You’ll Never Forget Your First Time

…nor should you. Almost as sweet as your first kiss, your newbie experience at any type of new sport can be immediately daunting and filled with apprehension, but once you fight through the fear, it can lead to a life-changing experience. Now, imagine sharing that kiss with hundreds of other athletes – wait, I didn’t mean it like that – let’s say you’re sharing the joy of developing a new passion and surmounting any challenges with hundreds around you doing the same thing and feeling the same way, and maybe, just maybe, kissing a fellow athlete… wait, no. Enough with the kissing metaphor.

Seriously though, your first event can be an absolutely amazing experience that you’ll want to share with others and relive/revisit over and over. There’s a reason (actually many) that people from all walks of life get absolutely insanely addicted to obstacle course racing and mud runs – hell, this is the fastest-growing sport in the history of sport!

Every single obstacle gives you the opportunity to prove you’re up to the challenge and build your confidence, so “leave it all on the course” by giving every obstacle your best effort devoid of the caustic limiters of your ability: fear and trepidation.

Before You Sign Up

Check Your Ticker: The very first thing you should do before signing up for any event is to get your lazy ass checked out by a doctor. Seriously, no one wants to see you get carted off the course by EMTs because you weren’t healthy enough to sign up in the first place. Once you get the green light from your doc, spend some time checking out the event’s website. Review the distance and conditions to get a good idea of what you’re in for when you show up on race day—if you still have the guts to sign up.

Know The Rules: Pay special attention to the rules. It’s your responsibility to know what’s expected of you on the course. No, you can’t fight back against the zombies chasing you, and impersonating Chuck Norris with a spinning back kick to a gladiator is not allowed. Some events will give you recommendations on clothing or gear to wear. If they don’t offer that info, you can check out our Gear Guide.

Get Your Head in the Game: Getting your body and mind ready to compete is the most important element of pre-race preparation. Some events are a fun excuse to get mud in a few hard-to-reach crevices of your body and afterward have a beer with your friends, while others are extremely challenging endeavors that’ll test your physical and mental fortitude. If you’re signing up for the latter, it’s important to prepare for some of the rigors you’ll encounter on race day by running, exercising, and even taking an ice-cold shower or two. If you’re looking for a free Training Program, we’ve got that for you right here: “Training to Crush the World’s Most Bad-Ass Courses” program, where we’ll prepare you to dominate all obstacles. You’ll find dozens of tips, tricks, techniques, and real-life exercises you can use to get ready to tackle some of the most common obstacles you’ll find on race day.

In “What the Hell Are You Thinking?” below we’ll cover the mental aspect of signing up, showing up, and toeing the line to take on these amazing challenges.

I’ve even written up a step-by-step tutorial: “6 Steps to Becoming an Obstacle Racer: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?” that can help you with all those nagging questions, and even a Op-ed piece on Why “I Can’t Do It” is total bullsh*t.

Choose The Right Event

All of the below events are big on fun, and in descending order of difficulty. R.O.C. Race (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge) is the easiest, all the way down to Spartan Race Sprint as the hardest “beginner-friendly” races. If you’re looking for a good reason to get muddy and experience an actual mud run/obstacle course race with guys and gals, our best suggestion is to start with Warrior Dash. Yeah, we know you’re the adventurous type – but recommend getting at least one OCR under your belt before you move up to Spartan Race Sprint; even the short distance is pretty darn difficult with mandatory obstacle completion (the only one on this list that requires it)!


