What’s the fastest growing sport in the US? Golf? Soccer? Hockey? Frisbee? Those are all good guesses, but they’re all incorrect. Actually, it’s OCR, or obstacle course racing. Never heard of it? Don’t feel alone. While it might be able to lay claim to the most rapidly growing sport title, that doesn’t mean it’s a household name.
What Is OCR, Anyway?
OCR is pretty much what it sounds like. You and other competitors take to a course, racing to finish. However, in your way stand obstacles. We’re not talking the standard road race obstacles here – steep hills, sharp curves and the like. No, we’re talking about real obstacles that can put a serious crimp in your day. Mud pits. Barbed wire. Fire. Ok, so those are the more extreme examples, although certainly real. Less challenging races pit you against climbing nets, climbing walls, water-filled ditches, balance beams and more. Think Army basic training and you start to get the picture.
There are other similarities between obstacle course racing and military basic training. For instance, there’s really no drive to finish “first”. Just finishing is enough for most people. There’s also a focus on helping other racers when they encounter difficulties. It’s more about teamwork than about trouncing your competition.
The Sport to Date
To date, obstacle course racing has grown enormously. It went from just 20 events in 2010 to over 150 in 2013. Over 1.5 million competitors took to courses in 2013 as well. In fact, the industry has grown to be worth $250 million. That’s a striking surge in just four years. There are several major race organizations as well, including the “Big Three” – Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash.
What’s It All About?
So, we’ve laid out the basics of how obstacle course races work, but what’s it all about? There’s a great deal of confusion surrounding OCRs, as they differ so significantly from standard 5Ks, marathons and other road races.
Simply put, obstacle course racing is about challenging yourself, both physically and mentally. The races tend to be noncompetitive, which means you’re really competing against yourself, and not other racers. It’s about earning a sense of accomplishment and achievement by completing a grueling course. Admittedly, some races are seriously more challenging than others are, but they all share those things in common.
Considerations for Those Interested
Interested in pitting yourself against ropes and walls? Looking to take things to the next level with some additional, higher-end challenges? You’ll find it’s an amazing experience, but there are several things you should know before you sign up.
First, you need training, and your usual five-mile run won’t cut it. Obstacle course racing is about more than sheer endurance or stamina. You need to enroll in a boot camp – these training courses offer almost identical workout options as military training, which is what you’ll need to survive an obstacle course race.
You’ll also need the right gear to compete. While road racers might need nothing more than a pair of good shoes and running shorts, you’re going to need gloves, rope, shoes that can handle dirt, rocks, water and more, as well as the right type of clothing for the obstacles you’ll encounter.
You also need to focus on nutrition in ways that road racers don’t. You need physical strength, stamina, agility and endurance, and the right eating plan will help support that.
In the end, obstacle course races are exciting, challenging events, but they can also be dangerous for the unprepared. Training, nutrition and the right gear will help you overcome those challenges.