Your First Obstacle Course Race Checklist

First obstacle course race checklist

So you’ve bought your first obstacle course race entry or you’re thinking about it. Next is to start thinking about two things. 

Training is one of them. I’m in no way a trainer, but I will share with you resources from books with training plans to online coaching in upcoming blog posts. Then you can decide what’s right for you.

 But today, I wanted to talk to you about the other aspect that you need to be thinking about. The logistics side. What do you need to wear for your first mud run? What type of shoes do you need for an obstacle course race? Then the other items that you’ll need before and after a race.

Obstacle Course Racing Clothing

  • Tops – There’s one general rule for all clothing. Don’t wear cotton. Cotton will absorb your sweat, the water you run through, the mud you crawl through…and weigh you down. Instead, buy a shirt that’s made of moisture-wicking or quick-dry materials. Form-fitting shirts or tank tops are ideal because there’s less material for water to get caught in, as well as less material to get stuck on an obstacle…or just to plain distract you in general.
  • Bottoms – A lot of the same rules as for tops. No cotton. Buy shorts or leggings/tights that are made of quick dry-type material. Bonus points for something made of a compression material. Tight is better than loose. Also, another rule. Don’t buy a pair that you wouldn’t mind if they got ripped or damaged on an obstacle course. Barbed wire and other obstacles have a habit of tearing apart clothes no matter how careful you are.
  • Shoes – If this is your first race, a pair of old running shoes will do. A pair that you won’t mind losing in the mud or tossing in the trash after you finish your race. (Some races also have a spot for you to donate old shoes that’ll be cleaned up and given to those in need.) Once you’re hooked on obstacle course races, you’ll want to invest some money in a good pair of shoes designed for running in the mud and conquering the obstacles. Check out the OCR shoes review section of the site for some ideas.
  • Socks – Remember that one rule? No cotton socks. If you don’t have a pair, buy a pair of running socks. Specifically, Mud Gear makes the sock of choice for many OCR athletes. Review coming up soon.
  • Underwear – Did I mention no cotton? Like above, you’ll want something that’s made out of a quick dry material or similar material, that’s also supportive. An obstacle course race isn’t a timid stroll through the park.
  • Gloves? There’s a lot of debate about gloves and this could probably be its own article. The short version. If it’s cold, you may want gloves. Beyond that, we’ll say for our purposes today it’s your choice. Gloves make some obstacles more difficult. They actually get in the way or make things more slippery. On other obstacles, they can add to the grip of your hand and protect your hand. I’ve done both, and maybe you want to try with and without. A final note, most of the elite athletes don’t wear gloves unless the cold temperatures basically require it.

Race Day Prep

 Here are a few things you may or may not be thinking about that’ll make your day a lot smoother.

  • ID – Most races will check your ID to verify that you are who you say you are when you register. Not all, but you don’t want to make a long walk back to the parking lot to get your driver’s license. 
  • Screenshot of registration – Some races will just ask for your name, but many will want to scan the barcode or QR code tied to your registration. It’ll be in your email, but let’s say you’re out in the middle of nowhere where many races are held and there’s no internet. A safe bet is to print out a copy or just take a screenshot before you leave home.
  • Cash/Credit Card – Most races have things you can buy from post-race food and drink to souvenirs and collectibles. Think of a t-shirt specific to that venue or a hat that you can’t get anywhere else. Most places accept cards, but if there’s no internet because you’re in the middle of nowhere, it would be nice to have some cash.
  • Water/Food for before the race – On race day you’ll want to be hydrated and not hungry. That doesn’t mean that you should be drinking all the water and a huge breakfast, but enough so that your body is primed, fueled, and ready to go. Don’t try any new foods on race day, just in case your body doesn’t agree with them. This could probably be a whole blog post too, but that’s the short version.
  • Water/Food for the race – Depending on the race and the distance of the race, you may want to bring a hydration backpack and snacks like a gel. Another maybe oversimplified answer is that for most 5k distance OCRs there are usually enough water stations to get you through and you probably won’t need a midrace snack. Of course, this varies on your personal needs and the same answer applies to longer races. Personally, for anything longer than an hour, I’d like to have a hydration backpack so I don’t have to rely just on the water stations. And so that I can sneak a gel or two in the backpack. You’ll also want to check out the course map online a few days before the race to get an idea if the water stations will handle your thirst and desires.
  • Address mapped out and plan to arrive early – Related to the lack of internet, you may want to map out your route to the race ahead of time. And well sometimes, these venues aren’t exactly on the map. So take a few minutes, and check it out on Google maps before race day. Then plan to leave early so you can arrive early. There’s been known to be long lines for parking and long lines for check-in. Most races will let you jump into a later heat, do you really want to do that? So whatever the race company suggests, listen to it. It’s better to be sitting around waiting your turn than rushing to make it on time.
  • Sunscreen – If you have a habit of getting burnt, you may want to apply some sport sunscreen. You will be outdoors for a while. Pro-tip, don’t put it on your forehead. Instead, wear a hat to protect your face. I’ve felt the pain of sweat mixed with sunscreen dripping into my eyes. That’s not an exciting obstacle.

After Your Race

You’re so close to that nice, long hot shower back at home or at the hotel. But there are a few steps left before you can cross that finish line.

  • Towel(s) – Bring more than enough towels. Some races have showers or a hose to rinse off in, but even if they don’t have that, a towel can make you presentable enough so that you can at least get someplace with a shower.
  • Wet Wipes – You can use these to clean the dirt off of your face, hands, or your whole body if you’re motivated.
  • Change of clothes – Some races have changing areas or you can change with the help of a well-placed towel in the parking lot. Either way, you don’t want to be driving home or back to the hotel in your race clothes.
  • Comfy shoes or flip flops – Your feet will be muddy and sore after a race. Especially a good one. Nothing feels better than slipping your feet into a comfortable pair of old sneakers or a pair of flip-flops after taking off the running shoes you wore for the race.
  • Car seat cover – You can use a towel or two, but I love my car seat cover that’s designed to keep my seats from getting wet and muddy. They’re more comfortable than a towel, a lot of them are designed to keep your seat dry, and stay in place, which isn’t always the case with a towel.


Let me know if you have any questions about what to wear or the logistics of your first or tenth race. I’d love to help. Leave me a message in the comment section below or send me an email via the contact page