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First Time Race Tips; What To Expect at your First OCR

You’ve done it, you’ve signed up and your first obstacle course race is in the calendar. But what on earth should you expect? How do you plan for the unknown? From Spartan Race, to Savage, Nuclear to Tough Mudder, they may all be different but these tips will help you prepare the best you can.

Check out our top tips for your first mud run below, and key hints from top athletes in the sport.

#1 Join a community

From the OCRWC Athletes page, to a local OCR group, an online community will help keep you motivated and on track for your first event. From training tips, to kit, and valuable information they’re a wealth of up to date information, and a great way to make muddy friends.

#2 Make sure your kit is on point.

You are going to need some quite rugged off-road running footwear, so invest in some trail shoes, we love VJ Sport, with their wide range of weights and widths there’s something out there for everyone. Avoid wearing cotton at all costs. At some point in the race, you are going to get wet and it will drag you down. Check out the new limited edition OCRWC Dryrobe, an essential piece of kit for every athlete.

#3 Start running.

You’re going to need a decent base of fitness, so get out there and run. Venture off-road and find trails, working up to covering your chosen race distance, initially without the obstacles. You may not be looking to break any records at your first race, but being prepared as best you can will make it a more enjoyable experience. Many people walk, a lot, but having that base fitness is what will make your day more fun.


#4 Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

When running, train in all weathers. Get muddy, get wet, get uncomfortable! Include some bodyweight exercise in your run. For example, 10m bear crawl, 15 x press-ups, 20 x squats every 5 minutes. Mix it up. Become creative. The beauty of an obstacle course race is the variety. It’s not a straight up road run, or even trail run. You need to prepare your body to adapt quickly. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s why we love it.

#5 Carry everything

Whether it’s a bucket, a sandbag pancake or a chunk of wood, at various points in your OCR you will be carrying something. Incorporate this into your training, carrying natural materials such as rocks and logs, especially up and down hills. Buy a bag of builders sand and get used to picking it up and hefting it around, carry something on your trail run that you find while you’re out. Mix it up. A weighted vest will help with endurance, but you want to get used to running while holding the most awkward possible shape.


#6 Nothing new on the day.

It’s a week before your race, you’ve just bought a new compression top, so now test it out before race day to ensure it’s comfortable. This rule applies to everything: shoes, shorts, socks and nutrition as well. Nobody wants gut problems before a rope climb. It’s true of all events, but especially true on a mud run or a spartan race. A 5k can take longer than you expect, so do yourself favors and make sure you the things you’re in control of work for you.

#7 Compose yourself.

When you approach an obstacle on race day, walk to it rather than run, especially in the latter half of the race. This will be give you time to compose yourself, make a judgement and watch how best (or not!) to get over it, through it, carry or throw it. The right mindset and game plan may well save you from losing your band or a tricky penalty.

8 foot wall

#8 Enjoy the experience and smile at the marshals.

Have fun! Running an OCR is an awesome experience, so take time out to enjoy every mile and obstacle. Engage with the marshals. They love a ‘high-five’ and a muddy hug. Share a smile. Some marshals even give out jelly babies.


#9 Help your fellow racer.

You’re in this together, so if a fellow racer needs a hand over a wall, or some encouragement over the cargo, then help them out and don’t feel afraid to ask for help yourself if you need it. As you conquer your first race, remember to live by the Spartan warrior ethos: Never leave a fallen comrade behind.

#10 Use Youtube

Youtube is a huge resource for information about OCR. From The OCR Report, to ORM, you’ll find a ton of videos from live race coverage, to POV, and obstacles from specific events. If you want to know what you’re going to be up against, check them out.


bell rope

“My top tip for a first time race is to just have fun! Don’t rob yourself of the fun experience by constantly doubting yourself. The OCR community is truly wonderful, and more often than not they are always there to support everyone and anyone who may need it!” -Laura Messner


“Don’t underestimate the running portion of the race. People put so much focus on being able to get through the obstacles, but the running is what will kick you in the butt!  90% of the race is running, after all.” -Lindsay Webster


“Wear clothes that you’ll be comfortable in when they’re covered in heavy mud. There’s nothing worse than going through a mud pit near the beginning of the race and then being uncomfortable for the rest because your sleeveless tank is sagging down to your knees because it’s so heavy with mud. Or your shorts have deep pockets which are all mud filled. It’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable!” -Beni Gifford


“My first tip for new racers would be to sign up. It will help your motivation once it gets real. Secondly: You will be fine! You will finish the race, there is no real cut off, your friends, other racers, and volunteers will help you through.

A Spartan Race is not designed to make you fail but to challenge you, you will struggle and that is the goal: It makes that feeling of achievement at the finish line stronger.” -Thomas Blanc

Francesca Chiorando
Written By
Francesca Chiorando

Francesca started running OCR in 2013, and after devouring all the information she could find on the sport, she began writing about it herself. With OCR quickly gaining traction in the UK where she lives, she launched her own site, Mud Is My Makeup, in 2014.

Since then she has gone on to produce content for publications including OCR Europe, Mud Run Guide, Mudstacle, Obstacle Race Magazine, and Obstacle Mud Runner Magazine, as well as OCRWC.

Francesca loves exploring every aspect of the sport as much as she loves to explore the courses themselves. Very much an average athlete, her goal has always been to encourage the everyday person to get muddy and active and discover how much joy suffering out on a course can bring.

Her first experience of OCRWC was the epic Blue Mountain in 2016, although she’d been following the event from the early days. The whole atmosphere, set up, and experience had her hooked and she knew that this was an organization that she not only wanted to support, but be involved with, and to help bring the spirit of OCRWC to a wider audience.

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