty offers a 5k and a 10k option.
  • Tough Mudder is long (10-12 miles) and filled with mental challenges as well as obstacles.
Nutrition. Don't do anything new the day before or the day of the race. Eat whatever you would eat before training. You don't need to carb load. And trust me, you don't want to go into a race with an upset stomach. If you will be out on the race course for longer than an hour, you will want to bring some fuel-- GU, gel, etc. are most racers' choice. Because I eat high fat, I prefer a Justin's Honey Peanut Butter packet.

Hydration. You should already be drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces each day (if you weigh 120 pounds, that's 60 oz of water). The few days before a race, I usually try to up my sodium (I don't eat processed food, so tend to be a little low in sodium) and water intake a tiny bit. If the temps or humidity will be high, bring water on the course-- a Camelback type device works best. Most races will offer water on the course, but I've been to more than one small races that have run out of water.

Invite. Create a team. Misery loves company, right? Just kidding. You will have a blast, but it will be even more fun to share the journey with friends. You can help each other over obstacles and encourage each other on the course.

What do I wear?
Avoid cotton. You'll be getting muddy and/or wet-- cotton absorbs water like a sponge and will be heavy (and droopy). I personally like tighter as opposed to looser clothes that might snag on the obstacles. Chances are, you'll be crawling at some point, so if you want to prevent your knees from scrapes, capris are a great option. I personally also like to wear tall compression socks-- they provide support for your lower legs. I've heard of people who wear knee pads, gloves and other forms of protection-- I don't believe any of that is necessary. It just seems uncomfortable. 

SHOES-- I ran my first race in an old pair of running shoes and did well. You don't have to spend lots of money on fancy OCR shoes. However, if this OCR thing becomes a habit, I would definitely invest in some trail shoes. Everyone has her favorite brand. I bought the trail version of the brand I wear for road running and love them.

Read Part 2: During the Race
Read Part 3: Post Race


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