So, you have just plucked up the courage to sign up for your first OCR (aka obstacle course race or ‘mud run’) but you’re not sure if your old gym kit will help or hinder.
Wearing the correct, and comfortable, kit whilst training for or during an event can make a great difference to your performance and enjoyment. Remember, you could be on the course from anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours.
- These are specialised training shoes that aid you to tackle difficult terrain, including mud and hills.
- Off-trail trainers have deeper lugs that are widely spaced apart and improve grip.
- They do not clog up like conventional training shoes.
Clothing (General Considerations): Clothing needs to be comfortable but, as most OCR’s involve some swimming or wading chest high in water, it should not soak up water like a sponge. When buying clothing think about:
- Dimensions: size, form and fit, shape, and (perhaps) multi-sport versus sport-specific features.
- Comfort: e.g. breathability, lightweight, weather protection, insulation, and versatility. Ultimately, you want close-fitting leg wear because anything lose, once wet, will become heavy and uncomfortable.
- Protection: against sun, wind (chill factor), rain, and chaffing.
- Moisture management: i.e. sweating.
Clothing (Pre- & Post Race):
- OCR’s may be undertaken in cold, wet, and muddy conditions, so it is important to be warm and dry prior to starting the race and after.
- A DryRobe, a specialised poncho complete with a towelled lining, will allow you to change out of or into your race clothing without exposing you to the elements. It essentially is a woolly jacket that is large enough that you can pull your arms in and get changed underneath it.
- If a DryRobe is not for you, then make sure you have access to warm, dry clothing before and after your race.
Clothing (During the Race):
- During the race you may want to wear a hat, gloves, sleeves, and/or compression socks/tights.
- A hat will help to keep you warm during a cold, wintry race. Another option is a bandana or buff which can be worn on your head and then if you feel yourself getting too warm it can easily be placed around your neck or on your wrist.
- Gloves will help protect your hands from the obstacles and the cold.
- Neoprene or Sealskinz gloves can be useful but there are OCR-specific gloves giving you extra support on the wrists with wrist wraps that are designed to go around your watch or timing chips, and they are fingerless so you don’t get them filling up with water or drenched with sweaty digits.
- You want a pair of gloves that will maintain grip once covered with mud.
- Protective sleeves can be useful for warding off the cold during a race, whether that be cold water or low temperatures. They can also compress your muscles, which can aid in circulation and reduce the risk of muscle damage.
- Compression socks can keep your calves supported and protect against the effects of cramp. Alternatively, you can get full-leg compression tights. Ultimately, you want close-fitting leg wear because anything lose, once wet, will become heavy and uncomfortable.
- Merino wool may be excellent at keeping you warm, but it soaks up water and will weigh you down. Neoprene is another option, but it also retains water and can even lead to overheating. Compression tops can be useful and, for those conscious about wearing a tight-fitting top, can be worn under a technical t-shirt.
- If wearing a short-sleeve top, then consider wearing arm-guards, for extra protection, when crawling.
- Some go even so far as to wear a wetsuit – useful during single-digit temperature races.
Hydration and Nutrition:
- If your OCR is a short one, then you probably only need to worry about pre- and post-race hydration and nutrition.
- However, a number of OCR’s take more than an hour to complete.
- During these races you may want to consider shot gel/blocks or energy-type bars to snack on during the race – there is a large variety to choose from.
- GPS watches can be very useful for those who want to monitor their performance during a race – Garmin provide a good range.
- They can provide you with real-time information such as distance, time, and heart rate (HR) which can aid with pacing during a race.
- They can also be useful for retrospective performance analysis.
- The tactical watch should be water-proof (rather than water-resistant) and the glass lens should be scratch resistant.
- As noted above, you are likely to undertake your OCR in cold, wet, and muddy conditions, so it is important that you remove your wet clothing as soon as possible, and get into dry, warm clothing.
- A post-race bag containing dry clothes, food and drink, and other necessities can be a good morale booster after a cold, wintry race.
- Remember to pack a (plastic/canoe) bag for putting your wet clothes in – so everything else stays dry in your main bag.
- A duffel bag, with a shoulder strap, is a good choice, and with big zips for those numb fingers!
- Face/baby wipes can also be useful for cleaning off mud and gunk!
- You’re just about to get changed out of your wet and muddy race kit when you realise there is nowhere to get changed.
- In this instance a mat can be useful so you are not standing in more mud/wet grass whilst getting changed.
- Sun protection is important, especially in the summer months.
- Just because you are jumping in and out of cold, muddy water doesn’t mean you won’t get sunburned.
- Also, jumping in that cold, muddy water will also sap your strength and body heat. You want to finish the race, so don’t let hypothermia stop you. Dress according to the event/race conditions.
- As soon as possible post-race strip of all your wet gear and replace it with warm, dry clothing (underwear included).
- Post-race, your body temperature will quickly drop, and dry clothes on top of wet doesn’t work.