Wading through chest-high water, running up muddy hills, climbing over walls, swinging on monkey bars and crawling through mud might seem like challenges for soldiers in basic training, but these are just a few examples of obstacles from popular racing events that have significantly changed the recreational fitness landscape over the past few years. While standard running distances like 5 kilometers (3.2 miles), 10 kilometers (6.4 miles), or a 26.2 mile marathon primarily challenge aerobic endurance, obstacle course races provide a greater fitness challenge by requiring upper-body strength combined with anaerobic power. Individuals who exercise frequently and value physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle also enjoy testing themselves with demanding fitness challenges. For many, completing a challenging obstacle course provides a sense of accomplishment that traditional running races can’t offer.
What is an Obstacle Course Race?
An “obstacle course race” is a generic term for a type of running race that has exploded in popularity in recent years. A typical obstacle course run can range from 5 kilometers (3.2 miles) to 10+ miles in length and feature numerous obstacles like mud pits, ice baths, tunnels, walls or even the occasional fire pit. Events such as Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are examples of races with specific themes and specially designed obstacles. Fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead can even sign up for races that require participants to dodge zombies while running an obstacle course. Creative people with an artistic bent can participate in color runs, where participants wear all white and are splashed with vibrant colors between the start and the finish of the run. The Boot Camp Challenge at the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot in San Diego allows participants to run a scaled-down version of the obstacle course used in basic training, with verbal “encouragement” offered by real Marine Corps drill instructors.
For adults who played competitive team sports up to and through college it can be tough to find the same sort of athletic challenge once they’ve entered the professional working world. Obstacle course races provide a worthy athletic outlet because athleticism and strength are required to successfully overcome many challenging obstacles. This allows for the emergence of an inner warrior not easily expressed at home or in the workplace. Training for and participating in obstacle course races also allows competitive individuals to have the experience of a challenging competition without the logistics of committing to a team practice or an extensive game schedule. In many races, participants are
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