ROC-race

  • R.O.C. Race (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge): This event might look pretty familiar, especially if you’ve ever watched the TV show Wipeout!. This is an untimed, fun run (run, jog, walk, it’s all good) that is the absolute perfect introduction to the world of obstacle races. Why? While there’s no mud, ROC Race features some OCR staples like walls and a cargo net, and a whole bunch of game show-inspired inflatable obstacles for you to climb up, slide down, bounce around, jump on, and swing across! This is NOT a “race” – there is no timing at all, and most people walk or jog between obstacles. ROC Race is great for everyone 18 & up of any athletic ability!
    • Distance: 5k (3.1 miles)
    • Untimed, fun run – NOT a race
    • Walking between obstacles is 100% acceptable, most people do!
    • Obstacle Types: Mostly inflatable; from the world’s biggest slides to a couple featuring big red balls you’re trying to jump on, or are trying to knock you over.
    • Obstacle completion is not necessary, you can choose which ones you want to take on (or not)
    • Bring your friends! There’s no “team” competition (actually, there’s no competition at all) but you’re highly encouraged to get a big group of friends and even coordinate your outfits & costumes.
    • FUN race, even funner post-race party!
    • Check out our Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge event directory and registration discount here

dirty-giel-race

  • Dirty Girl Mud Run: The Dirty Girl Mud Run is a 3.1 mile(ish) untimed obstacle course run for women, and women ONLY! If this is your first time running an organized obstacle run or 5k, you WILL make it to the finish line! If you’re an über-cross-fitter looking to make your weekend more challenging (and fun), Dirty Girl Mud Run has a (fun) place for you. Over 900,000 women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and athletic backgrounds have completed this incredibly fun obstacle course since it’s debut in 2011.  Some run to challenge themselves, some make it a girls weekend with a group tailgate before the run – Dirty Girl Mud Run is for every lady out there.
    • Women only.
    • Distance: 5k (3.1 miles)
    • Untimed, fun run – NOT a race
    • Walking between obstacles is 100% acceptable, most people do!
    • Obstacle Types: Some mud pits, inflatable obstacles to bounce on or slide down, cargo nets, etc.
    • Obstacle completion is not necessary, and there’s no penalties for skipping as many as you’d like. A few obstacles may pose some slight difficulty (like monkey bars or cargo nets) but it’s all good to take ’em at your own pace!
    • Grab a Gaggle of Gals. Dirty Girl Mud Run (or DGMR like the cool kids call it) is all about fun, female empowerment, & bonding with no dudes to cramp your style. Want to put together fabulous costumes and wear tutus in the mud? Go right ahead, the more the merrier!
    • DGMR takes the after party very seriously (and you should too!) Hang out with all your muddy gals and have a blast!
    • Check out our Dirty Girl Mud Run event directory and registration discount here

wd-race

  • Warrior Dash: Warrior Dash is the world’s largest running series and is held on challenging and rugged terrains across the world. Participants bound over fire, trudge through mud and scale over 12 obstacles during this fierce 5K. From couch potatoes to novice runners to extreme athletes, Warrior Dash truly is an event for individuals 14 & up from all athletic abilities. Warrior Dash is an alternative to the classic 5K and provides an incomparable experience for participants and spectators. The unique combination of athleticism, live music, turkey legs and beer keeps Warriors coming back for more. Waves are untimed, the first 25 male and female finishers in the first wave qualify for the Warrior Dash World Championships!
    • Distance: 5k (3.1 miles)
    • Untimed, fun run – aside from the first wave, top 25 across the finish line qualify for the Warrior Dash World Championships.
    • Walking between obstacles is 100% acceptable, pick your speed! Some folks run it hard, others enjoy the course – it’s up to you.
    • Obstacle Types: Mud pits, Walls, Cargo Nets, Slides, etc. About 12 obstacles altogether, and most are a “fun challenge.”
    • Obstacle completion is not necessary, and there’s no penalties for skipping as many as you’d like. A few obstacles may pose some slight difficulty (like monkey bars or cargo nets) but it’s all good to take ’em at your own pace!
    • Warrior Dash features a fantastic beer garden at the end, a not-to-miss party for all the newly crowned members of #WARRIORNATION!
    • Check out our Warrior Dash event directory and registration discount here

