Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash—you know these mud runs for the headbands, fire pits, and beer, but obstacle course racing (OCR) is a rapidly growing sport which now even has its own U.S. sanctioning body. For an inside look at the future of the sport, Men’s Fitness caught up with Reebok-sponsored athlete Hunter McIntyre, one of the world’s top ranked competitors in the Reebok Spartan Race.
Men's Fitness: How long have you been competing in obstacle course racing?
Hunter McIntyre: I ran my first one in 2012 but I didn’t really start do anything serious until the summer of 2012.
What have been your most proud accomplishments?
Racing in the World Championships, which aired on NBC, was something I was really proud of. To be side by side Olympians, world record holders, and national champions was something I was really excited about.
How many obstacle races do you do a year?
I run about 15-20 races a year. I got seven first places this season.
What is your training routine like?
I follow a CrossFit Endurance model. My old coach, Brian Mackenzie, invented CrossFit Endurance, which is a pyramid where you focus on nutrition, strength, conditioning, skill, and sport. I try to get in peak physical shape year-round and then sharpen my skills leading up to an event. On average, I train twice a day and six days a week.
How many miles do you run a week?
I run twice a week which adds up to less than 10 miles a week. One will be a sprint interval and the other will be a long distance endurance-building run.
What’s your favorite gear to wear on an obstacle course?
I often wear the Reebok All-Terrain series line and I love the All-Terrain series Super shoe. I’m also a big fan of wearing compression. Don’t wear cotton because it will hold a lot more liquid and stick to you.
What inspired you to enter OCR?
I was hanging out with my friends and they started yelling about doing a Spartan Race. We all signed up and I ended up being the only one to complete the race. I was like, “This is awesome. It’s a brutal, all out effort with climbing ropes and throwing things.” I was hooked right from the start and the sport blew up. I did research and started chasing the best athletes like Cody Moat and Hobie Call to see if I can go toe to toe with them.
What are your goals in OCR?
I love doing short-distance, high-intensity, heavy obstacles. Shorter courses that are skill- and strength-based are becoming more popular and hopefully that will continue. I’m arguably the best athlete in our sport in short distances, but if I want to be considered number one I have to win the long distance race, the 14-mile World Championships.
Where do you see OCR going as a sport?
As OCR becomes more of spectator/sponsor-friendly sport, it will become more of a short distance, heavy obstacle sport. Courses that are three miles or less and very physical will draw big-time athletes and sponsors. With that said, the World Championships will always be there.
What are people most unaware of when it comes to obstacle racing?
I think people are most unaware of how much upper body strength you really need to have. Many of the obstacles, like the rope climb and traverse wall, require a lot of upper body strength. My advice is to do as many pullups as possible and start running, biking, or swimming to boost your cardio.