Mud, mud, glorious mud

Are there more and more photos in your Facebook timeline of friends covered in mud, splattered with paint or looking like they just went swimming in their running kit? If so, it’s likely they’ve got in on one the UK’s fastest growing fitness trends – obstacle course racing.

The trend for ‘OCRs’, as they’re known, started with the likes of Tough Mudder, the gruelling 10-12 mile race packed with obstacles, ice and of course mud. But the last couple of years has seen getting muddy go mainstream, with events like Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life introducing a ‘Pretty Muddy’ option to its event roster.

To people on the outside, OCR events look like sheer madness, but according to insiders once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked. So if you and your family are looking for a new challenge in 2017, here’s what you need to know about getting involved:

You’ll be pushed to your limits

Events like Total Warrior and Tough Mudder claim to be the toughest challenge events out there and they certainly do their utmost to live up to that claim. At some point in the race you will stop and ask: ‘Do I really want to do that?’ In front of you will be an obstacle that looks so formidable, everyday life would render it idiotic to attempt.

Everything about these races is designed to push you to your limit. Expect the unexpected.

Everyone gets to act like a child

It’s not every day that most adults crawl around in the mud, scramble over walls, tackle monkey bars or scale ropes. Usually we try to avoid situations like plunging ourselves into ice cold water or becoming indistinguishable in colour from the muddy field we’re surrounded by. OCRs offer the opportunity to forget being a ‘grown-up’ for the day and throw yourself into some scary, crazy situations with the abandon of a child.

Kids can get involved too

With an increasingly competitive market, OCR organisers have also turned their attention to families – and about time too! After all, who loves getting muddy more than children? In fact, obstacle racing is a great way to get your kids excited about being active.

Events like Spartan and Born Survivor have introduced junior versions of their races, or your child might want to become a ‘Mini Mudder’ with Tough Mudder. Alternatively, IronRun Junior allows the whole family to do the same 3km race together.

It’s a social affair

OCRs are also highly social events, where camaraderie is the order of the day. With such tough obstacles to tackle – some of which you actually wouldn’t be able to do on your own – helping each other is part of the experience.

Many participants opt to do the races as part of a team, and you can, of course, race your team-mates, but more likely you’ll be begging them to help you over a wall or drag you towards the finish line. You’ll also need someone to celebrate with at the end.

Your trainers might not make it

There will be mud. Lots and lots of mud. You might know this in theory, but in practice the sheer amount of the stuff could still come as a shock. Be prepared to do battle with the mud for possession of your trainers and make sure you tie your laces as tightly as possible.

Even if you do survive the event with your trainers still attached, you may find that they’ll need to be consigned to the bin. In other words, don’t wear your favourite, brand new pair!

There’s more than one way to take on the obstacles

Of course, it’s not always easy to find events near you, but as the trend for OCRs grows the opportunities to take on the obstacles are also branching out from one-off races to more permanent fixtures at sports and leisure facilities.

If you think that obstacle courses could be just what you and your family need to get you up and active, take a look at whether any local gyms have introduced classes or courses you can use.

You’ll feel like a champion

Yes OCRs are hard, and yes they will push you, but don’t let this put you off. Obstacle racing isn’t just brilliant exercise, it’s incredible fun and once you’ve tried it I’ll guarantee you’ll feel on top of the world.