A blog by runners. For runners.

The basics of adventure races

Spartan RaceChances are if you haven’t participated in one of the many adventure runs in your area, you’ve at least heard about these crazy events that go beyond simple running and into the extreme. Maybe you’ve seen photos of your nearest and dearest friends covered entirely in mud in your Facebook feed. Perhaps you’ve seen photos of your aunt army crawling through an obstacle course as part of a sprint race.

Whatever your exposure, this new breed of running event is here to stay. So, if you ever get bitten by the bug and want to try one out, here are some things to consider training-wise that will prepare you for the good, bad, and ugly – as well as make the experience more pleasurable.

Go the distance
Depending on your level of running experience, you’ll want to make sure you can cover it solidly with all the added challenges. This tip is the same no matter what kind of race you’re running. If you’re a true beginner, be sure to start slow, even utilizing a walk-jog sort of plan to avoid injury. If you’re a seasoned athlete, don’t discount the different type of strain an adventure race might put on your body. (Related: Getting Started — Tips For Beginner Runners)

Train the terrain
Take a look at the event’s website or flyer to see what kind of terrain you might encounter. Since this category is quite broad, you can find flat and fast courses as well as mountainous ones that require vastly different preparation. Knowing what you’re up against is half the battle. The goal is to get to the start and finish the event with a smile on your face, so if you know ahead of time that you’ll be scaling a mountain, try to hit the trails and hills in your neighborhood as often as possible. If you’re on the flats, don’t discount the exhaustion course features might add to the mix.

Prep for obstacles
I love this 6 Week Training Plan I came across while researching this article. The author explains that for events like Tough Mudder, you’ll want to work on power cleans, grip strength, single leg training, and circuit training to gain overall strength and agility. By adding in this targeted cross-training to your otherwise running-heavy plan, you’ll get some much-needed power and teach your body to perform best under pressure.

Enlist friends
It may just be my opinion, but these adventure races seem inherently social. A lot of people sign up to complete them with friends for added support and camaraderie. So, why not train that way? You might even be able to find friends through a local group, like the New York Adventure Racing Association. These groups have a wealth of information for beginners. Check out this Guide to Adventure Events with all the gear, racing tips, and other advice you need to be successful in your endeavors.

Stay safe
Those of us who don’t take part in other sports and do movements outside the running stride also need to heed some caution with our bodies. If you’re training for any other important running-only races, etc., now’s not the time to take huge risks that might impact the bigger picture. During your preparation for the race and during the event itself, keep your safety foremost in mind. Like with most any activity, there have been some unfortunate deaths and injuries associated with adventure racing, so better safe than sorry.

Written by Ashley Marcin / Photo Wikimedia