The History of Obstacle Course Races

obstacle-course-run-2-300x198Known as Spartans, Gladiators, Death Racers or Mudrunners, people who participate in obstacle course races are some of the toughest, and possibly most crazy, depending on who you ask, adventure sport participants, ever.

If you have ever participated in one of these grueling races, you know that these races are extremely tough, very brutal, and push you to the edge of stamina and pain…and you probably absolutely love it.

The immense high that you get when racing, the agony you feel when you take a misstep and the pure satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that floods you when you cross the finish line are all something that most obstacle racers simply cannot let go of.

If you are new to the sport or looking for a bit of an education, here is a bit about the sport as well as a history of obstacle courses and mud runs.

What are Obstacle Course Races?

This may seem like an obvious question for those who have raced before, but for those who haven’t, obstacle course races are like mixing the toughest military drills with a 5K, all while dealing with things like pools of mud and jumping through fire.

In essence, these race courses are designed to break participants both physically and mentally.

In most races, your endurance, speed, strength and dexterity will all be tested. As a racer you will be expected to complete a variety of tasks and if you fail, there will be penalties like squat thrusts, also known as burpees, which can make finishing even more difficult.

The History of the Mud Runs and Obstacle Races

Though obstacle course racing in its modern form has only been around since the mid 1990s, there have been races with obstacles around since the time of the Ancient Greeks who added these types of races in their ancient Olympic Games. In more contemporary times, races like steeplechase gave way to more difficult and demanding races like our current type of obstacle racing.

Along the way, new genres of racing were developed including:

Mud Runs

These races put one obstacle in the way of competitors…huge mud puddles.

This is not normal mud either, the mud that is concocted for mud runs typically is mud on the thickest, heaviest and most slimy variety, sticking to your body and holding you back from your goal.

Adventure Races

Typically adventure races will go a step beyond obstacle racing, in fact, if there is such a thing. Though very similar to obstacle racing, adventure racing adds different elements like kayaking, rappelling, horseback riding and orienteering.

Adventure races typically go over several days, so exhaustion is always a big factor. The first known series of adventure racing was introduced in 1995 by Mark Burnett, who produced “Survivor”.

Obstacle racing is considered by many to be a hybrid of mud running and adventure racing.

Over the years, many notable races have been introduced to the public and they have become wide spread and popular events. They have become so popular, in fact, that it is estimated that amateurs are beginning to become professionals and a governing association, the World Organization for Obstacle Course Races and Challenges was established in 2012.

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