Obstacle racing

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An obstacle racer, dressed in costume, crawls through a mud pit topped with barbed wire.

Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is a sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges in the form of obstacles. Races vary from mostly obstacles such as American Ninja Warrior "Ninja Races", to track races, to urban and cross country events. In cross country events, mud and trail runs are often combined and the races are designed to result in mental and physical collapse. Obstacles may include climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire. Many obstacles are similar to those used in military training, while others are unique to obstacle racing and are employed throughout the course to test endurance, strength, speed and, dexterity.

Races vary in distance and difficulty, often combining trail running, road running, and cross country running. With race venues typically in sports stadiums, ski resorts, cities and parks, organizers encourage athletes of all types to participate. Many military training obstacles were introduced into Cross Country Running at Tough Guy. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2012, the number of events—typically all-day festivals—rose rapidly. Supporting the sports popularity,several on-line magazines including Mud Run Guide[1] and Obstacle Racing Media[2] were launched. A print version Obstacle Race Magazine had a short run starting 2012. Followed by OCRM Network in 2017, an Online Media Outlet dedicated to entertainment, information and Live Coverage of World OCR events that is breaking ground in Live Streaming OCR Events, along with TV shows, TV Series and Documentaries on the Sport.


1900 Olympics Obstacle Swim

Ancient history[edit]

From the stadion, the oldest event of the Ancient Olympic Games, to the contemporary era steeplechase, obstacles of some sort have been presented to athletes for thousands of years. The Ancient Olympic Pentathlon included five events contested over one day, thought to have started with the stadion (a short foot race) followed by the Javelin throw, Discus throw, Long jump and ending with wrestling. The event was first held at the 18th Ancient Olympiad around 708 BC,[3] and is quite similar to the modern day Spartan Race, which includes running, javelin (spear) throw, jumping and wrestling with various objects and weights.

Early history[edit]

The concept of using obstacles for competition has been in sue since the 1800s, including the 200m Obstacle Swim at the 1900 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, with the first formal land based races in the Obstacle Run[4] of Military Pentathlon, first held at the Military Physical Training Centre, at Freiburg, in the French occupation zone in Germany, in August 1947. Only Belgian, Dutch, and French teams took part in the competition. Since 1950, annual world championships have been held. The sport has grown in popularity, and now over 30 countries participate. The sport's governing body, the CISM, now also organise pentathlons aimed at naval and air force personnel.

Modern history[edit]

It is widely thought that Tough Guy is the earliest contemporary OCR, with the first race held in 1987. All video recorded 1989 through 2009. The HiTec Adventure Racing Series (1996 - 2002)[5] was an early version of the contemporary race and included "special tests" (man made obstacles), mountain biking and kayaking. The Balance Bar races in the United States expanded on the success of the Hi Tech series, including a televised national series and championships.[6] The Muddy Buddy races in the United States (results here[7]) were a national obstacle race series produced by Competitor Group from 1999 to 2010 and was the first major series to introduce mud elements and remove additional equipment. Muddy Buddy was the event format that transitioned adventure racing to obstacle racing as we know today.

Military Obstacle Course

Contemporary races[edit]

In 2011, approximately one million people registered to participate in obstacle racing events in the United States (US), 4.5 million in 2015, 5.6 million in 2016[8] and over 6 million in 2017. Globally the number of participants is thought to be 20 million.

There are many variations of obstacle race courses that accommodate a wide variety of athletes. Ninja races such as the Wolfpack Ninja Tour[9] are typically 50 m to 100 m in length with many obstacles and little running. OCR track races[10] are typically held on athletic tracks and vary between 400 m and 5,000 m. Cross country courses range from one mile and up, with most races between 5 km and 10 miles. Longer endurance races vary up to 100 miles, including Spartan Beat, Ultra Beast and Agoge. Fixed time events include World's Toughest Mudder (24 hours) and Spartan 24 hour World Championships. There are also events that are based on hours. For example, the 36 hour Agoge or the 24 hour World's Toughest Mudder. Obstacle Course Races with inflatable obstacles are becoming increasingly popular, including Britain's GUNG-HO race.[11]

Development of the sport[edit]

World OCR logo
Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles (FISO), the world governing body for Obstacle Course Racing and related disciplines.

