You have likely seen them: Spartan or Tough Mudder shirts at a race. Or perhaps you have friends proudly displaying their scrapes and bruises on Monday morning or have viewed the crazy pictures on Facebook of people crawling under barbed wire, getting shocked with electricity or jumping over fire.

Unless you’ve already taken the leap and tried it, you’re probably wondering what the fuss with Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is all about and why people would pay money to do these dangerous-looking events.

OCR is the fastest growing sport in the world right now, with over 4 million participants in 2014 alone. The U.S. market is dominated by a few major players: the teamwork-based Tough Mudder, the party atmosphere of the Warrior Dash (sometimes described as the gateway drug of OCR) and the more grueling Spartan Race series.

This is backed up by a strong second tier of companies that provide a high-quality race experience but haven’t reached the scale of the big three yet:  Rugged Maniac, Savage Race and the Gladiator Rock’n Run, to name a few. Behind these are a large number of successful, traditional and fun local “mud runs.”

So what’s the appeal?


Anyone Can Do One – Anyone!

While athletes often excel at these events, people of all shapes, sizes, fitness levels and ages (as young as 12 and as old as their mid-70s) can be found at many of these races.

In recent years, these events have embraced the adaptive athlete community as well; and it’s not uncommon to see people on the course with missing or artificial limbs, or even in wheelchairs with a team of other athletes along to help them through parts of the course when they need it.


They Test You


It doesn’t matter whether you’re a world-class runner or triathlete, or can barely make it through a 5K without collapsing, these courses will put your athleticism to the test.

Frequently incorporating big, technical hill climbs and descents, heavy carries and obstacles designed to test your grip strength, balance or technique, OCR is a wonderful way to highlight any holes you have in your training. Working to improve at OCR requires you to be a better overall athlete.

They Are Primal

So much of our world has become sterilized in our day-to-day existence (we weren’t meant for cubicles and fluorescent lighting), and OCR provides a wonderful release from all of that.

The struggle with the elements, the obstacles and your own body is a great way to get in touch with your more primitive side. Jump in a mud pit, crawl on the ground; it all brings you closer to what it truly means to be human.


You Face Your Fears


Some races will shock you with electricity. Others will make you climb over really high things, leap off platforms into water or crawl through dark, confined spaces.

Perhaps your fear is more insidious, like a fear of failure or looking foolish in front of others. Whatever form your fear takes, the odds are good that at some point in an obstacle course race you’ll be staring right at it. You’ll find that overcoming that fear is one of the best feelings in the world.


They Celebrate Your Triumphs

The OCR community is simply one of the best and most supportive that you’ll find anywhere in the world. They will celebrate your triumphs and accomplishments and are happy to lend a hand along the way to help you get there—whether that’s through moral support before the event or by helping you through obstacles on the course.

Also, many social networks have grown through the sport of OCR as people have reached out in search of others who share this weird and wonderful hobby. There are truly some tremendous and inspiring people in the sport.

So if you’re one of the multitude that enjoys running either casually or competitively but hasn’t yet taken the step over to the “dark side” and done an obstacle race, give OCR a try. You might just find a new obsession.

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