What is obstacle course racing?

Posted by David Henning on 10 June 2022

Obstacle course racing (OCR) is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world that involves, as its name suggests, competitors overcoming challenges in a race against time, similar to military training.

What is Obstacle Course Racing?

Picture: Supplied

Obstacles include carrying sandbags, scaling walls, crawling under barbed wire and swinging across monkey bars to name a few, testing endurance, strength, speed and agility.

Just how did a routine designed for military camp become such a popular sport? Especially when considering that the obstacle marshall is usually a Seargent, administering penalties in the form of press-ups if a competitor is unable to complete an obstacle.

OCR was conceived in the 1980s with the introduction of the UK’s Tough Guy Race, which aimed to test participants’ biggest fears – be it heights, water or small spaces – with several races following suit, such as Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder.

OCR is now recognised as a school sport. South African OCR racer and 2019 100m Sprint Race OCR World Champion Thomas Van Tonder believes this is an encouraging step. ‘It’s really exciting to see obstacle racing at that level, to see it grow,’ says Van Tonder.

Van Tonder believes that OCR is a sport for everyone. Here’s why:

There are minimal entry requirements for the sport

‘You need your trainers, a pair of shorts, with a good sense of humour and adventure,’ Van Tonder says. He adds that unless you are competing professionally, you don’t need to train for the OCR.

There are physical and mental benefits   

As for the everyday person, you can partake in the OCR for stress relief purposes, enticing those who battle with concentration, with a new mental and physical challenge, at every corner. It improves your health, ensuring more strength and stability in the body. OCR will see you persevere, push your boundaries, and conquer your fears. It’s about fostering good teamwork and cultivating a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

It’s conducive to a strong, supportive and inclusive community

The benefits of being a part of the OCR community are lengthy but there is an emphasis on how supportive the community is. ‘They’ve come together to help and revive the event, especially after Covid’. He goes on to say, ‘OCR has a really strong community and support each other, having a like-minded group with the same set of goals’.

It’s never boring

When meeting that balance between improving on your weakness and bettering your strengths, Van Tonder says to ‘focus on staying motivated, train well so you can compete well.’ He balances his training schedule with a variety of exercises, like rock climbing for agility, and paddling for upper body strength.

Picture: Flickr Commons/ Akunamatata

OCR has also given birth to spin-off events such as Red Bull Quicksand which is a beach-specific obstacle course race set to take place in Durban in New Beach on 16 July 2022.


Red Bull Box Cart Racing is coming to the Bo-Kaap, and entries are open

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