Obstacle Racing 2013: The Complete Guide

Obstacle-course racing is the nation’s fastest-growing sport, with millions of annual participants. It’s time to join the party with our handy guide to all things obstacle racing.

(Dmitry Gudkov)
Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Since the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race series debuted in 2010, more than three million Americans have leaped over fire, swum through muck, and crawled beneath barbed wire to cross the finish line of an obstacle-course race. That’s 1.5 million more OCR participants than marathon finishers in the same time span.

“It’s about having this great sense of accomplishment,” says two-time World’s Toughest Mudder winner Junyong Pak about OCR. “You think you’d be miserable, because you’re so tired and dirty, but you’re smiling.” Margaret Schlachter, the first woman to go pro in the sport, says that “it speaks to a primal urge within us. It’s like being a kid again.”

Of course, the rise in popularity has created some issues. There are so many OCR events today, an estimated 150 in the U.S. alone, that it’s difficult to know which are set up properly and which are cheap knockoffs. Many competitors still jump into the fray without the focused training that marathoners and triathletes endure, and some are injured as a result.

To do these races well and safely, you’ll need stamina, upper-body strength, and good muscle coordination. Plus, most obstacles take a bit of strategy to get over smoothly. All of which means that training for an event, whether it’s your first or fifteenth, is essential. Here’s where to start.

Pick Your Battle

Athletes competed in the 2013 Carolinas Spartan Race, held March 23-24, 2013 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) in Charlotte NC. Spartan Races are extreme obstacle course races held around the nation to give ultra athletes the chance to test their resilience, strength and stamina in an extreme -- and extremely muddy -- setting. (PatrickSchneiderPhoto.com)

Obstacle races are popping up everywhere, but how do you know which one is right for you? We break down the big four, Toug Mudder, Alpha Warrior, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash. Read more...

The Ultimate Training Plan

Arctic Enema
Tough Mudder Toronto endurance event series Mount St. Louis Moonstone

Want to get in shape for your first obstacle race? We've got a quick and easy eight-week training plan that will have you ready to roll with the veterans. Read more...

Tips from the Pros

Hobie Call
From left: Junyong Pak, Hobbie Call, and Margaret Schlachter. (Ben Rasmussen/Facebook/Dirt in Y)

Top obstacle athletes Hobie Call, Junyong Park, and Margaret Schlachter tell you how to get past some of the most difficult obstacles on the adventure circuit, from rope walls to electrified wire. Read more...

Avoid the Most Common Injuries

tough mudder
(Glynnis Jones)

Injuries are common on most obstacle courses but plenty of them can be avoided by keeping your eyes in front of you and following a few of these simple safety tips. Read more...

Cody Moat's Spartan Secrets

cody moat
(Benjamin Rasmussen)

Cody Moat burst onto the obstacle racing scene last year with a surprise sweep of the Spartan Race World Championships. He sat down with us to reveal a few of his training methods. Read more...

Fuel the Fire

hobbie call
(Hannah McCaughey)

Who doesn't love a good smoothie? Obstacle champ Hobie Call shares the secret recipe for his world-beating wheatgrass super smoothie. Read more...

Gladiator Gear


If you're planning on joining the obstacle racing circuit, you'll want to make sure you grab the right gear before you hit the ropes. Check out some of our favorites. Read more...

Good luck out there!

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