Obstacle racing

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An obstacle racer, dressed in costume, crawls through a mud pit topped with barbed wire.

Obstacle Course racing(OCR) is a sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges that are in the form of obstacles. Mud and trail runs are combined and the races are designed to result in mental and physical collapse.[1] Obstacles include, but are not limited to, climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire. Many obstacles are similar to those used in military training, while others are unique to obstacle racing and are employed throughout the course to test endurance, strength, speed and, dexterity. Races vary in both distance and challenge level, combining trail running, road running, and cross country running.[2] With race venues typically in large cities, organizers encourage athletes of all types to participate. All Obstacles were introduced into Cross Country Running at Tough Guy®, recorded on video 1989 - 2007, See http://vimeo.com/toughguyhq. Most signature obstacles were actually created by Mr Mouse. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2012, the number of events—typically all-day festivals—rose rapidly. In accordance with the sub-culture's fast rate of growth, the Obstacle Race Magazine was launched.[3]

Adventure racing[edit]

The terms “obstacle racing” and “adventure racing” are often used interchangeably, but in reality, the disciplines are very different. The main similarities between the two are that both involve challenges (presented as obstacles) and both involve a running component. Adventure racing differs from obstacle racing in that the disciplines of swimming, mountain biking, orienteering, climbing, kayaking, etc. along with the hardships of sleep deprivation, limited nutrition, and team dynamics add to the difficulty of the event.

Obstacle courses[edit]

The key difference between an obstacle race and an obstacle course event is that the first is presented as a competitive race, the latter is not. In an obstacle race, competitors are timed and held to a strict standard of performance; when a task cannot be completed, penalty exercises such as burpees are assigned. Unlike obstacle racers, obstacle course participants are free to skip certain challenges as they please. Obstacle course events are often not timed (or allow participants to self-time).

Mud Runs[edit]

Mud runs, such as the Maldon Mud Race in the UK, are often confused with obstacle races. Mud runs may or may not contain obstacles, because the events tend to focus more on fitness and muddiness. These events also tend to be less competitive. Obstacle and adventure racers often use mud run courses as training grounds because the conditions and terrain found at these events are similar.


From the stadion, the oldest event of the Olympic Games, to the contemporary era steeplechase, obstacles of some sort have been presented to athletes for thousands of years. The concept of using obstacles for an endurance event is a contemporary phenomenon. It is widely thought that Tough Guy is the oldest obstacle course race, with the first race in 1987. All video recorded 1989 thro 2009 - See Vimeo http://vimeo.com/toughguyhq [4]

In 2011, approximately one million people registered to participate in obstacle racing events in the United States (US) alone.[5]


Because obstacle racing involves a balance of speed, strength, and endurance, training for events can vary greatly from traditional approaches to fitness. While running is the main component of an obstacle race, runners need to have a balance of endurance and total-body strength. Functional, total-body exercises (rather than isometric, concentration exercises) are recommended to enhance strength. The "burpee" is a favorite exercise among obstacle racers because it engages the lower body, core, and upper body all in one fluid movement. With events ranging from 30 minutes to 5 hours, athletes must be accustomed to maintaining an increased heart rate.


Mud and Adventure - the mud run and obstacle race directory launched January 2012 as a free resource for event goers to find a mud run or obstacle race anywhere in the world. It has since added an obstacle race training location directory. A magazine was launched in the United Kingdom in 2013 called Obstacle Race Magazine which was based around obstacle racing and its community, their Facebook page brought together obstacle racers from all over the globe. Several teams (MudRunFun, Weeple Army, Azn Armour) have very large member-bases where some (GFoGE OCR) have a much smaller local memberships. After reaching 50,000+ subscribers worldwide, MudRunFun (http://www.mudrunfun.com) has become the Worlds largest Obstacle Course Racing, Mud Run and Themed Run event listing source. MudRunFun LLC produces the only Android, iPhone apps within the industry.

Notable events[edit]

Tough Guy[edit]

First staged in 1987, Tough Guy claims to be the first official and toughest obstacle course race in the world. It is held on the last Sunday in January in Perton, Staffordshire, UK. The race is held twice a year in winter and summer. The winter event requires competitors to compete in near freezing temperatures and contend with ice and snow. The 2013 event was won by Knut Höhler[4][6]

Spartan Race[edit]

Spartan Race was founded in 2009 by Joe Desena, Mike Morris, Andy Weinberg, Selicia Sevigny, Richard Lee, Brian Duncanson, Shaun Bain, and Noel Hanna. The first Spartan Race was held in Williston, Vermont in 2010.


