Here’s a scenario many obstacle racers have faced at one time or another…
You’ve come across the advertisement for what promises to be THE MOST INSANELY DIFFICULT, REALLY TOUGH OBSTACLE RACE IN THE HISTORY OF… EVER!!! You plunk down your hard earned cash for a spot in the elite heat. You travel to the race, pay $10-20 to park, and make your way to the start. The corral announcer gets the crowd pumped up with a mixture of inspiring chants, boot camp slogans, and OCR humor. You and 200-300 other runners are chomping at the bit until the horn finally blows, signaling the start of the race. Your adrenaline pumping, you sprint up the first steep hill to get ahead of masses, smiling inwardly in anticipation of the difficulties to come, and that first challenge. You round a corner and…
REALLY?! This is meant to be one of the WORLD’S TOUGHEST OBSTACLES?!
Ok, so not every race is meant to be a herculean challenge, and not every obstacle can be spectacular. Still, it is not uncommon to see certain obstacles put into races that seem like they are there as filler. Here is a short list of some we have seen a number of times at different races, and based on feedback from other racers, are not that uncommon.
1) Slip and Slide
Mixed feedback on this one. If done right you can get up enough speed to hit the mud/water/dirt at the bottom hard enough to send you tumbling. In fact, we’ve seen some fairly significant injuries on these. And it can be pretty fun if you are sliding down the hard ground on a rubber sheet that is 50 feet long. On the other hand, this type of obstacle can be problematic in a few ways:
- they are often shut down early in the day because the bottom area is deemed unsafe
- short slides on a tarp into a puddle
- three words – bouncy castle slides
2) The (Not so) Heavy Object Carry
This is most often seen where the race intent is come across as tough, but it seems they do not want to discourage the average non-competitive racer. Perhaps some small logs, or 20lb bags of sand are carried for a couple hundred yards. Once again, this relates more to an expectation of difficulty that is set up in the race branding and promo material.
3) Scary Fire Jump
Yes, we get that the insurance underwriters for the race organizers probably do not want the racers jumping through walls of flame 6 feet high (though that does sound like fun!), but come on, really? A few charred logs that may or may not still be on actual fire?
4) The (Not so) Barbed Wire Crawl
How about an obstacle that is billed as a “Barbed Wire Crawl” but is instead a bunch of lengths of shock-cord strung between trees. Not dangerous, but definitely annoying, and not even the danger of a scratch. Where’s the fun in that? After all, skin grows back.
5) Small Wall Climb
The 7-10 foot walls are not our favorites, to be honest. They can be tough. Especially towards the end of a 15-20k obstacle race, and they are a legitimate challenge for most people. So what about 4 foot walls? Sure they most certainly present a significant obstacle to your garden variety garden gnome (or bunny), but I think your average obstacle racer does not fund them much of a challenge. Another “provide the illusion of challenge” type obstacle.
So that is one take. Sometimes we get the sense that these are included to check a box, to add an extra item to the list of obstacles because they sound cool. But marketing hype does not always life up to reality. What are your obstacle pet peeves?