Over the sport’s young history, several beliefs and myths have formed around obstacle racing.
If you’re someone who’s thinking about trying an obstacle race, some of these myths may have prevented you from taking the next step: actually signing up.
Which are true and which are smokescreens? Let’s find out.
Myth 1: Obstacle racing is just for guys.
It’s easy to see how this myth came about.
Early marketing and messaging from Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and other OCR pioneers targeted dudes: getting dirty for mud’s sake; the bromaraderie; bumps, bruises, cuts, and other war wounds from a dangerous challenge; all the beer you want to celebrate crossing the finish line.
The truth is, more women participate in obstacle racing than most think. Earlier on, sure, the sport had more of a significant bend towards men. Now, the breakout in participation is approximately 60/40 male/female.
For some co-ed races, there’s a nearly equal likelihood of participation from women and men.
Myth 2: Obstacle racing is dangerous.
We’ve heard the stories and continue to hear them. Sprained ankles, broken bones, drownings, and deaths from dehydration.
Obstacle racing is not without its risks. There are inherent hazards to the challenge.
But the truth is, the fatality rate for obstacle racing is much lower than many other sports. Skiing claims more lives per 100,000 participants than obstacle course racing.
The business naivete of novice race developers have left a lot of consumers distrustful of organizers. Race registrants often have no guarantee of whether or not they’ll get their money back if a race is cancelled, regardless of what the fine print says.
Overall, obstacle racers generally recommend signing up for locally organized races and established businesses.
Also, beware of race discounts on online deals sites as sometimes organizers use these as a last-ditch effort to make quota for waves. If not met, the race itself may be at risk of cancellation.
Myth 4: Obstacle racing is a fad.
Maybe…but it’s too early to tell.
Anyone familiar with the history of triathlons may recall that this multidisciplinary sport, like OCRs, had a small, cult-like following during its early years. Not much has changed in that there still are a core few million Americans that take part in triathlons.
Officially organized in the early ‘80s, it wasn’t long before triathlons became an Olympic sport. By 1990, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) recognized the sport, and triathlons debuted in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
So is obstacle racing a fad? With leading organizers committed to making the sport an Olympic event, it may be here to stay. The verdict isn’t out just yet.
Myth 5: Obstacle racing is dumb.
To someone that isn’t remotely interested in the sport, this statement probably couldn’t be more true.
But if you are considering a race, why not find out for yourself?
Myth 6: Obstacle racing is expensive.
Depending on the race organizer, an obstacle race can cost more than a registration fee for a traditional road race or running event.
But it’s less expensive than other sports, namely, expedition-long adventure races and triathlons. You don’t need the extent of equipment required for training for adventure racing and triathlons. In many cases, all you need is a good pair of off-road running shoes and access to a playground with some of the obstacles you’d encounter in a race.
Myth 7: All obstacle races are muddy.
Many, but not all. Think of the urban races. Tough Mudder’s held an urban event. There’s also the City Challenge Obstacle Race in the North East. There may be one close to you.
Myth 8: Obstacle racing requires a lot of upper body strength.
Yes. You have to master pull-ups to get comfortable with swinging through monkey bars and climbing over walls that are taller than you.
However, you’ll also need good running fitness to have the endurance to get through the length of a course.
So you need to balance building a base for aerobic and strength conditioning for this sport.
Myth 9: You have to do CrossFit to train for an obstacle race.
Not necessarily. A little while ago, I wrote an article on this topic for Ask The Trainer.
CrossFit can help prepare your body for an obstacle race as it’s a multi-faceted training program, just like obstacle races are multi-faceted challenges.
In addition to training several aspects of fitness like CrossFit does, you’ll need to integrate more running workouts into your OCR training program. More than what you would get from most CrossFit regimens.
Myth 10: There’s no obstacle racing event close to me.
Interestingly, a couple years ago, Spartan Race did an interview with Venues Today, saying that they were looking for sites to hold additional obstacle races.
Obstacle racing is not only a U.S. sport, but a global one, and many race organizers aspire to host events within a two-hour drive time from a city. Chances are there is a race close to you, just not exactly in your backyard. You may need to do some research and carpool with friends to make it to your most local race.
These are just a few myths out there on the sport of obstacle racing. In the years to come, there may be more.
Going through this top 10, hopefully you can see the benefits and experience of obstacle racing outweigh any of the negative myths surrounding the sport. And you’ll get out there and try one for yourself (or give it another shot)!
© 2009-2015 Melissa Rodriguez
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