Clothing & Shoes For Obstacle Course Racing
You’ve trained. You ate right. Now it’s time for race day. So what do you wear?
I’m not big on hard and strict rules. I say train in ways that make you stronger and give you more endurance. I vote to try to eat healthy, but it’s not the end of the world to drink a beer every once in a while. Assuming, it’s a delicious craft beer.
However, when it comes to clothing there is one rule that you have to follow…
Seriously, don’t worry any cotton to an obstacle course race. Cotton absorbs water. It’ll make you shirt, socks, underwear, whatever – heavy and uncomfortable. You don’t want this. Trust me. I know this. I wore shorts that were part cotton to my first mud run and I fought with them for most of the race just to keep them on. The water was that heavy that it was pulling them down.
Instead, think nylon and other synthetic materials. It’ll make your race a lot more enjoyable. Something that won’t absorb the moisture and when it does get wet, the water will just drip away. They don’t have to be expensive. I’ve found them online for reasonable prices. Even Old Navy carries them now.
Now that we got the whole no cotton thing out of the way, let’s talk shoes.
I highly recommend not wearing shoes that are brand new. Take them around the block, better yet take them around the park and through the mud to break in your shoes. You may get a blister on your feet when running an OCR race. Not wearing brand new shoes will reduce that.
I also recommend wearing shoes that were designed for the mud or at least going off road. That means no shoes designed for roads. They just won’t do well in the mud. I like trail runner shoes. If you’re sure you’re going to want to do more than one race, there are shoes that are made specifically for obstacle course racing. However, they can be expensive.
I don’t recommend wearing the oldest pair of shoes you have in the back of your closet. They probably don’t have a lot of traction, nor support and won’t give your feet the protection you need on a slippery, uneven trail. Shoes that go through a mud run can be cleaned. Don’t wear an old pair of running shoes just because you don’t want to get your best pair of shoes muddy.
I’m going to sound like your mother, but if it’s a cold morning wear layers. However, make it layers that you don’t mind donating to the race course or can tie around your waist. You’ll warm up once you get going. Which, now that I think of it. Skip the layers unless it’s brutally cold. As you warm up your muscles pre-race, you’ll probably warm up enough that you won’t need those extra layers on race day.
Gear For Obstacle Course Racing
Hydration pack – If it’s less than five miles, you probably won’t need one. If the race director is doing his job, there will be enough water to keep you hydrated. If it’s a longer race, a hydration pack is a good investment. Not that we’re talking a huge investment. Small ones start at around $25. Not only will it keep you hydrated, but you can use it to store snacks, medicines, etc. The hydration pack I recommend.
Lamp – If you have a late start time or if it looks like it might be a long race, get a headlamp. The main benefit is that it’ll allow you to see in front of you after sunset. The other benefit is that some races will pull you off the course if you don’t have a headlamp after dark because of safety reasons. The headlamp I recommend.
Watches – Watches that will track your steps/distance, track your heart rate, etc are nice to have, but not needed. I’m not going to tell you not to get one because I have my eye on some myself. However, you don’t need them.
Gloves – I’m going to be a little controversial here, but I’m also going to say that you don’t need gloves. I don’t think they help that much in the mud. In fact, they might make it even more slippery. I’m in the school of thought that if you build up your grip strength you won’t need them.
I’ll do my best to answer if you have any questions about clothing, shoes or gear. Leave a comment here or send me a message.
Photo by Presidio of Monterey