Spartan Race courses vary in distance and difficulty from 3+ mile “Sprint” courses, to 8+ mile “Super” courses, to the 13+ mile “Spartan Beast”. Average finishing times for the events range from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the particular course and fitness level of the racer. Race venues have included ski slopes, state parks, paint ball parks, and more. Any competitor who completes all three race distances is said to have completed the Spartan Trifecta. The Spartan Beast, which is held in Killington, VT serves as the Championship event each year, with a $20,000 prize purse.

Event features[edit]

All finishers receive a medal. The top three male and female competitors in each event receive swords, helmets, and shields – each a replica of equipment from the movie 300. At a Spartan Race, each event concludes with a “Gladiator Arena” in which a racer must run through a series of gladiators with pugil sticks, seeking to knock them down.

Peak Races/Death Race[edit]

Spartan Race's sister company, Peak Races, has hosted extreme events, most notably The Death Race. Most people who participate in the Death Race do not finish and the Death Race may last multiple days.

Spartan Race World Championship[edit]

The first Spartan Race World Championship was held in December 2011 in Glen Rose, Texas. It is an eight-mile Spartan Race course comprising 36 obstacles and includes a USD$20,000 prize purse. Beginning in 2012, the Spartan Race World Championships will be held annually in Killington, Vermont.

A costumed competitor in the 2012 North Texas Warrior Dash celebrates winning best costume on one day of the event.

Tough Mudder[edit]

In 2010, Tough Mudder's first event was held in May 2010. The Tough Mudder is not technically a race and is instead focused on teamwork and completion of the event rather than finishing under a certain time.


Tough Mudder courses are between 10 and 12 miles and contain various military style obstacles.

World's Toughest Mudder[edit]

The final event of the Tough Mudder season is the World's Toughest Mudder. This is a 24 hour event in which competitors will run a shorter Tough Mudder course that has much more intense obstacles than a normal Tough Mudder and is designed to be more grueling as well. The goal for a participant in World's Toughest Mudder is to complete as many laps as possible within a 24 hours period. The athletes (solo male, solo female, team) who complete the most laps are declared the World's Toughest Mudder. The top male and female each receive $10,000 and the top team receives $12,000 (total).

Atlas Race[edit]

In 2013, the first Atlas Race event was held in September. Atlas Race is an obstacle racing series offering events designed to challenge people of all athletic abilities. The company was founded by obstacle racing enthusiasts who wanted to share their passion for obstacle racing with the world.[7]


Atlas Race courses are between 4 miles (6.4 km) and 12 miles (19 km), and contain fun and challenging human-made and nature-based obstacles, as well as difficult terrain. Atlas Race also offers events designed for younger children known as the Atlas Kids Race.

Warrior Dash[edit]


The Warrior Dash was founded in 2009. Because Warrior Dash does not assign penalties for skipped obstacles, it is often considered an obstacle course event rather than a race. While Warrior Dash does not meet all the requirements to be considered a race, organizers do award their top finishers with non-cash prizes. All finishers receive a “warrior helmet” – a hat with two spikes.

In 2014, the Warrior Dash World Championship was held in Esparto, CA with a prize purse of $100,000. International and elite athletes competed, making obstacle course racing history. The top male finisher was Max King, who received the $30,000 prize—the largest in a non-track 5K history. Kimber Mattox took home first place in the female division.

Full results below:

Men's Division First Place ($30,000): Max King 22:34.55 Second Place ($10,000): Hobie Call 23:25.15 Third Place ($5,000): John Yatsko 23:32.75 Fourth Place ($3,000): Cody Moat 24:02.15 Fifth Place ($2,000): Brakken Kraker 24:32.30

Women's Division First Place ($30,000): Kimber Mattox 27:51.90 Second Place ($10,000): Renee Baillie 29:39.85 Third Place ($5,000): Julia Webb 30:02.25 Fourth Place ($3,000): Guadalupe Merlos 30:44.15 Fifth Place ($2,000): Rose Wetzel 30:50.15


As a shorter event, winning times for a Warrior Dash may be as short as 15 minutes. While Warrior Dash features many of the same obstacles found at other races such as mud crawls, water features, and cargo net climbs.

