There aren’t any mud pits to jump over in the marathon. There are no walls to scale or buckets of sand to carry like in obstacle course racing.
Because many obstacle course races, which can range from a mile up, test full-body strength and endurance, training for one of these races looks different from training for a standard road race. But just how do you make the transition from 10Ks and marathons to obstacle course racing?
“Most runners are very good at working through running-related fatigue,” said Brakken Kraker, a Spartan Pro Team racer and Head OCR coach with Leaderboardfit.com. “However, during an OCR race you experience such high levels of fatigue in your arms, legs, core, lungs, that it’s extremely difficult for a first-timer to run well.”
Here are a few tips on making the transition to your first OCR.
Build Grip Strength1 of 7
You'll need to build up your grip strength, said Jonathan Albon, who won the 2014 Spartan and OCR World Championships.
"If you can, go bouldering to build grip strength and develop a few circuits, mainly using self-body weight exercises," he said. "After this, if you can get access to some obstacles to practice technique, then you will likely be more efficient on race day and need less strength."
Work on Hills2 of 7
Kraker said runners also need to work on ascending and descending hills.
"Almost every OCR course out there is set against the nastiest terrain they can find. You will spend much of your day running up and down steep, steep, steep slopes. Every hill you can put in during practice will pay off come race day."
Practice Loaded Carries3 of 7
One of the most daunting tasks in an obstacle course race is the loaded carries, which require participants to sometimes carry buckets of rocks or sandbags uphill.
"These are the obstacles that break people down. Carrying a 60-pound sandbag or an 80-pound bucket of rocks up and down a ski slope is not something most people are prepared for," Kraker said. "Spend some time with these heavy objects in training and you will find yourself flying past people during the race."
Find a Team4 of 7
Like running, obstacle course racing can be a team effort. Find a local training club or join a group planning on trying to conquer an OCR.
"The camaraderie and sense of community at these races is second to none," Kraker said. "If you are unable to complete an obstacle there will always be people around to help you out."
Get Some Gear5 of 7
Both Kraker and Albon said special gear isn't necessary, but treating yourself to new gear may inspire your training.
You'll want to look for a pair of shoes with an aggressive tread for keeping your footing on slippery courses; compression shorts to keep from snagging on any barbed wire obstacles; and moisture-wicking socks. Also, invest in a good pair of gloves to wear during rope and carry events.
Get a Coach6 of 7
A great way to meet other OCR trainees is to sign up for training courses with a professional coach. Spartan SGX offers obstacle course prep with coaching staff available locally or even virtually.
Kraker recently launched his own online training platform, which connects athletes to coaches: Leaderboardfit.com.