Whether it’s crawling through mud or under electric wire, leaping through flames or into icy water, the nascent sport in obstacle course races (OCR) is booming. And many hardcore fans are prepared to travel huge distances to take part in gruelling events worldwide.
This multi-million-pound business even has a recently formed international body, the International Obstacle Racing Federation, which is lobbying for OCR to be included in the 2024 Olympics. With some of the best-known events placing emphasis on completing a course in the fastest time possible, it’s no surprise that OCR now has professional athletes seeking sponsorship and prize money.
However, the majority of participants still prefer entering as teams for non-competitive fun, so many organisers now offer races in multiple countries. Adding destinations like Iceland and China means competitors can combine adrenaline rush and culture. obstaclesports.org
Top 4 obstacle course races in 2018
01 Rat Race Dirty Weekend
A range of courses, but the hardcore opt for the 20-mile course with 200 obstacles — and go round twice. Expect a festival atmosphere and around 7,000 competitors. Burghley, UK, 12 May.
02 World’s Toughest Mudder Georgia
A 24-hour challenge where the object is to see which individual and team can do the most laps in the time given. Fairburn, Georgia, USA, 10 November.
03 Iron Viking
A 26-mile race taking in 100 ‘Viking-themed’ obstacles. Annual events take place in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Denmark from April to September.
04 Vilnius Challenge
For those seeking something less gruelling and muddy — and a lot more cultural — this challenge takes place in the Lithuanian capital, and involves cycling, orienteering, climbing, paddling, solving puzzles and scrambling over the odd obstacle. 2 June.
Did you know?
At a 48-hour-long Spartan Death Race, participants had to eat a bag of raw onions
Published in the April 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)