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5 Tips for First-Time Obstacle Course Racers

Whether it's a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or Warrior dash, this pro advice can help you get to the finish line.
5 Tips for First-Time Obstacle Course Racers
Warrior Dash/Game face media

Everyone fumbles during their first obstacle race, so learn from the elites’ beginner mistakes and make it easier on yourself. Here, our experts give you five must-do tips for your first OCR. You don’t want to go in cold.

This is especially important if it’s a cold-weather race

“Getting warm and changed as quickly as possible is a top priority, but one you’ll inevitably forgo thinking about before the event,” Albon says. “I now have a Dryrobe [] that gets me warmed up fast and lets me change into dry clothes as soon as I cross the line. In my first event, my dry clothes were in the car, a 20-minute walk away.”

Not changing into dry clothes after a wet-cold OCR could lead to hypothermia.

“Find a friend to do your first race with,” Pak says, “ideally someone who’s already done an obstacle race and can talk you through it so you’re not discouraged or intimidated.”

Doing obstacle races in numbers is a lot of fun, anyway, and they often require collaboration. “It’s like jumping out of a plane your first time,” he says. “You don’t want to be doing that solo.” Or, you know, at all.

“Do your homework, know what you’re getting yourself into, and don’t do anything too crazy on your first time out,” says Magida, whose own debut was a baptism by fire that saw him barely finish and very nearly pass out at the finish line. “Start with a small race—a 5K, say—and as you gain experience, you can go a little harder and get a little more ambitious. Don’t swing for the fences your first time out.”

This is where YouTube research can help, along with polling your friends who’ve done OCRs.

“Watch some videos of the races,” Pak says. “There’s so much material out there that you can really paint a very good picture of what you’re likely to encounter in a race by seeing videos of the obstacles and how the race is run.”

There will be certain challenges that you’re simply not ready for, and scouting gives you a way to find out what’s in the race.

You don’t need all-new, expensive equipment for your first race, but do follow a few rules: 1) Avoid cotton, which holds water and loses its shape. 2) Don’t wear your oldest, most worn-out shoes for fear of muddying up your good trail shoes. And, most important, 3) “Try everything out beforehand,” Schlachter says. “Do a long hike or run, go out and be active in your race clothes, eat your race-day foods, and see how your body reacts to it all.”

If your gear is bad to hike in, it’ll be no good for an OCR.


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