Obstacle Course Racing: Which One Is Best for You?

Nick Hutchings


United Kingdom

Men's Fitness, Endurance Sports, Bodyweight Exercise, Kettlebells


There are now hundreds of obstacle races taking place in the UK every year. Many are packed with innovative obstacles, challenging terrain and, importantly, excellent post-race refreshment options. Others offer little more than a few tarps to crawl under, the odd tyre to climb over, and water that smells, and quite possibly is, 90 percent sheep’s piss.


If you want to apply your gym-honed strength to the better races, here are three to have a crack at. Each one is a different distance and has a real diversity of obstacles. Pick one that plays to your physical strengths.



The 5km Race – Spartan Sprint, Allianz Park, London

Spartan races are the brainchild of pain-loving race nut Joe De Sena, who once did 10,000 proper form burpees in a row, simply because he loves burpees. There are three different races in the series – the 5km sprint, 12km+ Super, and 21km+ Beast. If you do all three, you get a trifecta medal to post pictures of all over your social media accounts.


At 5km, the sprint is a good starting point for would-be Spartans. Even if you were to walk it, the obstacles make it far from easy. Atlas stone carries, monster tyre flips, rope climbs, wall scales, spear throws, and monkey bar swings make it as close to a strongman event as you’re going to get in the obstacle course race world. If you want to be prepared, you need to find a gym that has some of this unorthodox kit. The running terrain is a mixture of trail and bog, with a vicious sprinkling of hills thrown in for good measure.


People climb a wall during a Spartan Race.


Locations and dates: Spartan Race run these events up and down the UK, throughout spring, summer, and autumn.


Newbie time to aim for: One hour 10min

Big boy time to aim for: Sub 50 minutes



The 10km Race – Vision Wild Run, Great Tew Oxfordshire

This Oxfordshire-based run is only a couple of years old, but has quickly developed a reputation as one of the best races on the OCR circuit. While you will find beginners walking the course, it’s definitely better suited to the strong and fast set. The challenging terrain contains plenty of hills, twists, root-strewn forest trails, thigh-deep bogs, and neck-deep pools.


In between these features, you’ll be asked to tackle obstacles that wouldn’t be out of place on a Ninja Warrior course. Towering walls of monster tyres with little in the way of hand- or footholds, a dense spider’s web of a rope feature, and a series of rope swings with only go-kart tyres for grip are just a few of the nightmarish obstacles you’ll have to face to make it through to the final monster water slide. To train for a race like this, make sure you’re comfortable running 10K off road in horrible conditions, and work your grip strength on the most slippery rig you can find.


Vision wild run climbing tower.



Locations and dates: Vision Wild Run put on three races a year, with the next one taking place in Great Tew, Oxfordshire in March.


Newbie time to aim for: One hour 30 min

Big boy time to aim for: One hour 10 min


The 12km Race – Judgement Day, Bordon, Hampshire

To do well in this monster of an obstacle course race, you need Herculean endurance as well as a decent level of strength (fifteen unbroken pull ups, fifty unbroken press ups). During the race you’ll carry mid-sized tyres up and down sharp hills, haul sandbags for more than a kilometre, perform squats with heavy wooden bars on your shoulders, and squirrel up vertigo-inducing rope climbs.



And that’s all before you get to the final kilometre of the race, where things take a turn for the truly gritty. The final stretch of Judgement Day runs through the British Army’s FIBUA (Fighting In Built Up Areas) village. This custom-built shell town is used by the Armed Forces to prepare troops for tackling baddies in claustrophobic-urban environments. It features everything from apartment blocks and hospitals to churches and shops.


In these buildings you’ll find tight tunnels, rope climbs, loft drops into pitch black rooms, and scarily high beams. The race makes use of all of them, so you’ll need to keep your strength up to climb, then shuffle your way across thin obstacles that are often more than two metres above terra firm. You’ll need your senses with you as you jump through loft hatches into pitch black basements, and you’d better keep claustrophobia at bay as you crawl through suffocating narrow tunnels. Train for this by regularly running 15km on-road, then performing Fran at the end.


Running up a wall during a Judgement Day race.


Location and dates: Next year, Judgement Day will be putting on a variety of races up and down the country.


Newbie time to aim for: One hour 40 minutes

Big boy time to aim for: One hour ten minutes


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Photo 1 courtesy of Reebok Spartan Race.

Photo 2 courtesy of Vision Wild Run.

Photo 3 courtesy of Judgement Day.

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