5 tips for your first obstacle race

My first obstacle race (OCR) was Zombie Evacuation back in 2012. I caught the bug and currently in 2018 I have c30 obstacle races booked with my season culminating in World’s Toughest Mudder in November. Obstacle Course Races has been a fantastic way of people getting back into fitness and a chance to act a little like kids again. Before Zombie Evacuation, I hadn’t run since school and had no real idea of what to expect from my first ever 5km run. Here are my top tips to help you get through your first obstacle race.

  • Pick the right race – There is a massive amount of Obstacle Course Races available to people in the UK. From the well known Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Wolf Run, to the more local Delamere Commando, Bog Commander and Ram Run. When selecting your race, think about the
    1. Locality – How far are you willing to travel to a race?
    2. Distance – How far are you willing to run/walk. Also see if the course is laps. X-Runner for example is 5km laps allowing people to stop after 5km or carry on for 10km
    3. Terrain – Where is it based, how muddy could it be? Would it be very hilly? The difference in terrain may make the obstacle course much more difficult.

Wolf Run is a 10km race in the midlands, very well organised and I think a great introduction to OCR. Tough Mudder is probably the best known, with a varying number of distances and some HUGE obstacles and lots of venues across the UK. Check out my DISCOUNT if you are doing your first Tough Mudder in 2018.

  • Train – Once you have selected your race, you need to do some training. This isn’t necessarily about finishing in the top places and winning, but more about making sure you can finish the race whilst enjoying it, and not blowing out your a** and crawling across the finish line. As mentioned earlier, I had never ran since school, so a friend and me did the Couch 2 5km program in readiness. Be assured, that you wont need to run the whole distance (so you don’t need to complete a full 10km distance before your first 10km obstacle race – it will help though.) as there will be water/fuel stops and quite often when you’re going through/over/under the obstacles that’s a bit of active recovery. Depending on how busy the course it, there may be some queues too.  Having all round fitness would be useful – crawling, climbing and carrying are all part of obstacle courses, so “functional fitness” is the way to go.


  • No Cotton – This refers to what to wear on the day. Cotton holds on to moisture, and you’re most likely going to get wet by running through some water or at least some mud. Synthetic fibres is the way to go. You don’t have to necessarily buy brand new kit for your first obstacle race – in fact, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you do, then look at cheap kit from Sports Direct or similar. The less you wear the better, skin is so much quicker at drying  off than any clothes. Try not to wear full length leggings, shorts, long sleeve base layer and a t shirt over the top. This goes with trainers, if you are getting into OCR, I would start looking at more specific trainers, but your old running / gym shoes will be fine for your first time (you may find you will throw them away after your run). Granted you may slip a little bit more than others and you may find climbing slightly more difficult, but it’s not worth spending £40+ for just one use. Once you think you want to do more OCRs, then More Mile Cheviots are great value entry level OCR shows with decent grip.


  • Photos – Oh yes, those all important Facebook brags! There will be photographers across the course. Depending on the race you may have to pay for them or you may get them included in your entry fee. However, whenever you see the photographer, give a quick smile (even if you dont feel that way) to make an epic profile picture
  • After the race – Check out my post about kit bag here. Bin bag to get your muddy/dirty kit in and not get the rest of the car dirty. Couple of big beach towels to dry/keep warm. Set of clothes to change in to. Try baggy tracksuit/hoodie rather than hipster skinny jeans, hopping round the middle of a muddy field trying to get them on is not a good luck. Not all obstacle courses have showers (or even a cold tap) to clean off, so look at getting large beach towel sized wet wipes (Ive found them really useful and usually in B&M or Home Bargains). Get yourself to the concession stands and enjoy a celebratory dirty burger – you’ve earned it!

There are my five top tips for your first obstacle race – I am sure there’s plenty more tips and advice out there if you have a quick search. If you are new to Obstacle Course Racing, I would suggest joining the OCR Solo Mudders group on facebook. A friendly group who are at many races and happy to give help and advice.

Zombie Evacuation 2012

Zombie Evacuation 2012

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Wil Chung