Obstacle course

Former Olympic rower James Cracknell reveals how he would survive and thrive in a muddy, challenging obstacle race..

I competed in the Tough Guy a few years back – and I guess the Marathon des Sables also counts (admittedly the mud there is slightly drier). Extreme obstacle races are famously gruelling and cold, so I’d ask yourself three key questions in preparation for the race:

1. Is your aim to compete or complete? If the answer is the former, you’re going to need to put in a lot of training to get yourself in the best possible position to nail a good time. If it’s the latter, you can probably take things a bit easier and look forward to ‘enjoying ’ a day in the mud.

2. Are you kitted out?You can count on the organisers doing what the Russians did with the snow at the Sochi Olympics and make things as wet and muddy as possible. You need to think about what you’re going to wear and buy some new kit – even though it will probably get ruined on the day. I’d go light. Choose material that wicks and dries quickly; avoid cotton or anything that soaks up water like a sponge. As for trainers, take a look at the course on the event website and perhaps invest in a pair of off-road/adventure racing shoes which have drainage built in. These allow any water you plough through to escape rather than accompanying you for the rest of the course.

3. Are you prepared to get soaked? It sounds obvious, but you can’t do obstacle courses like Tough Mudder without getting covered, head to. So, when the gun goes, get stuck in from the start. Don’t try to avoid getting wet and muddy at the first obstacle; in these events, ‘clean’ is always temporary.

How to train:

1. The advantage of developing a decent 10km pace will be a massive benefit. Focus on doing plenty of interval training, and mix it up with threshold and lactate tolerance sessions to get your body used to working hard and coping with the pleasure that is lactic acid.

2. Run off-road. It isn’t going to be on a track or nicely paved pathway, so why train on those surfaces?

3. Hill sprints will get your body used to squelching through tough ground.

4. Train with a weights vest and ankle weights so you’re not surprised by having to race in heavy kit. Just build up the distances/intensity with the added weight slowly.

James CracknellJames is a double Olympic gold medallist. He has rowed across the Atlantic, raced to the South Pole and run the Marathon des Sables. He is the brand ambassador for ActiVeman nutrition range bio-synergy.co.uk.

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