When training for a marathon, there's a lot you need to take into consideration. You need to make sure you follow a specific diet, stretch properly, remain hydrated, and work out the proper muscles, along with other physical demands. One of the most crucial elements that many marathon runners fail to take into consideration before their first big race is the psychological training. You can be as fit as possible, but if you're not mentally prepared for a 10-kilometer run, you could find yourself slipping behind simply out of subconscious boredom.Of course, boredom of any kind is the absolute last thing you'll be experiencing if you instead opt to tackle OCR.OCR – or "obstacle course racing" – has taken the marathon world by storm with its breakneck pace, onslaught of physical challenges, and emphasis on completion rather than competition. Millions of thrill-seekers across the globe jump at the chance to experience one of these races, and most of them are more than eager to come back for more. What exactly is it that drives people to throw themselves into mud, wade in buckets of ice water, or even get zapped by electrodes for 10 miles for fun? Read our list of the six best obstacle races out there, and we'll let you decide (you may want to grab a towel)!
1. Spartan Race
It's the most popular OCR in the world right now, with different races across the globe and even its own TV show on NBC. To keep competitors on their toes, the courses are constantly changing, and none of the events reveal their obstacles prior to the race. Adrenaline-surging tests such as rope climbs, cliff dives, and mud crawls are standard challenges.What makes Spartan Race one of the best obstacle races to experiences is its accessibility and openness to people who may not be as in-shape as the athletes seen on the NBC show. You can check out multiple race options, from the three-mile "Spartan Sprint" to the monstrous "Ultra Beast," which is more than 26 miles long and consists of over 60 challenging obstacles. The event staff is sure to create an environment that genuinely rewards success of all kinds, as well as boosting self-esteem and confidence. It's this tight-knit culture of acceptance that draws hundreds of thousands of newcomers to the Spartan Race every year.
2. Tough Mudder
Even if you've never heard of obstacle course racing before, you've surely heard of Tough Mudder. It's one of the first OCRs to ever go mainstream, and the backdrop of at least three of your friends' profile photos during the summer. While it has a lot in common with Spartan Race, there are a few major differences to take into account, the biggest being the intensity of the obstacles. If you're a pure adrenaline junkie, this is one of the best obstacle races out there for you.While Tough Mudder does dish out challenges such as mud crawls, rock climbing, and plank walking, it's legendary for its more technical obstacles. Pools filled with freezing ice water, monkey bars slick with butter, and an entire field filled with dangling live electrical wires make Tough Mudder a truly intense experience not necessarily for the faint of heart. Still, it's not all about "winning"; a large majority of the obstacles cannot be conquered alone, encouraging teamwork and camaraderie between competitors.
Under the Tough Mudder brand, this by-women-for-women obstacle race is all about empowerment and owning your own strength. Don't assume that this is a "powderpuff league" version of the real thing, however; Mudderella is still seven harsh miles of barbed wire, hay bales, ice water, and gallons of mud.The first obvious thing that separates Mudderella from other OCRs is the fact that most of its contestants are female (men may join by invitation, however). While competition and the idea of "winning first place" are still present in Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, the focus of Mudderella is entirely on teamwork and community. The founders wanted to create an environment in which women overcome obstacles together. On top of that, Mudderella has partnered big time with the Futures Without Violence charity, which combats domestic violence and supports survivors.
4. The Dirty Dash
One of the biggest common threads that link all these OCRs together is the mud. It's downright impossible to complete one of these races without getting covered in the stuff. The founders of the Dirty Dash, however, took it upon themselves to up the ante and create what they call "The World's Muddiest Race."Whereas some of the OCRs covered so far use mud as an element, the Dirty Dash uses it as the theme of the entire obstacle course. Rope climbs? Covered with mud. Inflatable slides? Slick with mud. Army crawls? More like army swimming. Through mud.What makes the dirt and grime more noticeable is that the Dirty Dash taunts its racers with short moments to clean themselves off in pools of warm soapy water. The momentary oases of cleanliness are few and far between, and even if you do decide to stop off for a dip, the next challenge promises to be even filthier than the last. Which is, of course, the entire wonderful point, making the Dirty Dash one of the best obstacle races for those of us who are still kids at heart.
5. Warrior Dash
Beginning in 2009 and drawing in over 2.5 million people, the Warrior Dash is one of the oldest and biggest OCRs. It may owe its popularity due to the fact that it's perfect for beginners; it's the shortest race on this list at a mere four miles, and only contains around 12 obstacles at a time. That being said, don't mistake the "beginners welcome" approach for easiness. With its balance-testing rope floors and swamp dives, the obstacles are still every bit as intense and out-of-the-box as an intermediate mud-runner could hope for at one of the best obstacle races.The sense of good fun and community are the Warrior Dash's biggest focuses. For example, those who complete the course are awarded a Viking helmet to don while chowing down on their victory turkey leg. Prizes are also given away for best costume and best beard, creating a fun-loving vibe around this intense and dirty race.
6. Savage Race
The six-mile Savage Race currently holds the record for most obstacles per mile, and they're positively brutal. From hauling giant logs across muddy swamps to crossing a lake by hugging limbless tree trunks, the Savage Race definitely lives up to its name based on challenges alone. At the end of every course awaits the Colossus, a 43-foot waterslide with a near-vertical drop. While there are competitive and noncompetitive options, there is no "easy mode" here. If you're an OCR veteran looking for a fresh new challenge, the Savage Race is the best obstacle race for you.The point of OCRs is to test you, pushing your body and mind to their limits while providing you with an enormous sense of fun. You're going to be using muscles that you may not normally use, you'll experience a surge of adrenaline, and perhaps best of all – you get a workout that exercises every part of you in the most fun ways possible! So where does meal prep fit into the picture? Well, how do you expect to stay on-point during the race if you haven't fueled your body with the proper nutrition? Bring your 6 Pack Bag to your first obstacle course race and feel the difference for yourself! Some of the most popular bags for those who want to tackle the best obstacle races include the Innovator Mini, Innovator 300, and Expedition 300 Backpack. If a different style is more up your alley, the lightweight Contender and Asana Yoga Tote are two other sleek, useful options. Be sure to check out all the original meal management bags, as well as our gym totes, gym backpacks, and even more to find your perfect bag.All race videos and photos except header courtesy of their respective websites.