Make sure you don’t start on the back foot before you’ve even crossed the start line of your obstacle course race. With several obstacle course races under our belt including The Nuts Challenge, Beast in the East and Back to the Trenches, we’ve gathered up what we’ve learnt and put it into a helpful article for you.
Most of these tips are for before you actually race, but you know what they say, FAIL TO PREPARE AND YOU PREPARE TO FAIL. Don’t be one of those people who puts all the training in and then messes it up on the day because they hadn’t read these tips.
1. Lay your clothes out the night before. No matter how much time you give yourselves in the morning, you’ll always find things to delay your departure and if you’re racing in the morning and have a way to travel, you don’t want to end up being late because you couldn’t find your special muddy trainers or long-sleeved baselayer. This includes, if you’ve got long hair, making sure you’ve got enough hairbands (they always go missing).
2. Know what you need to have ready for registration. Some are fine with a name, some need a race number, others need an order number. The last thing you want to be doing is faffing about on your phone trying to find a that email from months ago.
3. Eat a good breakfast. You can’t run on empty. And depending on the type of obstacle course, even if the distance is short, it may take you much longer than you’d think due to the number of obstacles and queues. At The Nuts Challenge, a 7k lap took 3 moderately fit and fast people 2hours and 36 minutes! Porridge with bananas is perfect, as is brown toast with peanut butter – one of our team even had pasta for breakfast…
4. Ensure you’re hydrated. Drink before you race and drink a lot after. You’ll sweat a lot and it’s easy to get caught up in post-race celebrations rather than looking after your body.
If you’re doing a long one, take gels with you
5. Wear the right clothes. By this we mean check out the type of race you’re going to be running and the weather and choose each item carefully. If there’s lots of crawling, would you prefer long running tights and long-sleeved skins? If it’s more running and on a warm day, perhaps a vest top and shorts are best? A lot of racers wear gloves, especially if there are obstacles that require climbing and rough surfaces.
6. Ensure you have a complete change of clothes (including shoes, pants and bra if you’re male) nearby for when you finish. We can’t stress this enough. When you go from moving around to standing still, sweat will cool you down rapidly. If you’ve been swimming in lakes or are covered in mud, your wet clothes will wick all heat away from you so even the slightest breeze will give you the shivers. We always take a loose T-shirt, bra or crop top, jogging bottoms or loose trousers, pants, socks and different shoes. You may not want to get changed if you’re cold and wet but it’s worth it, we promise.
7. If you’re racing with other people, decide how you’re going to race. This may sound slightly selfish but if you’re running with other people and people have different priorities, it’ll cause conflict during the race. Some are keen to get a good time whilst others will just want to finish. If you’re sticking together as a team and you have a varied level of fitness, let the slowest one lead. This is an army tactic that means that you’ll get to your destination as a team, faster.
8. Leave enough time to go to the toilet before you go to the start time. There’s been many a race where we’ve seen men and women popping behind bushes for a ‘wilderness’ wee. Running on a full bladder is never fun – there are often toilets provided but these can have a queue so include this in your timings.
9. Don’t take anything that’s breakable or will fall off. This includes fitness trackers (we saw one girl despairing over her FitBit at the last Nuts Challenge – she’d scraped it on a tree and the strap had broke. With nowhere to put it there were almost tears. And this was less than 30 minutes into the race), jewellery, watches and phones (yes, some people will try and take phones). Although if you do have to take your phone, we did see one chap who had wrapped his up cosier than a baby in padding and a sealed plastic bag.
10. Choose your start position carefully. If you’re looking to make a decent time, ensure you’re at the start line early so you can be one of the first across. This ensures you’re less likely to get caught up in queues for obstacles. However, if you’re doing it just to finish, you can start nearer the back – the queues will give you valuable rest and recovery time. Just keep moving, don’t get cold!