The easy answer is…
Now with a dozen or so races under my belt and participating in 4 different race series I can honestly say – it still depends.
Some OCR enthusiasts are loyal devotees to one race series and only one. And in that, they will never give an unbiased opinion. I am one that just loves OCR and will try any of them and get to all the races I can. I have raced Warrior Dash, Spartan, Terrain Race and Savage Race.
I love them all! Some only want short races; long races; crazy terrain races; the races with the best shirts or medals; the largest races; etc. I know me, and I actually prefer the mid distance to short races. Doing a couple of Beasts and Supers is good for the soul, it’s a great test of what you can accomplish – everyone should do at least one longer, endurance type race.
So many reviews really bash one race series over another. I understand if you had a bad experience at one particular race or you picked a race that was just not you. But c’mon, a race series sucked just because you didn’t like it??!! You won’t know until you try one and then you’ll know. You’ll know if it’s for you in the future or not. So just pick a few and give them an honest attempt.
Know what you’re getting into before you pick that race series or a particular venue. Do you want high elevation or sea level; rough crazy terrain or somewhat flat; penalties or no penalties; more water and mud or less; strictly fun or competitive options; etc. A few other items to take into consideration – race cost; location; lodging; perks; add on cost (bag check, spectator cost; parking), etc.
Remember – sometimes the higher priced race series appeal to many due to receiving a higher quality finisher shirt; a better finisher medal; a larger number of pics that are free (sometimes); timing chips (some don’t for the lower price, non-competitive); a higher profile or more expensive venue; just to name a few. If all you want to do is race – then pick based on the items that appeal to you. So, you do pay more to get more outside of the race itself. Sometimes worth it, sometimes not.
Do your homework!!!!!
As far as the above four race series – they all have a 5k version. Spartan is the only one out of these four that is 3-5 miles for the Sprint, so not strictly 5k. Spartan has the Stadium; Honor; Trail; Super; Beast; and many other options for distance and types of race. Savage race has their 5-7-mile race along with the Blitz (5k). Terrain Race and Warrior Dash are 5k only options.
All four of these race series are recognized by and can qualify you for the North American OCR Championship – https://noramchamps.com/
Obstacles are obstacles. You climb; crawl; push; pull; carry; get muddy; etc. Some races have some very specific obstacles that are in that race series only – signature obstacles, one of a kind obstacles. My advice – don’t get stuck on one brand, try several then pick your favorite. Or try several and continue to race them all.
Why do you race? To say you did it? To podium or finish at the top of your age group or gender? To get better? To compete alone or with others? For the challenge? All the above???
Maybe you have a goal of getting the Trifecta; Trident; Syndicate; or wanting to represent Medal Monday! I do it to keep active, to get better each time, to accomplish and have goals to keep me motivated for training.
Speaking of training, where do you start??!!
Even with being a personal and group trainer, I still looked and searched for info on OCR training and received a lot of hints/tips from people that had that to give. So many videos and tutorials online, and you can sign up for newsletters on pretty much all the OCR series websites. Most provide training programs; daily and weekly training info; resources for what you might want to eat; equipment suggestions; etc. And Mud Run Guide is a great resource for discounts and races in a searchable database, along with race reviews and articles – Mud Run Guide | Mud Run, OCR, Obstacle Course Race & Ninja Warrior Guide
So back to training – you must build a good foundation of strength that only benefits all the heavy lifting; pulling; and pushing. Do a shit load of bear crawls – that does help. Strengthen your lower back. Get your ass on some obstacles – climb; swing; traverse; WORK ON YOUR GRIP!!!!! These are such simple, obvious tips – but they are all important. Oh yeah – and run. Then run some more. Run flats; run trails; hill sprints/repeats; just build up a running base as well. Running sucks; running is stupid; people that love to run are crazy. I have thought each of these so many times- and I still do it. It’s a necessary evil for sure. To not reinvent the wheel, I purchased a great resource in digital version of The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training. It is also available in a physical book which some prefer, so check that out right here.
At the very most I can give some opinions and suggestions. Everyone has an opinion, so you gotta try stuff out and pick what’s right for you.
When I purchased my first hydration pack, I chose a smaller bladder since all races that I have raced have water stations. The one requirement was it had to have storage pockets for my chalk; goo’s; mustard packs; and whatever else I wanted to carry. Also, I didn’t want it to be bulky are over the top with unnecessary crap. The one and only pack that I have used (for the races I did use one) is the Olympic Bulls hydration pack. This one is still around but there are so many brands and styles – look at these and do your homework when you purchase. I just purchased a new hydration pack – has pockets and all the stuff I require, just got a 2L bladder this time. Anxious to give this one a go in 2019! And you can always search for a replacement bladder for your pack if you already have one. Look at a large list and browse the hydration packs.
Shoes, shoes – this really is hit-n-miss. Completely a personal preference so just try a few out. I used a pair of PUMA running shoes my first race. They were very comfortable and appropriate for the race. But I just had to be the guy that bought some gear that other racers recommended. The first pair of trail racing shoes I tried were the Inov-8 Terraclaw 250. These are nice quality; light weight; sturdy; sole harder then I prefer; and priced right for a first go at a trail shoe. The one problem after just three races – they shrunk! Right at the toe box of the shoe, the material actually shrunk and were so tight it made them unusable. If I was going to buy these again, I would buy up a 1/2 or full size. But I went another direction and tried out the Adidas Vigor trail shoe. I absolutely love this shoe! I did buy up 1/2 size; a little heavier; nice cushion sole; breathable; great on obstacles; and again, priced right. Check out trail shoes right here.
As far as clothing – suggestion is to wear dry-fit/compression clothing. This is to avoid chaffing, or don’t. Wear leggings, or don’t. Wear gloves – DON’T. My opinion and preference on this only – they don’t help with the grip on obstacles. Maybe they will save your hands-on certain pulls/carries/drags. Socks – hate the knee-high socks (again my preference). I wear the above ankle socks now to avoid the possible rub at the edge of the shoe (learned this one the hard way). When you get wet and muddy, socks can and will move. And they will rub, so just be aware.
Find out all you can about your race; the venue; the weather possibilities; the potential obstacles; the terrain of the race location.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!