Have you ever wondered how you should behave at an obstacle course race to not embarrass yourself? Or do you just forget about etiquette and act like a caveman? If so, here are my personal 10 unofficial rules of OCR etiquette to show good manners on and off the course.
1) Queueing and waiting in line
Let's be honest. Sometimes the biggest obstacle in OCR is not the obstacle itself, but the line in front of it.
And depending on the event, you might have to queue a lot: at the car park, at registration, at the bag drop, at the obstacles, at the rinse stations. And yes, it is annoying. Everyone hates waiting and getting cold.
But that is not an excuse to be rude and jump the queue. Be patient and wait until it is your turn. Form a proper queue just like the Brits would. Talk up some people and make friends.
In the end, we are all in this together, even the queue.
2) Proper passing and overtaking etiquette
The biggest problem about single trails, no matter if it is OCR or trail running, is that they are single. This means that they are usually quite narrow and fit only one person, which makes passing difficult.
So if you are a fast runner and want to pass someone, let them know that you are coming. Shout at them, at which side you want to pass them.”On your left” is generally widely accepted amongst runners, as this is the rule for track training.
In case you are a slower runner and hear someone coming behind you, step aside and let them pass. (unless you would fall off a cliff, in which case you should stay on track).
This will ensure, that there is less congestion on the course and everyone is happy.
Once you have passed and run in front of other runners, always warn them if there is a root, stone or hole in the ground that might cause them to slip and fall.
3) Help others over obstacles if allowed
Good manners on obstacles are the most important thing of OCR etiquette. Don't be the selfish person that climbs up the wall and does not offer help just to be 10 seconds faster. You might think: why should I? Isn't this a race after all?
With that attitude, the best case scenario is that you will end up with bad race karma. Worst case someone else will get hurt because you did not help and they will end up in a lot of pain.
So don't be an a**hole.
Offer a hand if it is allowed. If it is not needed, good. If you can help someone, even better.
4) Rinsing etiquette
Yes, we all love to get muddy. But at one point we also have to get clean again. That is why the rinse stations at races are usually very busy. So if you want to clean yourself up after the race, keep in mind that a lot of other people want to. Wait in line. Keep your rinse short. Don't splash other people with water.
If you decide to strip down completely, do it decently. (unless you are in Germany, where nearly everyone goes naked.) Respect other people's privacy. Don't stare at other people's body parts. (yes, not even at all those naked Germans)
5) Team rivalry
Yes, I know that your OCR team is the best one in the world. But this does not mean that other OCR teams suck. So even when there is a team ranking, in the end, this is not a reason to be mean or nasty to other teams. Be kind and nice, make friends. Help them at the obstacles. A little bit of funny banter is allowed, but always show some respect and good manners.
In the end, you never know where you will bump into them one day, on and off the course. (like in the hotel sauna after a race in Germany…naked)
6) Encourage others
There are all different kinds of people in OCR. There are the Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Websters of this world, that crush races like it was a walk in the park.
But the majority of people are just weekend warriors, trying to get their asses off the couch and having a good time. They can come from all different backgrounds, old, young, male, female, fast, slow, fit or fat. In the end, it does not matter. We all came here to have a good time and run the best race possible.
So next time you are passing a slow and obviously overweight person, don't think or say: “What the hell are you doing here?” Rather give them some encouragement and cheer them on:”Great job! Keep going!”
Every one of us started off at one point, and we overcame our fears and improved. Just because some people have a different fitness level does not mean their achievements are less valuable.
Because in the end, we only want to be better than our own best. (Unless you are Ryan Atkins, who probably wants to be better than everybody else's best too)
7) Always be friendly to volunteers and staff
Volunteers are the backbone of every OBstacle Course Race. Without them organizing a race would not be possible. They are there working in their free time so we racers can have a good time. So show some respect. Give them high fives and thank them for helping out.
If they want, give them a muddy hug.
If you are dealing with race staff also show manners. Just because it is their job does not mean they should be yelled at if you don't like something and get frustrated. I am sure they want you to have an awesome race experience, but sometimes things just don't go as planned.
So if you want to complain, do it in a constructive way.
8) Cheating is not good etiquette
If you decide to run a more serious race (read: elites), cheating is absolutely off limits. This relates to the proper completion of obstacles, as well as doing penalties correctly. (you hear me: it is not 28, not 29, but 30 burpees).
If you think that the elites should know anyway, trust me, they do not. I've course marshaled often enough to have seen bigger and smaller cheats. The most stupid one: cutting the course right in front of 20 spectators to jump into 1st place.
And yes, cheating for me includes doping. If we all want this sport to be taken seriously, and to make it to the Olympics, doping should be off limits too.
But what if you are a less serious runner and just want to have a good time on course? Do the rules still apply to you too?
You would have to decide yourself if cheating is worth it. I personally think the rules apply to everyone, and it makes me really angry when people skip half of the obstacles and penalty burpees, but still claim a finisher medal/shirt/headband afterward. Let me assure you: you are mostly and foremost cheating on yourself. And race karma is a bitch and will come back to you.
9) Don't litter
This is an unwritten rule for everyone that loves nature: The only thing you leave behind are your footprints. It might be acceptable to drop your gels and cups during road races, but it is definitely not on the trails. And no, it is not the volunteers' job to clean up after you.
At some races it is forbidden to litter and people would get disqualified for it. Treat every race like this rule was in place. In the end, you don't want trash in your home, garden or backyard. So treat also the race course like that.
10) Body fluids matter
A snot rocket is an obstacle, that Tough Mudder might throw at you, but other racers should not. So if you have to get rid of certain body fluids, look right, left and behind you so you don't hit other runners.
If you have to pee and don't find a portapotty, look for some bushes instead. But don't disturb other people and stay away from freshwater springs. And please do you, fellow runners, a favor and don't pee in water obstacles. Would you like to go through water where several others have peed in? No? Then don't be that person.*
*Of course, there is always an exception to the rule. If you are wearing a wetsuit at World's Toughest Mudder, please only per into the open water obstacles 😉
Manners matter on social media too
You now learned how to behave on and around the course. But proper OCR etiquette doesn't stop there. A lot of the OCR world also happens online. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. So help out other people online, if they ask for help. Encourage them like it would be on course. Don't insult other people online. If you want to complain about certain things at a race, give constructive feedback instead of just writing a nasty review on facebook.
The OCR community is a bunch of lovely friendly people. Keep it a place where everyone can feel empowered, encouraged and at home.
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.