Play It Safe: Obstacle Race Tips

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Within the past decade, exercise enthusiasts and newbies alike have enjoyed a newer kind of running experience that ramps up a traditional 5K. 

Obstacle races – also known as adventure races or mud runs – drew an estimated 1.5 million participants in the United States in 2012, and their popularity continues to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though the unique races are a great way to motivate large groups of people to be active, they can also be a health hazard. 

Most obstacle races are hosted in rural areas, often in the same places animals graze, according to the CDC. During these races, competitors race through man-made courses that usually include high wall climbs, muddy pits, and muddy fields. The race courses can be created on rough terrain and usually include participants running a significant distance.

The soil in the fields these races are usually held in can contain bacteria and viruses, such as E coli, norovirus, and Campylobacter from the animal feces in the field, according to the CDC.

If contaminated mud and muddy water accidentally get into a runner’s mouth, it can cause serious illness that includes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends the following steps to participate in obstacle races:

  • Avoid swallowing any and all surface during the race. Even water that appears clear can make you sick.
  • Be considerate of others. If you have diarrhea or vomiting on race day, stay out of the race.
  • Wash your hands and face with soap and water immediately after the race. Don’t eat or drink anything until after you have cleaned up.

Aside from bacterial and viral illnesses, obstacle race runners should be aware of how physically demanding these courses can be, according to the CDC. These are not races people should participate in without training and physical preparation.

Like with any other additions to your current exercise routine, it’s important to talk to your doctor before participating in an obstacle race. Your doctor can tell you if it’s safe for you to participate and how to train and prepare before the race.

For more information about staying healthy during obstacle races, talk with your doctor or visit our Orthopedics page to find a physician.

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