Obstacle course races (aka obstacle runs and mud runs) are environments of controlled chaos, meant to reveal your character and grit. It involve getting through multiple obstacles, running and having a “can-do” attitude. Unlike regular runs, you will use upper body and core strength and some basic obstacle traversing skills.
So, really, isn’t this the best test for your ninja moves? You can’t get any more ninja than this.
Here are 11 reasons why you should join an obstacle run (like Spartan Race), if you aren’t already convinced.
1You will pick up basic ninja obstacle skills
This is what you would imagine of a typical ninja’s exploits…
Late at night, the ninja vaults over the fence and sneaks past the guards. He crawls low to the ground, to avoid detection. Then, throws a hook over to climb the castle wall.
And obstacle course races have all of those obstacles. So, you will definitely learn to traverse, climb, lift and vault, either on race day or when training beforehand.
2Fitness becomes a thrilling adventure
Face it. Reps and sets are boring. Obstacle course races through nature (or even the urban landscape) is an adventure. Uncertainty and surprises are key to this. You don’t know what’s up ahead. And you get a thrill when you make it through an obstacle.
So, the whole experience of an obstacle race’s uncertainty, environment, people and you relying on your body’s primal movement will make you feel alive.
3Your training will have a solid purpose
Competing in an obstacle run gives your training a purpose. You are actually training for something, and not just reps, sets, abs or weight loss. You are going for “battle” as a modern warrior.
4You get to test your functional ninja skills and warrior tenacity
Obstacle course races will reveal if your fitness is actually functional, or not. Your skills, strength and endurance are put to the test. By the end of it, you will learn your physical and mental weaknesses. With this crucial feedback, you adjust your training to excel as a ninja obstacle racer.
5You feel a sense of camaraderie and connection
You feel exhausted, but you see a racer beside you giving it her all. She notices you lagging behind and slows down to spur you on. Because of this, you continue. As you reach the vertical wall, you see a guy who has trouble getting over it. The both of you and many others help to give him a boost.
This here, is camaraderie and connection in motion. It also illustrates that each of us has our own advantages and weaknesses. Together, we can overcome all.
Joining an obstacle run reminds you that the journey is much greater than you as an individual. It is the greater advantage of having the human connection.
6You ignite your competitive spirit
Friendly competition in obstacle course races can motivate you to do better. And it can give you the impetus to do things you don’t at first believe can be achieved by you.
When someone runs alongside you and tries to get ahead, something primal is awakened. Your adrenaline gets a boost and you find yourself running faster. Where you usually get over walls slowly when training, you shock yourself by perfectly tucking your legs up to vault. To top it off, you land on uneven ground without twisting your ankle.
Obstacle races allow you to challenge yourself, and in the process build your perseverance. Through the experience of overcoming obstacles, you start to believe that anything is possible. After all, you have to run, do obstacles, run, do obstacles – multiplied by ten.
When you feel exhausted or sore, your mind screams for you to stop. But you know that you can and will complete the race. You learn to ignore the exhaustion and push forward. You train your mind to become stronger. And you condition yourself to see possibilities.
8You become a leader through experience and learn to strategise in obstacle course races
After many races, you gain advantages in experience, skill, endurance and strength. When someone falls, you pick up the slack and help carry their rucksack over the finish line. When newbie racers doesn’t know how to climb up a rope, you offer invaluable pointers from your failures before. And teach them the skill on the spot.
Aside that, you prepare by studying the race map and plan your actions deliberately. You adjust your pace to conserve energy, depending on the obstacle. You may instruct team members boost each other when anticipating a string of continuous obstacle that require upper body strength. And you may even choose to skip specific water points to avoid puking on continuous obstacle paths.
9Get a Sense of Accomplishment (and Build Confidence)
Finishing a race reflects well on your training. It reaffirms your identity – past, present and future. You remember the blood, sweat and tears to get to where you are, and know that it was all worth it when you reach the finish line. You learn your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.
By going through all the challenges and completing the race, you build your sense of self and confidence. You confirm that you have the mettle of a ninja and are a true modern warrior.
10Makes you Rethink your Lifestyle (and is a domino for change)
Your first obstacle run – once you enjoy it as part of being a modern warrior – will make you look at life with new light. It will cause a domino-effect to a better, happier and healthier life.
You will begin to rethink your lifestyle and training. You will appreciate the mental aspects of fitness better. And you will forge a new facet to your identity – obstacle course racer.
11Value for Money
Obstacle course races are priced roughly the same as the average marathon. So, you are getting more out of your experience with the money you pay for an obstacle run.
I highly recommend starting out with the Spartan Race Sprint; I’ve compiled a worldwide list of Spartan Sprint races here. That was among the best obstacle runs I experienced back in 2015.
If you are an experienced obstacle course racer, check this list of all types of Spartan races instead.