New Activity for the New Year: Obstacle Racing
Good morning, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Laurie, who has gladly volunteered to share with all of my readers her experience with obstacle racing. I know this is a hot topic these days, so I am thankful that Laurie agreed to give you all an insiders scoop 🙂
My name is Laurie and I am and obstacle-racing mud-running junkie. You may be wondering, “What the heck is that”? Obstacles races are also known as mud runs. They are running events that range in distance from 5K (3.1 miles) up to marathon distances. Of course there are all sorts of obstacles that you are tested with that lead you to the finish line.
These races usually consist of trail running through various types of terrain with lots of obstacles thrown in that will test your ability to think on your feet and conquer fears you may have. Obstacles range from walking across a balance beam a few inches off the ground, crawling through mud, or as extreme as running through electrified wires.
These events have exploded in popularity in the past five years and are beginning to pop up in every major city. Hundreds of races take place every year all across the country. Some of the more popular ones are Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.
The first time you do one of these races, you quickly notice two distinct groups of people: Extreme elite athletes and the rest of us. If you chose to look at the promo videos online for all the various races, you will see ripped young men and women getting pushed to the extremes. Don’t let this fool you. Those people are at the races, but there are just as many “regular” people who are out to have fun and challenge themselves on a less competitive level.
I haven’t always been a lover of obstacle racing. In fact, this has been an evolution in my life that started about three years ago. I spent 2010 changing my lifestyle and losing 65 pounds. I felt so great in my weight loss accomplishment that I wanted to test my fitness level. I signed up for my first 5K race. I trained really hard, and successfully finished the race. The next step in my journey was to do a mud run. My first run was going to be Tough Mudder, which claims to be possibly the toughest event on the planet.
Tough Mudder has obstacles where the names alone would scare away any sane person. Arctic Enema? Electroshock Therapy? Everest? If that wasn’t intimidating enough, I was really trying to grasp on to why anyone would pay money to jump into 34 degree water and walk through 10,000 volts of electricity.
Needless to say I sucked it up and trained as hard as I could to ensure my survival. I began increasing my running distance as this was going to be an 11 mile race. I also incorporated strength training, which was the key. When race day came I realized that everyone was not an elite athlete. There were people that look more out of shape than I was. But everyone was pumped to complete the race and leave no one behind. There was a true sense of camaraderie among all the racers. All throughout the course everyone was helping everyone. Strangers helping strangers is a beautiful thing to see.
Although it was tough, I was able to complete all the obstacles either on my own or with the help of my fellow racers. I had never felt such a strong sense of pride and accomplishment like I did the day I crossed that finish line.
More than speed and strength it was true mental grit that got me through. A lot of the obstacles are meant to test your fears – whether it’s cold, heights, fire, confined spaces, water, etc.
Since that first race, I have completed many obstacle races from super easy “fun runs” all the way to extreme obstacle races that went up and down black diamond ski slopes. It is a fantastic work out because you end up using so many more muscles that if you were just running alone.
If obstacle racing is on your bucket list, but you just don’t know where to start, just start moving. If you have never run a day in your life – that’s okay! So many people just starting out will walk the course rather than run it. Nowhere does it say you have to run! If an obstacle seems too hard or too you just can’t do it – go around! There is usually no penalty for skipping an obstacle (Except in Spartan Races).
Start slow – begin your training by just walking. Increase your distance as you feel comfortable. Then move your walking to the dirt. Almost all obstacle races take place on dirt trails. Get used to how the ground feels under your feet. Make sure to steer clear of rocks and loose gravel. Strength training – Start simple with planks and add in some push-ups. You’ll be amazed how easy they become.
You don’t have to be able to run super long distances. Even if you do a 5K race, you will only be running at most ¼ mile at a time until you get to your next obstacle. That gives you some time to rest your legs and not get too tired.
Obstacle racing can also be a family affair. I have enlisted my husband and eight year old daughter into my mud running adventure. It sets a great example for them to be active and healthy. My daughter now looks forward to participating in every race that offers a kid’s version.
Get a group together – they are more fun when you get to share your experience with friends!
Most obstacle racers don’t take themselves too seriously. In most races you will find a large majority who dress up in costume. There have been some hysterical costumes out there! One of my favorites has been a full blown Oompa Loompa costume! There are always lots of super heroes around too! So make sure you start thinking about your costume when you sign up for your first race!
Laurie hosts a podcast with her husband called Getting Dirty with Daniel and Laurie. It is a bi-weekly podcast that focusing on the ins and outs of obstacle racing, interviews with race directors and tips and tricks to get you on your way to participating in your first obstacle race. You can also catch up with Laurie at the Getting Dirty blog where she writes about her obstacle race journey and other fun things related to obstacle racing.
You can find the podcast on the website, iTunes or Stitcher Radio.