Superhero Scramble[edit]

Founded in June 2011, Superhero Scramble is a superhero themed obstacle race series that has several levels of races where participants and spectators are encouraged to dress up in superhero costumes. Their tagline is "It's Not Just A Race, It's An Adventure".[8]

The Super Crunch Beast.jpg


Superhero Scramble courses vary in distance and difficulty from 4-plus-mile “Charger” courses, to 8-plus-mile “Intimidator” courses, to 13-plus-mile (half marathon) “Villain”, to the 26-plus-mile (marathon) "Super Villain."[9] Projected finishing times for their events range from as quick as 30 minutes to as long as 12 hours. Race venues have included ski slopes, state parks, paint ball parks, off-road parks, and more. Any competitor who completes all three race distances within a 12-month period is eligible to receive special designation as a "Superhero Legend."

Bog Commander[edit]

Bog Commander combines fell running with obstacle course racing and mud running. Set on a working hill farm in the spectacular Peak District, this course has been described as "extreme" and "brutal" by its participants. Terrain varies from 1200 ft to 1500 ft and includes natural bogs, river runs, massive hills and rough terrain. Man made obstacles complete the challenge.[10] For those that are ready for a challenge, sign up here. Bog Commander Mud Run and Obstacle Course Race

Legion Run[edit]

Founded in Cyprus in 2013, Legion Run is the only obstacle course based in south-eastern Europe. With a motto of ‘We are Legion, we are one of many, we are you’, this non-competitive event emphasizes teamwork and overcoming personal challenges. Legion Run has held successful events in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and Hungary, and has quickly established itself as a favourite in the region, particularly amongst members of the CrossFit and combat sport communities, as well as corporations, armed forces and other organized teams. The first non-European Legion Run events will be held in 2015.

Legion Run involves a 5 km course with at least 15 obstacles, along with a parallel all-day festival for both participants and spectators. Every participant that crosses the finish line is awarded an exclusive ‘I Am Legion’ T-shirt and a well-deserved beer. In keeping with the team spirit of the event, there are no individual prizes or distinctions, however many participants choose to time themselves.[11]

Nuclear Races[edit]

Nuclear Races in the UK was created by James Parrish - farmer, engineer, course builder & entrepreneur. James has seized the opportunity to take the previous obstacle races to an awesome new level of investment & race quality.

Signature Event[edit]

Nuclear Rush is a cross country race on muddy Essex farmland.[12] with over 50 man-made and natural obstacles. There are two race distances available to run on the day: 12 km & 6 km.

Nuclear Rush is also an OCR World Championship Qualifying Event. The Nuclear Family will be able to qualify by entering and finishing in the top 10 (male or femal). The first race will be Nuclear Blackout in March, then Nuclear Rush in May and finally Nuclear Blackout in September.

OCR World Championships[edit]

The sport's first independent World Championship will take place on October 25 & 26 in Cincinnati, Ohio. [13]

The Suffering Obstacle Race[edit]

Established in 2012 The Suffering Obstacle Race is an obstacle race with a twist. Using natural terrain to it's utmost, crafting courses not just laying lines between obstacles The Suffering Race has cemented itself as one of toughest races in the country.

These guys went all-out to give us a beasting and actually making their bite as bad as their bark. - quote from mudstacle review [14]

The Suffering isn't just a hardcore event though. From the outset it has had 3 different levels suitable for beginners, intermediate and experienced obstacle course runners alike. Their aim was to offer a race suitable to all levels of runner. The beginner level Suffering 5k run is billed as more of a fun event suitable for all ages and abilities. As with all their distances though it's not quite a walk in the park. The intermediate level Suffering 10k is a race for those who love a bit more distance and a load more obstacles. Pain & Suffering 10 Mile is for the experienced runner. It's a super tough course with 35+ obstacles.

Never content with single distances The Suffering introduced The Suffering Legends Challenge in 2013. To complete The Legends Challenge a runner must complete all 3 distances over 2 days. The Suffering say "Legends aren't born, they are forged in the fires of hell".

Although each distance is chip timed The Suffering are seen as more of a challenge than a full on race. Runners comments often mention the camaraderie on the course, and the fun they have had completing each distance.

See also[edit]


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