Spartan Race founder Joe Desena set a goal to take the sport to the Olympics and tapped adventure racer Ian Adamson for the task in 2014. He subsequently founded the international sporting federation, now known as World OCR,[12] the Fédération Internationale de Sport d’Obstacles (FISO), based in Lausanne, Switzerland.[13] World OCR is a non-profit, member based sporting organization and the sole world governing body for Obstacle Course Racing. As of 2018, World OCR had national member federations in 75 countries in five continental confederations (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania), the largest number being in Europe.[14] World OCR applied for membership of GAISF in 2017, with a goal of having obstacle course racing and related disciplines recognized as an international sport by the International Olympic Committee.

It has been noted that World OCR has no member race organizations. As a not for profit sporting federation the only members of World OCR are national federations (national governing bodies.) The members the national federations are the athletes. Brands and for profit corporations are not members of sporting federations, but can be recognized or aligned under certain circumstances.

In the summer of 2017 an application by UIPM (Modern Pentathlon) to add obstacle laser run as a mixed team medal event was rejected for the 2020 Olympics.

OCR Asian Championship Podium

Athlete Development[edit]

In recent years, obstacle course racing has been emerging onto the college scene in the United States. Universities, like Texas A&M University, have launched organizations and club teams[15] that feature obstacle course training.

The first Youth OCR World Championships is being introduced in November 2018, with the first races in the Manila, Philippines. This race is modeled on the World Schools Championships run by ISF, the International School Sport Federation.

The first University OCR World Championships is being held in November 2018 in conjunction with the Youth OCR World Championships and is designed to meet the requirements of FISU, the International University Sports Federation.

Notable events[edit]

Rugged Maniac[edit]

Rugged Maniac 2015. Four men offer a helping hand up the Warped Wall in Rugged Maniac.

Rugged Maniac was founded in 2010 by former lawyers Brad Scudder and Rob Dickens. The very first race was held in October 2010, in Southwick, Massachusetts. It has since expanded to 24 cities over the United States and Canada.[16]

In 2014, they were featured on ABC's Shark Tank and secured a $1.75 million deal with Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.[17] On January 16, 2016, Rugged Maniac (Under their company name Rugged Races LLC), appeared again on Shark Tank in an update video.[18] Since first appearing on the show, the Rugged Maniac event has expanded to Canada, increased in sales from $4.2 million to $10.5 million before and after Shark Tank, expanded to 28 cities, and created a second race called "The Costume Dash 5K", which debuted in Boston in October 2015.[19][20]

Rugged Maniac features 25 obstacles over a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) course. It is designed to be more family-friendly and catered to people of all fitness levels, due to the shorter distance but larger number of obstacles. The run ends with an all-day festival of beer, food, mechanical bull riding, adult-sized bounce houses, and sponsor exhibition booths.[21]

Spartan Race[edit]

Spartan Race Logo

Spartan Race[22] (2010) was an outgrowth of the annual Death Race (started in 2005),[23] with courses vary in distance and difficulty from "Sprint" courses (3+ mile with 20+ obstacles ), to "Super" (8+ mile with 20+ obstacles), and "Beast" course (13+ mile with 30-35+ obstacles). For endurance enthusiasts, Spartan also offers the "Ultra Beast" which is 2 times through the "Beast" course and the "Hurricane Heat" which involves tasks that set up the obstacle course the night before. Average finishing times for the events range from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the particular course and fitness level of the racer. Race venues are located around the world and have included ski slopes, state parks, paint ball parks, and more. Any competitor who completes a Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31) is said to have completed the Spartan Trifecta.[24] In the US, the Spartan Race World Championship was held in Killington, Vermont from 2012 until 2015 when it was moved to Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe. The World Championship has been held in Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, CA near Lake Tahoe every year since 2015. Prizes for World Championships in 2016 included: Overall Champions (Men' and Women's) 1st place $15,000, 2nd place $10,000, 3rd place $5,000, 4th place $4,000, 5th place $3,000; Elite Beast Championship (Men & Women’s – 40+) 1st place $500, 2nd place $200, 3rd place $100; and Elite Ultra Beast Championship (Men & Women’s) 1st place $1,000; 2nd place $500; 3rd place $250; 4th place $100; 5th place $100.[25]

