Why Triathletes Should Do Obstacle Course Runs Like Spartan Race

david glover spartan socalby David B. Glover, MS, CSCS

Triathlons are about the “known” and certain.

You know the order of each leg of the race – swim then bike then run (with a few exceptions).

You know the distances of each leg.

You can preview the course ahead of time and there are volunteers to tell you where to go on race day.

You swim in a lake or pool, bike on pavement and run on a reasonably flat and straight course (for the most part).

Triathletes are notorious for being creatures of habit and rigid in their training (I know – I’ve been once since 1995).

Obstacle course runs like Spartan Race are about the “unknown” and uncertainty.

The distance is somewhat known (e.g. 8-9) miles but you don’t know the order of the obstacles nor what all the obstacles are.

You don’t know the terrain of the course – run on dirt trails, crawl through culverts, run through dry, rocky stream beds, scramble over sand dunes, trudge through waist deep water, etc. – until you’re out on the course.

david glover climbing rope at spartan raceObstacle runners tend to be more laid back, wear costumes during races and take a more laid back approach to training and racing.

Triathlons and obstacle course runs are different experiences – so why should triathletes do obstacle course runs?

Because successfully dealing with the uncertainty and unknown on race day are key to maximizing your performance in triathlon and other endurance sports like marathon, cycling and open water swimming.  If fact, in studies when the physical, technical and mental readiness of Olympic athletes was assessed, only mental readiness significantly predicted performance.

If you can conquer the uncertainty and unknown of an obstacle course run, then you are better equipped to deal with the relatively small unknowns, frustration and obstacles of triathlon like a flat tire, a dropped water bottle, rainy weather or hot temperatures.

What better place to practice and hone those mental skills while adding fun to your training than in an obstacle course run? Keep in mind that you need to have some physical strength to pull yourself up, over and through obstacles, but these events are still very much running races, too.

Plus, what else are you doing during the off season? Running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and marathons gets boring.  No obstacle course run is ever the same twice plus you can travel to warm places like Southern California, Phoenix and Miami during the winter.

For me personally, I needed to find something new and exciting after more than 15 years of triathlon racing and training including 28 Ironman triathlon finishes.  Obstacle course runs fill that need plus keep me fit and motivated when triathlon season is a long way off or I need to take a break from the structure of Ironman training.

Now what’s stopping you from doing an obstacle course run? The fear of the unknown?  Or maybe the fear of getting muddy, twisting an ankle or getting snagged on a little barbed wire?  Sure, you’ll get dirty and might get a little scratched up, but at least you won’t get hit by car or drown…

Come  step outside your comfort zone and give obstacle course races like Spartan Race a try….