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May 04, 2016

Race Trends: Obstacle Races

Race Trends: Obstacle Races

Whether you’re talking about costume runs, bubble races or glow-in-the-dark 5ks, there’s no shortage of themed races to suit just about every athlete’s fancy. While a lot of these themed races are flash-in-the-pans, there’s one race trend that seems to be here to stay: obstacle races. Over 1,000,000 athletes completed race registration for an obstacle race in 2011 alone, and the number of mud-covered savages in the race community has only grown since then.

And for good reason! Obstacle races are AWESOME! How many opportunities do you have as an adult to get your blood pumping, push yourself to the limit and get covered head to toe in mud (unless you’re into some other interesting extracurricular activities… In which case, no judgment).

So what are obstacle races? Who’s competing in them? And what do you need to know to throw an obstacle race?


What Are Obstacle Races?

According to Wikipedia, "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."

Yeah, so that’s a pretty broad and generic description, good looking out Wiki! Let’s break that down a bit, shall we?

There are basically two types of obstacle races: 1) fun runs and 2) military style races. Fun runs, like the ROC Race or Hit and Run, are (you guessed it) more focused on fun than on athleticism. These are great options for people who want a fun entry into the big, bad world of racing. Military style races, like Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, are much more athletic endeavors full of burpees, mud crawls and all sorts of other torture that will leave you sweating like a polar bear in the desert.

Obstacle races vary in length, but most fun runs are 5k or shorter, and military style races start at 5k and go all the way up to full-on marathon length (for the masochists among us).


Who Is Racing?

You never know who you might run into at an obstacle race bib assignment - literally. I’ve seen everyone from high school track teams to middle aged men in full on suits and everything in between competing in obstacle racing.

That’s the cool thing about obstacle races: they attract a different crowd than your more traditional events. Maybe it’s the promise of huge inflatable water slides or getting the chance to go all Game of Thrones and shoot a bow and arrow, but it definitely piques intrigue in people who never might have considered a “normal” run.


What Do I Need To Know If I Want To Put On An Obstacle Race?

If you want to put on an obstacle race, my hat's off to you: that shiznit is no joke. There are a lot of things to consider that wouldn’t even cross your mind if you were throwing a run-of-the mill 5k.

Some things you’ll definitely need to consider include:


  • Serious insurance

  • How you'll make sure all of your athletes sign waivers (make this a mandatory part of your online race registration)

  • Transportation and construction of the obstacles

  • Extra measures to ensure the highest level of safety for your athletes

  • Scouting the right location to build your course (you can't put mud pits and giant inflatable slides just anywhere)

  • Permits

  • How you'll find and hire the right medical staff

  • A plan for having enough volunteers to man the obstacles

There are definitely some obstacles to get over when putting on your race (see what I did there?), but they aren't obstacles that you can’t overcome. Obstacle course races are getting more and more popular every year, and they can be very lucrative if you do them right.

Then, your only obstacle will be finding a place to store all of your cash. Which is an obstacle I would tackle any day. #chaCHING

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