The course is set on several acres of ranch land — obstacles including ropes and cargo nets to climb, barriers to scale, mud pits to crawl through and tunnels to slither in. Participants pace anxiously, ready for the battle to start. For several miles, they will test their strength, endurance and willpower — fighting to conquer a course that would challenge an Army Ranger.
Obstacle-course racing is a relatively new twist to the competitive racing scene of marathons, half-marathons and 5K races. It's not enough to be able to run the course. You have to be fit and game enough to climb ropes, pull yourself over barriers and crawl through mud with wire just inches above your head.
Jayson Tonkin, a personal trainer and owner of Precision Fitness in Medford, understands the attraction of obstacle-course races. "It's an adult playground," he explains. "That's why people love it."
Tonkin's suggestion for training for mud runs is to go to an elementary-school playground. Swing from rung to rung on the monkey bars, climb on the cargo net and scale the rock wall. Kids are fearless, he observes. "That's why people do this — for the adrenaline — to feel like a kid again," he says.
According to Aaron Anders, a physical therapist and owner of ADAPT Physical Therapy in Medford, to train for an obstacle-course competition, you need aerobic, anaerobic and strength-building exercises. Aerobic exercise is low to moderate levels of exertion with exercises such as running, swimming and bicycling all at a comfortable pace. (You are training for endurance.) Anaerobic exercise is high-intensity exertion with exercises such as sprinting and jumping rope at a fast pace. (You are training for short, high-intensity exertion.) Strength training builds muscle with exercises such as weight lifting and pull ups. When working out, Anders advises, you should use interval training — aerobic exercise with some bursts of anaerobic exercise mixed in.
"You have to have a strong aerobic base," Anders emphasizes. "You have to be able to run the distance of the course." The interval training will help you sprint between obstacles. The strength training, with exercises such as pull ups, push ups and sit ups, is also important. "You have to have the physical strength to pull yourself up and over obstacles," he says.
Anders has had a few clients who've injured themselves at obstacle-course races — mostly pulled muscles and sprained ankles. "I haven't seen any serious injuries," he confirms. He advises people to take their training seriously. "When you push yourself too far, injuries happen," he says. He's treated some patients who participated in an obstacle run who said they'd never do it again, he says, "but the people who are serious, they're going back."
Color runs put a colorful spin on standard 5K races. There are several companies that organize these events including The Color Run, Run or Dye and Color Me Rad. The events are more for fun than for competition and often aren't even timed.
Runners wear white and, at each station throughout the 3.1-mile course, are hit with non-toxic cornstarch "bombs" of various colors. At the finish line, the multi-colored participants continue the festivities with food, music, dancing and other activities.
Natosha Mickson of Central Point ran in a color run as a warm-up for more competitive races. "It was fun," she says. "It was out of my comfort zone." She notes that she had not participated in a race before, so this non-competitive run was a great event to build her confidence. Not long after her first color run, Mickson participated in her first half-marathon.
Laurie Rooper of Medford likes to find new adventures for herself and her young son, and a color run seemed like a good idea. "That one sounded like fun," she confirmed. "I try to keep him active and try new things."