rugged-race

  • Rugged Maniac: Looking for adventure? How about a day filled with 25 epic obstacles, a crazy party, and plenty of beer? Rugged Maniac Obstacle Race has you covered! Here’s how it works: Men & women 14 & up – Sign up for the race and you’ll run our 3-mile course where you’ll climb towers of shipping containers, rocket down a 50′ water slide, bounce on trampolines, jump over fire, and more! You can choose whether or not you’d like to be timed, a $10 charge covers the chip and the bragging rights!
    • Distance: 5k (3.1 miles)
    • Timed or Untimed – you choose! If you’d like to know your time & standings, then pony up the $10 for a timing chip
    • Walk, Jog, or Run – it’s up to you!
    • Obstacle Types: Walls, Cargo Nets, Tires, Warped Wall, Slide, Mud Pits, Monkey Bars, Ring Cross, and more. Obstacles are more challenging obstacles than Warrior Dash, but not as difficult as some at Spartan Race.
    • Obstacle completion is not necessary, and there’s no penalties for skipping ones as you want. If you’re being timed, complete each obstacle before continuing.
    • When you’re done getting muddy, the party begins! Beer, food, music, and plenty of good times!
    • Check our our Rugged Maniac event directory and registration discount here

spartan-race

  • Spartan Race Sprint: By far the most difficult of the “beginner-friendly” OCRs, Spartan Race Sprint is the shortest distance (around 3-5 miles) offered in traditional Spartan Races (they also have a Stadium Sprint in some cities) and still contains all the obstacles you’d find in some of their longer races, Spartan Race Super (8+ miles) and Spartan Race Beast (12+ miles). The sprint races can vastly vary from one race to another. They can be held on flat fields, rolling hills, or nearly vertical mountain terrain. Each race is different. The length of a sprint varies from 3-5 miles and consists of 15-20 obstacles depending on the location. These are considered the entry level races for Reebok Spartan Race, and a qualifier for the Spartan Race Trifecta, completing a Sprint, Super, and Beast in a calendar year (January 1 – December 31st), anywhere in the world. Fail or skip an obstacle and receive a 30 burpee penalty before continuing.
    • Distance: 3-5 miles
    • Timed race with multiple waves going off all-day
    • Walk, Jog, or Run – but remember, you’re on the clock!
    • Obstacle Types: Walls, Mud Pits, Barbed Wire Crawl, 5 Gallon Bucket Carry, Cargo Nets, Hercules Hoist, Rope Climb, etc.
    • Obstacle completion is mandatory, failure will result in a 30 burpee penalty before you are allowed to continue.
    • The after party at Spartan Race is legendary; big crowds whipped into a frenzy from all the athletes – pros and amateurs alike – hanging out in the festival area and cheering all the finishers. Beer, food, and plenty of Reebok Spartan Race gear to commemorate your first Spartan!
    • Check out our Spartan Race event directory and registration discount here
  • Want to Survive Your First Spartan Race? Get this free book!

What the Hell Are You Thinking?

Friday afternoon before your first/biggest/hardest race, you’ll most likely let a few co-workers or friends know what your plans are for the weekend. That is, assuming you haven’t been blathering about it for the last few weeks to anyone who’ll reluctantly lend you their ear.

It’s all good. You need the positive and negative energy from all the well-wishers and boo-birds. Take it all in. Let the well- wishers be your safety net, you know you have supporters in your court. Use those naysayers who say “You’re nuts!” as motivation that you have something to prove—not to them, but to yourself. That last bit is important: You’re doing this for yourself first, and secondly to make others proud, raise money for charity, or even as a tribute to a fallen friend. You’re the one that needs to show up and compete—make sure to prepare your mind and body and toe the line with the right training and can-do attitude – here you go:

Yes, You Can.

Nearly every Adam Sandler movie that I can think of has a requisite cameo from Rob Schneider imploring the protagonist, usually Sandler himself, with the simple one-liner:

“You can dooooo iiiiit!”

