Common Questions About Obstacle Course Races


Obstacle-Course-Races-14-239x300Congratulations, you are one step closer to changing your life!

No seriously, a mud run aka obstacle course race can be that one trigger that will have a domino affect throughout your life. You will lose weight, gain confidence, and work that discipline muscle that will carry into other aspects of your life.

Lets start with the easiest question:

Are Mud Runs for everyone?

That is an easy question, OF COURSE! Now, there are still people that don’t “get it”, which is understandable. Who would want to run over fire, in mud, and through electrified fences? The answer may surprise you!

Hopefully these common questions about mud runs and obstacle course races will help answer the most obvious issues people face. If not, feel free to contact us directly with questions!

What is an Obstacle Run, Exactly?

Essentially, these events take a cross country running course and add obstacles: mud, walls, ponds, fire, slick surfaces, ropes, monkey bars, climbing nets, barbed wire barriers and even zombies may stand in the way of the participants and the finish line.

Runners count their success based on whether or not they finish, not how fast they did it. Failure rates can range from 10% to 50% depending on the difficulty of the event, and “challenge” events don’t keep track of time at all.

Camaraderie is a major part of these races. It’s common for runners to form teams, training and racing together. Solo runners will quickly find themselves meeting people and working with them through the event. People can and will help each other through the obstacles.

How Do I Choose an Event?

Difficulty can vary wildly from challenging to nearly impossible.

Many events will have distances ranging from a 5k to a full marathon or may be on a continuous loop lasting up to 24 hours. The obstacles can range from just mud pits to dozens of novel designs kept secret until race day.

Once you’ve given some thought to how much of a challenge you want to take on, it’s then just a matter of figuring out which obstacle course race series provides what you’re looking for in a race.

What You can Expect From the Most Popular Series:


The Warrior Dash, Survival Race and Spartan Sprint are aimed specifically at beginners, giving them a chance at breaking into the sport.

Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast and Super Spartan are the most difficult challenges.

Series like Civilian Military Combine (CMC) and GORUCK give civilians a chance to feel what it’s like going through military training.

There’s also Hero Rush, which emulates the challenges faced by fire fighters.

GORUCK and Tough Mudder emphasize teamwork, while the Muddy Buddy Ride & Run is aimed at couples.

Run For Your Lives adds zombies which try to snatch competitors’ flags to reduce their final points totals.

Make sure to check out reviews from fellow racers:

This is a relatively new sport, so many new events are still working out the bugs.

After You Have Found an Event to Join, Ask yourself These Questions:

  • Are the obstacles well planned?
  • Are there plenty of water stations?
  • Is there a good place to wash off after the run?

Even within the same series, events can vary widely.

How do I Train for an Obstacle Course Run?

Training for obstacle course races like Tough Mudder is the main question people have regarding theses events.

Exercises that emphasize grip strength, upper body strength and plyometrics are beneficial for nearly any obstacle.

Leg lifts will help with mud and tire obstacles, crawls with low obstacles, and both sprints and jump rope for high intensity challenges.

The two biggest shortfalls for newcomers and experienced runners alike are wall climbs and rope climbs. The key to these obstacles isn’t upper body strength, it’s technique.

Look at Youtube videos to see techniques and find a place where you can practice these maneuvers.

If you’re new to the sport, plan to spend at least three months training before your first run.

What Gear Should I Wear at the Race?tough-muddr-2013-120-300x199

Getting the property obstacle race gear is essential to a successful run. You must know what NOT to wear, because too many people, like this guy pictured on the right, forget that mud, water, and running do not mix well. The bottom line on clothes is: wear tight fitting clothes!

Shoes are salvageable, but you should keep your expensive running shoes at home. The rest of the gear can be up to you.


  • Find a comfortable pair of trail running shoes with plenty of drainage.
  • Cleats are banned at most events due to the danger to other participants, and while they may work well on dirt, they can be a major hindrance on many of the obstacles.


  • Lightweight, moisture wicking fabric won’t just keep sweat away from your body, it will help you dry off from the mud, and tight fitting clothing will prevent snags.
  • Cotton will waterlog quickly and pockets will fill with mud, so both should be avoided.
  • If the race is at comfortable temperatures, many racers will opt for a minimum amount of clothing to reduce mud and moisture buildup.


  • If you go this route, make some test runs in your outfit to ensure it won’t cause chafing or add too much weight during the event.


  • Grip is very important, but gloves are only helpful in certain circumstances.
  • They work better with some grip-heavy obstacles like rope climbs, but are terrible for monkey bars.
  • They can quickly get heavy from being caked in mud, but they can also keep hands warm at cold events, helping maintain grip strength.
  • Finger-less gloves will drain better and stay dryer than full gloves.


  • Thin elbow and knee pads will cut down on cuts and abrasions through crawling obstacles.
  • Goggles and ear plugs will keep mud out of your eyes and ears; buy the lowest dB rating available to ensure you can still hear fellow participants.
Will the Run Destroy my Clothes?

There’s a good chance that the moisture and mud will destroy the socks you are wearing, and cheap shoes may fall apart during the race. Any other clothing will just be really dirty. Typically you can save all your clothes as long as they don’t get singed, caught in barbed wire, or destroyed in some crazy obstacle. Blood comes off easy =)

How Do I get past the Obstacles?

Stop and look. There may be a spot where it’s easier to get a grip.

Watch other competitors and see how they do it: Your problem may just be a matter of technique, not ability.

Ask for help. Even if you’re running solo, someone is bound to help you out.

Be sure to return the favor – If all else fails, skip it.

There’s usually a penalty ranging from time to exercises and even novel punishments like ice baths.

Even the best trained runner is bound to find an obstacle or two that they can’t conquer, giving them something to train for next time.