Spartan Winter Race

The first Spartan Race World Championship was held in December 2011 in Glen Rose, Texas as an eight-mile Spartan Race course comprising 36 obstacles and included a USD$20,000 prize purse. Beginning in 2012, the Spartan Race World Championships were held annually in Killington, Vermont, and at Squaw Valley, CA since 2015 with a total of $500,000 in cash and prizes.[26]

Tough Mudder[edit]

Tough Mudder Funky Monkey

In 2010, Tough Mudder's first event was held in May 2010. The Tough Mudder is not technically a race and is instead focused on teamwork and completion of the event rather than finishing under a certain time.[27]

Tough Mudder courses are between 10 and 12 miles and contain various military style obstacles.[28]

The final event of the Tough Mudder season is the World's Toughest Mudder.[29] This is a 24-hour event in which competitors will run a shorter Tough Mudder course that has much more intense obstacles than a normal Tough Mudder and is designed to be more grueling as well. The goal for a participant in World's Toughest Mudder is to complete as many laps as possible within a 24 hours period. The athletes (solo male, solo female, team) who complete the most laps are declared the World's Toughest Mudder. The top male and female each receive $10,000 and the top team receives $12,000 (total).

Warrior Dash[edit]

Warrior Dash Logo

The Warrior Dash was founded in 2009. Because Warrior Dash does not assign penalties for skipped obstacles, it is often considered an obstacle course event rather than a race. While Warrior Dash does not meet all the requirements to be considered a race, organizers do award their top finishers with non-cash prizes. All finishers receive a "warrior helmet" – a horned helmet.[30]

As a shorter event, winning times for a Warrior Dash may be as short as 15 minutes. While Warrior Dash features many of the same obstacles[31] found at other races such as mud crawls, water features, and cargo net climbs.

Terrain Racing[edit]

Terrain Racing[32] has 40 races in the United States each year on 5 km courses with 20+ obstacles.

Savage Race[edit]

Savage Race[33] has 12 events with approximately 104,000 finishers annually and are typically 10 km in length with 25 obstacles.

Chakravyuh Challenge[edit]

Founded in 2016 and named after the near-invincible battle formation from Indian mythology (Chakravyuha), the Chakravyuh Challenge is the first obstacle course race to be hosted in the exotic state of Kerala in India. The competition tests the participants' agility, bravery and problem solving capability by pitting them against obstacles involving slush, water, ropes, inclined slopes, team building exercises, fun mazes and more.

The race is open to both men and women and held in three variations - Individual Competitive Category, Team Challenge and Fun Run. With separate cash prizes awarded to the male and female winners of the first two categories. The obstacle race is part of a three-day adventure fest, held annually and the circuit itself is designed every year by former Indian Navy commandos.[34]

Adventurey OCR World Championships[edit]

The self named independent World Championship is an event owned and operated by Adventurey, a Brooklyn NY marketing and branding company that is a market innovator that develops and produces premier sporting events.[35] The first race took place on October 25 & 26, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The men's event was won by UK's Jonathan Albon,[36] who successfully defended his crown in 2015[37] and 2016.[38] For the women, the inaugural event was won by Siri Englund of Sweden in 2014[39] and then Lindsay Webster of Canada in 2015[40] and 2016.[41] With participation of the sport growing, the organization added a 3 km course and a team event in 2016.


