Let me be clear on something. Whenever you run an obstacle course race (OCR) – be it Spartan, Rugged Maniac or especially Tough Mudder – you are never really alone.
The reason is simple. It’s the OCR community.
The community, the environment, the people, the culture, is something truly special and on any given race day, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who help each other, encourage one another and will simply be there for every one else – no matter what.
Everyone runs the same race and everyone knows the training that goes into that; or at the very least, everyone understands the initial courage needed to sign up in the first place.
In just about every way, you never race alone and certainly not by yourself. Just about everyone who has ever participated – be it a large race or a smaller event – has a story or an experience that will back that up 10-fold.
So perhaps the better way to ask the question would be to say: Would you run an OCR if there was no one else around?
No concourse area. No vendors. No registration or check-in. No free-beer at the end. No t-shirt. No medal. No timing chip. No race pictures to post on social media. No emcee or loud music to get you pumped at the starting line.
Hell. No starting line.
Would you go to a venue or a wide open area (with obstacles in place of course) and do a Spartan-like Race or other obstacle race if it was only you?
I have spent more time thinking about this question than I probably should and the honest answer is that I don’t know.
The easy answer is YES, of course I would. I mean: who wouldn’t want to run through the woods, splash in a creek, climb some cargo netting or crawl through some mud?
Yet if there isn’t anyone to share that experience with, how much of the motivation to do it in the first place goes away?
There’s an energy at a Spartan Race or a Rugged Maniac (or Warrior Dash…). It’s a feeling that I don’t think can be replicated without putting all of the pieces together.
And ultimately, the same question could be asked for those who run 5k? Or half/full marathons? If the crowds weren’t around, the streets not roped off and no prize money (or other reward) was available – would you still do it?
What would happen is this: one person would do it and think to him/herself “You know what? That was frickin’ cool! I need to get my friends to join me.” (While simultaneously posting pictures on Facebook.)
The next time, four or five people do it too. The time after that, maybe a twenty. Before you know it, it becomes a thing.
A lot of people, myself included, often talk about the accomplishment of completing a race. Overcoming challenges; perhaps overcoming the odds. People use OCR as motivation to become healthier and active. All wonderful talking points.
In reality, though, it’s the social aspect, the comradery and the shared experience that brings it all together.
I would run an OCR alone as a training exercise, at best. The real fun, however, begins the moment you get out of your car, approach the festival area and hear the thumping of the music…