Imagine that you are standing at the start of one of the the new series of obstacle and mud races, surrounded by people ready to run, jump and crawl through a 5K or 10K race. You look to your right and left to see men without shirts on, women with paint on their faces and one or two guys in full combat fatigues. The announcer is going through the pre-race briefing and you begin to pay attention when you hear the words “fire”. Did he just say “fire?”This was the scene yesterday at the Terrain Series Mud Run outside Portland, Oregon where I engaged in my first obstacle event. This growing new type of race has been made popular with series like the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Muddy Buddy series. I really started paying attention when the announcer was talking about fire and he kept my attention when going on about the electrified fences (these were not part of the course, it was a warning to stay away from the electrified fences on the horse properties surrounding the course.)
Having run countless running events, I can now tell you that these races are a little more like a triathlon than a road race. I say that because in triathlons your mind can focus on “what’s coming next” and this makes the experience more dynamic and fun. But these events are also very unique in that they challenge your body in physical ways that pure endurance sports don’t. These are not “steady paced” efforts in which you put it in gear and leave it there. You are constantly speeding up, slowing down, stopping, dropping, climbing, pausing. And that’s what makes them fun.
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In my experience yesterday, I noticed a few things that I thought I would share for those of you thinking about doing your first race. Some of these tips come from my running and multi-sport experience, as applied here. Others are things that I discovered as I slid, splashed and crawled through the mud.
Tip 1 — Warm up on the obstacles — I’m a big proponent of warming up at races and I’m often a little shocked at just how few people actually get warm before tackling a running event. But here you have the opportunity to really get yourself mentally and physically ready by climbing, swinging and jumping over a few barriers. I found it fascinating that as I climbed over the cargo nets and walls at the start/finish area it attracted a crowd — a crowd of people WATCHING me practice. But no one else seemed to want to get up there and try them. I learned a lot from climbing over those walls that I wouldn’t have wanted to find out under the pressure of the race. For example, climbing over one wall I found that it was very wobbly in the center and much more stable on the outside. I also found that getting yourself over the tops of the walls was a bit tricky (finding your footing on the down side). So my advice is IF THE COURSE IS OPEN, go out and try as many of the obstacles as you can.
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