Each BattleFrog featured an 8 km course and at least twenty-five obstacles.[42]

In August 2016, BattleFrog canceled their remaining events for the season and no longer offers obstacle course races.[43]


The Hesco BoneFrog features 50 Navy SEAL-style obstacles on courses that range from 3-11 miles.[44]

Notable European events[edit]

Icy watermoat at Getting Tough - The Race

Tough Guy[edit]

First staged in 1987, Tough Guy claims to be the first official and toughest obstacle course race in the world. It is held on the last Sunday in January in Perton, Staffordshire, UK. The race is held twice a year in winter and summer. The winter event requires competitors to compete in near freezing temperatures and contend with ice and snow. The 2013 event was won by Knut Höhler[45][46]

Strong Viking[edit]

Strong Viking[47] is an event series based in Holland, with 32 races across Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Germany.


Toughest[48] is a race series based in Sweden, with 15 events across Scandinavia.

Bog Commander[edit]

Bog Commander combines fell running with obstacle course racing and mud running. Hailed as possibly the toughest off-road event in the UK. Set on a working hill farm in the spectacular Peak District, this course has been described as "extreme" and "brutal" by its participants. Terrain varies from 1200 ft to 1500 ft and includes natural bogs, river runs, massive hills and rough terrain. Man made obstacles complete the challenge.[49][citation needed]

Legion Run[edit]

Founded in Cyprus in 2013, Legion Run[50] is the only obstacle course based in south-eastern Europe. With a motto of ‘We are Legion, we are one of many, we are you’, this non-competitive event emphasizes teamwork and overcoming personal challenges. Legion Run has held successful events in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and Hungary, and has quickly established itself as a favorite in the region, particularly amongst members of the CrossFit and combat sport communities, as well as corporations, armed forces and other organized teams.

Legion Run involves a 5 km course with at least 15 obstacles, along with a parallel all-day festival for both participants and spectators. Every participant that crosses the finish line is awarded an exclusive ‘I Am Legion’ T-shirt and a well-deserved beer. In keeping with the team spirit of the event, there are no individual prizes or distinctions, however many participants choose to time themselves.[51]

The Suffering Obstacle Race[edit]

The Suffering Obstacle Race was established in 2012. This event offers obstacle races of distances varying from 5K, 10K, 10 miles, and 20 miles.[52][53]

Getting Tough - The Race[edit]

Since 2011, each year on the first Saturday in December, taking place in Rudolstadt, Germany. Labelled as "Europe`s hardest Obstacle Race" and voted "Best Obstacle Race in Germany" this Race is part of a full Weekend Event, including a "Sprint at Night" on Friday and a huge After Race Party on Saturday. 24 km, 1000 meter elevation gain, 180 Obstacles and lots of icy water results in most runners suffering of hypothermia at the finish line. Especially the last 3 km 'Killing Fields' are packed with Obstacles and topped of by the `Walk of Fame`, a 1 km long Obstacle park.[54]

Notable African events[edit]


THE IMPI Challenge Obstacle Trail Run is staged in South Africa.[55]

Jeep Warrior Race[edit]

Jeep Warrior Race[56] is South Africa’s largest obstacle course race with up to 9000 participants per event. The Warrior Race offers race distances ranging from 5 to 17 kilometers.

Notable South American events[edit]

ROC Obstacle Course[edit]

ROC [57] is the biggest race in South America with 2000+ racers. The 8K course includes 35 obstacles. Since 2018 it's an official OCR World Championship Qualifier Race.

