This article is organised as follows:


3.0     What are the Advantages of OCR’s?

There are a number of potential advantages of OCR’s, including:

  • Enhance Cardiovascular Fitness:
    • Races/challenges typically range in length from 2 to 13 miles, depending on the event.
    • Participants must train to be able to walk or run the full distance of the course.
  • Encourage Strength & Flexibility Training:
    • Unlike traditional road races, where participants simply travel the distance of the course powered by their heart, lungs, and legs, OCRs introduce difficult obstacles that require additional training. For example:
      • To be able to effectively climb over a 10-foot wall, participants must develop upper body strength.
      • To be able to climb up a 30-foot rope, participants must develop full-body strength and co-ordination, and grip.
      • To be able to climb through some obstacles, participants must develop greater flexibility.
    • Consequently, OCRs require greater total-body fitness (Section 5.2) than a standard race.
  • Challenge Mental Toughness:
    • If the thought of running three miles fills you with dread, then imagine running, jumping, and crawling for that same three miles.
    • For individuals looking for a new challenge, or those wanting to test the boundaries of their body and mind, OCR racing is a great place to start.
  • Encourage Teamwork:
    • Most OCR courses are designed with teamwork in mind.
    • This means certain obstacles require participants to work together to overcome the obstacle.
    • Most OCR providers are teamwork/community orientated.
  • Options for Every Level:
    • Whether you are new to OCR or an elite athlete, there is an OCR for your fitness/experience level.
    • Beginners: Can sign up for one of the untimed OCR’s that is perfect for anyone just starting out, or as a fun race for the more competitive athlete.
    • Elite Athletes: For those who want to earn a living running OCRs, they can sign up, for example, for the Spartan Race, where it is not uncommon for top competitors to be supported by sponsors as they race for generous prize purses from the OCR provider – which can be tens of thousands of dollars.

3.1     What are the Disadvantages of OCR’s?

There are a number of potential disadvantages of OCR’s, including:

  • Too Many Races: As OCR became more established there were many new entrants to the market, meaning a glut of races for the limited number of participants. The market has stabilised since 2015, so this is less of a problem.
  • New Entrants: New entrants to the OCR market is good but be wary of new OCR providers who are trying to organise 10-12 events nationwide rather than 1-2 local events. Putting together big events is not cheap: OCR providers require land; insurance; online presence; obstacles; staff; and the marketing to draw participants in. Also, be wary of OCR providers who are vague on the specific location of the OCR. For example, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy in Fife versus just Fife.
  • Regulation: This is still a fairly nascent, but progressive, area of OCR. There are now national and regional governing bodies, as well as a world governing body. It can be difficult to determine if an OCR provider follows any standards prescribed by a governing body, as even the ‘Big Three’, as of August 2018, do not advertise their association with any governing bodies. The only way these bodies will see success is if they are widely accepted by the racing companies already ruling the industry. The jury is still out on this and the passage of time will be the judge.
  • Injury & Illness: Covered in the section below.

3.2     The Perils of OCR

“Others have been paralyzed and had heart attacks, though statistically such injuries are still rare.” (Bernstein, 2014).

Although OCR has witnessed massive growth, it has not been without incident. For example, at the 2009 Tough Guy Challenge, approximately 600 people were treated for the effects of hypothermia (Heil, 2011; Weitzmann, 2015) – with one of the 2009 participants suffering from hypothermia again in 2015 (Weitzmann, 2015).

In July 2011, at the Warrior Dash in Kansas City, Missouri, one man died of heatstroke and another of unknown causes, were temperatures reached over 100 degrees (Associated Press, 2011). The Kansas City Fire Department responded to 13 calls for assistance from people at the event, with six being taken to hospital (Weitzmann, 2011).

During the same weekend, a 21-year-old college student was paralysed from the chest down after diving into a mud pit at a Warrior Dash in Genesee Township, Michigan (Associated Press, 2011).

In 2012, 22 people (4 confirmed and 18 suspected) became ill after almost certainly swallowing muddy water contaminated by animal faeces, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported (Bernstein, 2014). They became infected with campylobacter coli, a common bacteria that causes a week of diarrhoea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever (two to five days after exposure) after taking part in an OCR event at a cattle ranch in Beatty, Nevada. Although similar outbreaks have been associated with mountain bike races and bicycle races in Norway (1990s), Wales (2008), and British Columbia (2010) (Bernstein, 2014).

In April 2012, a man drowned whilst participating in the Original Mud Run in Fort Worth, Dallas (Hennessy-Fiske, 2012). Neither the four lifeguards posted on the river crossing nor any of the competitors noticed he was in trouble. His body was found the next morning not far from the course (Hennessy-Fiske, 2012).

On 20 March 2013, a man drowned at the Tough Mudder Mid-Atlantic, West Virginia (Beresini, 2016). The wrongful-death complaint was settled out of court and had major implications for the OCR industry, in particular if liability waivers (known as the Death Waiver by Tough Mudder) would hold up in court (Beresini, 2016).

Spartan Race participants have also been exposed to a mysterious skin condition dubbed ‘Spartan Rash’ which manifests as red, itchy skin (Lupkin, 2014). Another participant, in 2013, suffered inflammation of his heart and burns after receiving 13 electric shocks (Lupkin, 2014; Hildebrandt & Henk, 2017).

Some OCR providers, for example the Spartan Death Race, actively use the risks associated with OCR as part of their marketing strategy (Lupkin, 2014).

Although injuries and fatalities occur in other race settings, it is argued that injuries in OCR can be more severe (Hildebrandt & Henk, 2017).

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