So you’ve chosen to take on your first muddy event. Whatever your reason for doing it – whether a personal challenge, raising money for charity, a competitive edge, if you’ve been talked into it by somebody you work with or you’ve just seen videos of people being electrocuted and jumping from tall structures and signed up out of morbid curiosity – you are going to need to prepare yourself.

Training

Going into any endurance-based race or event will require some forethought, and the most important you can prepare is, of course, your training.

The most important factor when it comes to training for a mud run is the running. The clue is right there in the title (go ahead, check). No matter how many videos or pictures you’ve seen of obstacle after obstacle, don’t forget that these are running events. Whatever the distance of the event you’ve chosen – be it 5k, 10k or half-marathon distance – being able to run at least that distance without taking breaks will see you through to the finish line without a problem. Being the fact that you won’t exactly be running on the road during your event, practising running on woodland trails, hills, and through fields and parks will prepare your legs much better than road running or a treadmill will.

If you are new to running then build up your endurance by going for a walk-run-walk approach during your training and gradually lower the amount you are walking as you progress.

Another key factor that will see you taking on the mud and obstacles with style is bodyweight resistance work. By building a plan based on bodyweight moves, you will find the benefits cross over into your event in numerous ways:

  • Pushups – crawling under/through objects, pushing yourself over a wall.
  • Squats – ducking under objects, getting up off the floor, climbing out of mud
  • Planks – general core stability, crawling under nets
  • Lunges – running through mud, climbing over objects
  • Pull-ups – climbing over walls, climbing over nets
  • Burpees – trust me, just practice burpees

To really push yourself, incorporate some of these moves into a high-intensity interval training (hiit) session, for example performing each exercise for 40 seconds with 20 seconds rest in between (after a thorough warmup!). When training in the gym, aim for moves such as deadlifts, inverted rows and step-ups. Building core, leg, and grip strength is key to avoid getting stuck in the mud.

Quick tip: Bootcamp-style exercise classes are a great way to practice this type of training and can get you accustomed to rolling around on the floor.

When you feel confident enough, the real test will be taking yourself out for a run and after every kilometre or so, dropping and performing a set of an exercise of your choice. By training in this way you can prepare yourself for the stop-start elements of obstacle races – don’t worry about the funny looks passers-by might be giving you, just yell “I’m doing it for a free t-shirt!” and be on your way.

Gear

When getting ready for your first mud run or obstacle race, getting your clothing choices correct will be key to how you perform on the day. From the feet to the head, if it’s raining, snowing, or a heatwave, there are multiple choices to be made and making the right decision can mean the difference between a successful run or a cold finish.

First off – the all-important shoes. Were you planning on wearing your old running shoes as you don’t mind getting them ruined? You’ll most likely be slipping around like Bambi on Ice. Sourcing out a pair of trail shoes will go to lengths to keep you a bit more stable and on two feet. Which shoes to pick? You can pick the low-profile, lightweight models from Inov-8, the sturdy, well supported Salomon range, the cheap but reliable More Mile Cheviots, the old classic Adidas Kanadia, or the new taking-the-market-by-storm Icebugs. There is a smorgasbord of options, offering different benefits. The only real way to find out what suits you best is, of course, to try them out, but one thing is for sure – if you take up this sport regularly, you will end up with more shoes than you know what to do with.

Quick tip: Gloves or no gloves? While some technical gloves may keep your hand warmer, they tend to lose grip when wet – staying barehanded will keep you on those monkey bars for a little longer!

For the longer-haired runners out there, a headband or headscarf can aid in not only keeping hair out of your face & eyes but mud too.

When it comes to your general clothing options – lightweight, technical gear will always be the number one choice – avoid cotton where you can as it will hold water, keeping you cold and making you feel heavy as you trudge around the course. Running shorts & socks will be quick drying and if you choose to wear leggings you might avoid a few bruises and scratches on your knees (but might have a few holes in said leggings), if you are running with a team and have had matching t-shirts made up, hopefully, they are made from a technical material that will maintain comfort as you run, but if they have unfortunately chosen a cotton or a blend, then wearing a quick-drying baselayer underneath can help not only keep you a bit warmer but also to avoid any unwanted chafing.

A very important point to remember when picking clothing to wear for your mud run is the colour – white should be avoided as you may never get the stains out, whereas bright colours should be encouraged wherever possible – it makes it so much easier to find post-race photos of yourself afterwards!

Sidenote: if you have chosen to run in fancy dress then good luck to you, why not try a few practice runs in your costume so you know what to expect on the day.

Race Day

After plenty of preparation and practice, you finally make it to race day. Has it seemed like it’s crept up a lot faster than you were expecting it to? You might be staying in a hotel or be getting up incredibly early to drive to your venue, so the last thing you want is anything to go wrong on the day. Here are a few tips to bear in mind on that all-important morning.

  • Eat your breakfast! Hopefully, you’ve been eating something before each of your training runs – stick to what you know and make sure you have fuel in your body before taking on this challenge. The race itself will likely be a bit harder than the training runs leading up to it so you’ll need the energy. On another note, pre-race is not the time to try out anything new, eg. energy gels if you haven’t tried them before – the last thing you want is to discover that it wasn’t mud that turned your shorts that colour.
  • Quick tip: Check the race location on a map or Google Maps before heading out – some events are based on farms, military bases or random locations that Satnavs are unfamiliar with.
  • Warm up! Most races have a group warm up and safety briefing before they set you off – not only will this be your first taste of mud for the day but a good, relevant warm-up will get your mind and body in the right place to perform well.
  • Bring a towel! Pack the boot of your car with towels, wet wipes and spare clothes. Some event will only offer a cold hose for cleaning up afterwards – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have anything at all. Getting dry and changed as quickly as possible means you can enjoy the event village, strutting around in your newly earned finishers’ t-shirt.
  • Think technique! If you hit a particularly deep muddy patch – spreading your weight and crawling through may prevent you from getting stuck. If you do find yourself in deep mud – lift your feet out with your toes rather than your heels to avoid your new trail shoes getting sucked right off your feet! Hopefully, you will have tied your laces tight of course, nobody wants to be re-tying shoelaces in thick mud.
  • Get stuck in! If you find an obstacle scary or it looks daunting – don’t hesitate just give it a go. Remember that everyone around you is there to help, whether it be helping you over a wall, dragging you out of mud or just offering words of encouragement – helping each other is what OCR is all about.
  • Have fun! No matter what reason you are taking on this event for, the most important thing to do is enjoy yourself – there are not many other instances in life when getting muddy and playing on climbing frames and large structures are so readily encouraged. Hit that slide head first, show the hills who’s boss and just sprint through anything that might electrocute you! As soon as you’ve crossed the finish line, you’ll be counting the days until you can do it again.