Carrera Sucia[edit]

Carrera Sucia [58] was the first OCR race done in South America back in 2012. With 5K and 20 obstacles is a fun run full with mud for runners all ages. With more than 20 races since its first event, Carrera Sucia has produced more than 30,000 muddy smiles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mud Run Guide". 
  2. ^ "Obstacle Racing Media". 
  3. ^ "Sport and Recreation in Ancient Greece". 
  4. ^ "Military Obstacle Run Video". 
  5. ^ "Hi Tec Race Series retrospective". 
  6. ^ "Outdoor Industry Balance Bar TV Series Press Release". 
  7. ^ "Muddy Buddy Results 2004 - 2008". 
  8. ^ "Running USA Survey reports". 
  9. ^ "Wolfpack Ninja Tour race series". 
  10. ^ "OCR Track Race Video". 
  11. ^ "Gung-ho Obstacle Video". 
  12. ^ "World OCR website". 
  13. ^ "Outdoor Sportswire Press Release". 
  14. ^ "World OCR European Members". 
  15. ^ "Texas A&M OCR Club". 
  16. ^ "Rugged Maniac 5k Southwick MA October 2, 2010 Results". Cool Running. October 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ Ainsworth, Chip (April 28, 2014). "Extreme Business". The Recorder. 
  18. ^ Huffman, Rex (January 15, 2016). "'MasterChef: Junior Edition,' 'Shark Tank' on tap tonight". TimesReporter.com. 
  19. ^ Burnett, Mark (January 15, 2016). "Shark Tank". television. Season 7. ABC. 
  20. ^ Weaver, Alex (October 26, 2015). "1,500 Costumed Crazies Will Run the Streets of Boston This Halloween". BostInno.com. 
  21. ^ LeBlanc, Pam (August 26, 2015). "Giant water slides, tunnels, trampolines and more at Rugged Maniac obstacle race Sept. 5". Austin360. 
  22. ^ "Spartan Race". 
  23. ^ "Mountain Times Death Race article". 
  24. ^ "Spartan Race types". Spartan Race. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  25. ^ "Prize Money". 
  26. ^ Schlachter, Margaret (November 21, 2016). "Spartan Race World Championship Returns to Tahoe in 2017". http://www.mudrunguide.com. Mud Run Guide. Retrieved January 8, 2017.  External link in |website= (help)
  27. ^ "Tough Mudder 10M". 
  28. ^ "What is Tough Mudder". 
  29. ^ "World's Toughest Mudder". 
  30. ^ "Warrior Dash". 
  31. ^ "Warrior Dash Obstacles". 
  32. ^ "Terrain Racing Website". 
  33. ^ "Savage Race". 
  34. ^ "An adventure challenge". The Hindu. India. 
  35. ^ "Adventurey LLC on LinkedIn". 
  36. ^ "2014 OCR World Championships - Men's Elite - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  37. ^ "2015 OCR World Championships - Men's Elite - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  38. ^ "2016 OCR World Championships - Men's Pro 15KM - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  39. ^ "2014 OCR World Championships - Women's Elite - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  40. ^ "2015 OCR World Championships - Women's Elite - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  41. ^ "2016 OCR World Championships - Women's Pro 15KM - Official Race Results". OnlineRaceResults.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  42. ^ http://battlefrogseries.com/about/about-battlefrog
  43. ^ "Battlefrog Cancels Races". Retrieved October 20, 2016. 
  44. ^ http://www.bonefrogchallenge.com/about
  45. ^ "An electrifying challenge! Thousands of competitors are burned bruised and zapped as they endure the annual Tough Guy race". Daily Mail. London. 
  46. ^ "Is Tough Mudder founder 'the Mark Zuckerberg of extreme sports'? The death threats and legal battles behind one of the fastest-growing competitions in America". Daily Mail. London. 
  47. ^ "Strong Viking Website". 
  48. ^ "Toughest Race Website". 
  49. ^ http://www.bogcommander.co.uk
  50. ^ "Legion Run Website". 
  51. ^ [1]
  52. ^ http://www.thesufferingrace.co.uk/
  53. ^ http://www.mudstacle.com/2014/06/pain-suffering-review-like-didnt-warn-us.html
  54. ^ http://www.gettingtough-race.de
  55. ^ "Challenge Obstacle Run website". 
  56. ^ "Warrior Race Website". 
  57. ^ "ROC Obstacle Course website". 
  58. ^ "Carrera Sucia Website". 

Further reading[edit]