Well, you can. Channel your inner voice. Repeat that simple phrase to drive you when you wake up on race morning, during the long trek from the parking lot to the check-in, as you take your place in the starting corral, and under, over, across, and through every bit of that course. Crush doubt the second it creeps into your conscious mind with that simple mantra. Destroy fear by unleashing your desire, passion, and drive to deliver on the promise you made to yourself when you clicked that hyperlink to register. Repeat it three, five, or six hundred times if you need to continually remind yourself; write it on your forearm with permanent marker if you think you might forget it! Got your own phrase? Go with that instead, as long as it’ll motivate you to work your ass off and not hesitate for one second and let your commitment fade. Also, keep it short; your brain will be a little busy and the simpler, the better. Extra points if you tattoo your power phrase somewhere on your fleshy real estate; I used to have my own little ritual of writing “Tenacious” on my left forearm with a permanent marker before races, then I went ahead and got it peermanently tattooed there! That’s my mindset as I power through the highs and lows of endurance events toward the finish line, find yours or by all means you can use mine!

YOU. CAN. DO. IT.

Fear & Loathing in OCR

Have you heard the phrase “hitting the wall” in a marathon somewhere around the 20-mile mark? Well, it can just as easily happen in the 100 yards BEFORE the start line too. While that “wall” may be a physical limitation for some as they wear down, for the most part it is entirely mental. In any type of endurance event, your mind can be your best friend and your worst enemy—all in the span of a few minutes. There’ll be amazing highs when you conquer a difficult obstacle or pass other competitors, followed immediately by the lows—fear, doubt, outright anger toward other competitors, the course, or that rock in your right shoe that’s driving you insane. The worst part? You’ll have no advance warning when that dark wave will come crashing down upon you. Even during the best race of your life, as you push your body, your mind will fluctuate between light and dark. These highs and lows are relatively universal in endurance racing, so you’re not going nuts if you alternate between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde out on the course.

The best way to deal with these waves is to enjoy the highs while being careful not to push yourself too hard while you’re feeling like a superhero. Maintain your pace and keep your excitement under control so you don’t waste valuable energy that you’ll need for the rest of the race. When the lows come, you need to breathe deeply, relax, and remind your neurons who’s in charge. If the thought of quitting pops into your head, just remember how far you’ve come and how bummed you’ll be later if you bow out now.

TIP: Start slow and keep it steady throughout the race. Sprinting off the line or after each obstacle is a one way ticket to bonkville when your body burns through all the energy (glycogen stores) in your muscles. If you keep leap-frogging with other competitors who are walking or jogging between obstacles and you’re out of gas everytime you reach one, you’re probably running too hard, or over-excited and psyching yourself out. Relax, chill, and pace yourself. You can’t enjoy your first time if you’re too caught up in running your body to the redline.

Relax. Chill. Pace yourself. Enjoy. This is the only chance you’ll ever have to experience your first race, live in the moment.

Obstacles = Opportunities

You chose OCRs for a reason, whether it was to conquer the mayhem with your friends, set a new personal level of excellence, or just to impress that high school heartthrob that you just friended on Facebook. There’s also a pretty good chance you’ve obsessed over the course map and obstacle list on their website since you made that pivotal decision and are either relishing or dreading certain obstacles. Now’s the best time to prepare your mind and body to get you over, under, across, and through them all. The last section gave you the mantra or power thought, and you need to couple that with the commitment to attack each barrier in order to conquer it. By commitment, I mean jumping, pulling, pushing, dragging, and running with the certainty that you have the strength, drive, and ability to crush anything that stands in your way. You need to commit to succeed; you can’t dangle your toe in the water—you need to focus on trusting in yourself and your abilities and jump in with both feet. Every single obstacle gives you the opportunity to prove you’re up to the challenge and build your confidence, so “leave it all on the course” by giving every obstacle your best effort devoid of the caustic limiters of your ability: fear and trepidation.

Crush it.

For those of you who weren’t catching all the info I was dropping like mad above, here’s a checklist:


Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.