There is so much hype around obstacle course races these days, but there is little information on what is actually useful to bring to the races. In this first installment of “What to Bring,” we’ll go over what we consider required gear for nearly every obstacle course race. In part two we will cover some suggested (non-required) gear that will give you an edge-up on the competition. The following items are those that we strongly suggest you read over and take into consideration well before race day…
Old Running Shoes
It amazes me how many people I see lining up for the race in sparkling clean sneakers… there is a reason most races offer to recycle your muddy shoes after the race. Use an old pair of training shoes that you would otherwise toss. A fresh pair of shoes is not going to help your time after they’re bogged down with water and mud, not to mention they won’t be the same afterwards, no matter how many times you throw them in the washing machine. Flat-soled shoes are also a big no-no. In most races, I sport a pair of Innov-8 X-Talon 212 trail shoes. The lugs give you fantastic traction on extremely muddy courses, and these shoes are particularly lightweight so the retain little water. In general, trail shoes are heavier than normal running shoes but have better support for uneven terrain and shed mud very easily.
It’s a simple concept: The more material you are wearing, the more mud you’ll soak up over the course of the race. I almost always wear a singlet/sleeveless shirt and running shorts over a pair of compression shorts. Avoid cotton like the plague.
Waterproof Running Watch
It doesn’t have to be nice (a GPS watch won’t help you here with the obstacle slow-down), but it has to be water-resistant for up to a few meters. Having a watch is less about timing yourself as it is making sure you get to the start line on time. When you arrive at the event, you will want to gear-check all your valuables (phone, wallet, etc.) so they don’t get ruined during the race. If you want to walk around before the race, it mean’s you’ll have at least an hour to kill without your phone-clock before your wave starts, and they rarely have well placed clocks at the event. This is where a wrist watch comes in handy in case you don’t quite hear your wave announcement over the crowd.
General Event Gear:
Cash is king, after all. You’ll most likely have to pay for parking (often ~$10), and the attendants won’t take your card. You’ll most likely find an ATM in the event if you want to grab an extra beer or turkey leg after the race.
Change of Clothes
You will get muddy and you will definitely want to change out of your wet clothing to either enjoy the post-race party or the ride home. Bring cool, comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty as well; You’ll get splashed with mud from participants crossing the finish line and random people brushing up against you.
Towel & Plastic Bag
The plastic bag is for all your muddy clothes after the race and the towel is for wiping the residual mud off your legs and arms. Most events have wash stations, but you’ll rarely get it all off since your clothes soak up so much mud. I always bring an extra towel to throw down on my car’s seat since my change of clothes still tends to get a bit muddy (see point above).
You won’t want to carry water during the race, but the event grounds are often hot (especially during the summer) and event organizers rarely provide water before the race. Stay hydrated by bringing a bottle to sip on before your wave begins.
Head over to Part 2 of “What to Bring”, where we’ll cover some specific gear that will give you huge advantages over the competition, as well as some things that will simply make your day more enjoyable.