One of the most frequent questions I am asked, when someone learns about my obstacle course racing addiction is: “What if you get hurt?”
Well, its a good question, I suppose, if you haven’t done one of these races. Fact of the matter is, you CAN get hurt. Seriously hurt. But, then again, you can break your leg or neck on your front porch steps.
Being a small business owner who uses a ladder, climbs roofs and what not on a daily basis, I feel that I have a little bit more awareness of what COULD go wrong, and how to take precautions to avoid it. By all means though, I am not invincible to injuries. And by being a small business owner, I cannot afford an injury, monetarily (because lack of health insurance) or time-wise. I am an owner & operator, if I go down, the business is down, until I get up.
This being my first year of obstacle course racing, I have been fortunate enough to go to 5, going on 6 Spartan Races, 1 Bonefrog, 1 Savage Race, 1 Rugged Maniac, 4 Mud Endeavors, a couple Titan Runs and some random charity/local organization ran outfits. I lost count of all the 5k runs I have done this year, as my area has plenty of them to fill in the scheduling voids with OCRs. That being said, I can’t tell you of a race I ran, that I didn’t see some sort of injury. Some worse than others.
I personally wreak havoc on my hands (ripped grips), callouses ripped off, splinters, cuts, etc, busted up knees and elbows. I have witnessed fellow racers get their head/neck stuck in a cargo net (thankfully no one was seriously injured), lose their grip on an inverted wall, monkey bar, rings, rope, and fall flat on their back-The sound a body makes when it hits the hard ground from a fall over five feet, will haunt you. I’d say the worst injury I come across with other racers, is sprained or broken ankles. The terrain you need to run through to get to the next man made obstacle can be just as tricky as the obstacles themselves. Roots, rocks, stumps, hidden holes, loose ground and elevation changes. Running trails is so different than running roads. Your eyes and mind work overtime, assessing the trail and its hazards, constantly telling your feet- “step here, oooh, watch that, step there!”
What do I do to help prevent injuries? Here are a few things:
- I wear the right shoe. You need trail rated shoes. Not your Nanos, Metcons, or running kicks or basketball high tops. (Believe me, if you fly past me in any of these shoes, slip and take me out-You will hear it from me.)
- If the terrain gets too sketchy, I SLOW DOWN. Beating your own personal record is great, beating your friends or fellow competitor is even greater, but what if you can’t finish the race at all, because you tripped over a rock and broke or sprained your ankle? Towards the end of any race, especially the 6+ milers, you will see stumbling, missteps, because you are tired. It’s ok, to slow down, or even stop, to regroup.
- When approaching an obstacle, I watch fellow racers and their techniques. I have found if muscles fail, technique can save you at times, and vice versa. Then my very analytical brain groups together what works, what doesn’t and how to handle it if doesn’t.
- Just be careful, and be very considerate of your fellow races. If you are climbing a cargo net, be aware of where your fellow racers are kicking their legs over, same with walls!
- If your gut tells you its a bad idea, maybe it is. Don’t do it. Do the required penalty loop, burpees, squats or push ups–or worse, take the banter from the other racers.