Obstacle running for beginners!

Last weekend, I completed my first obstacle race, Rough Runner. Now that the grazes have mostly faded and the aches have disappeared from my muscles, I’m already thinking about signing up for my next one!

I’ve compiled some tips that I picked up along the way, during my preparation for the race, and I hope that they’ll be helpful to some of you thinking about starting obstacle racing. I’ve tried not to include too many generic running tips (e.g. hydrate appropriately), but they are obviously worth thinking about too.

  • DON’T WEAR COTTON! I can’t emphasise this point enough, it’s so important as cotton will just absorb any moisture and become heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Be careful not to wear cotton underwear or socks either as these also will stay wet during the race.
  • Wear good (but not valuable) shoes. You want shoes with great grip so you’re not slipping around, but you don’t want to worry about wrecking your brand new trainers. I wore a pair of cheap trail shoes (I’ll post a review of them later) and they did the job pretty well. Also remember that most places don’t allow you to race in spikes, so if you have a pair, leave them at home.
  • Tie your laces tight! You don’t want to lose a shoe, and if you do your laces wrong it could happen easily. I tied mine using a heel lock technique (see below), and they didn’t budge one inch, even though part of the Rough Runner course involved wading through some incredibly sticky mud.  
  • Protect your elbows and knees. Chances are, you’re going to get some scrapes and knocks to them so if you’re not wearing clothes that cover these areas, consider covering them with pads or supports (or just suck it up and let them heal on their own…up to you!)
  • Be prepared for the elements; I would recommend long sleeved clothing in the winter and sunblock (waterproof) in the summer. Also gloves, if you’re that way inclined (I personally didn’t wear any as it’s July and it was quite warm, but I will as it gets colder this Autumn.
  • Don’t be afraid to tackle an obstacle multiple times. We can’t all do it on the first go, and the other people there will understand that. I took several attempts to get up ‘Ramp it up’ and the ‘Travelator’ at Rough Runner and I learnt that the most important thing to do is to stay calm and positive and try to assess what you ought to be doing differently. You’ll get there eventually.
  • Bring full supplies for after the race; snacks, a full change of clothes, towels, wet wipes and most importantly bin liners to put your dirty and wet clothing in.
  • Do it with friends. I find regular running can be an extremely solitary activity, but obstacle running is definitely something to be enjoyed in the company of others. It’s a real bonding experience, and you’ll be grateful for your teams support on the way. #nomanleftbehind
  • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Whilst you are timed at many races, it’s not about the time as much as a regular running race is. Be happy that you’re doing something amazing and proud of yourself!

Remember, a sore body today is a strong body tomorrow!



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