How to Enjoy Obstacle Course Racing without Going Broke

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Obstacle Course Racing is the fastest growing sport for many reasons: OCR reignites our primal instincts, satisfies a sense of adventure, espouses camaraderie, encourages fitness lifestyles, provides better Monday morning water cooler stories than your co-workers, and has one of the lowest cost-to-entry threshold of any sport.

All of these make OCR great, however that last point can be tricky. You see, entering the sport is easy and cheap–just lace up a pair of shoes, run through a trail or neighborhood, and jump over, crawl through, and climb everything you encounter along the way. Remaining in the sport and training for performance on the other hand, can become quite expensive. Here are a few ways to enjoy your OCR passion without selling your eggs, kidneys, or miscreant children to the highest bidder.

1) Embrace Scavenging

Baseball uses specially designed bats, balls, and a field. Football requires other players and padding. Curling needs those…whatever the hell those things are. Obstacle race training however, only requires your imagination.


Rainbows. It’s how angels perform hill sprints.

From old tires, sand bags, PVC pipes, railroad spikes, and even dog leashes, virtually anything can be used on the altar of OCR training. Resist the urge to purchase your gear and supplies brand new (if possible) and keep your eyes open for deals and discoveries. Repeat after me: “My neighbor’s trash is my OCR treasure.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone for a run and returned home carrying or dragging found training items, or at least made a mental note for later pickup.


Metal pipes I found in some guy’s yard.

Kettle bells are expensive. Save a buck and make your own!

Kettle bells are expensive. Save a buck and make your own!

2) Service with a Muddy Smile

The typical OCR event can cost on average between $50-100, depending on the venue, time of purchase, and the heat time. Such a price tag can get expensive quick, especially if you’re stacking your weekends with events, but a little teamwork can go a long way.

OCR events are like enormous, gritty organisms which require coordination and an army of individuals to operate a plethora of pre-race, race day, and post-race functions. A large portion of that army of moving parts includes volunteers, all of which typically earn a free or heavily discounted future race (or same day) credit for their services. This system is so effective, that if conducted right, one might cover their entire race season for free, aside from the cost of travel. For volunteer opportunities, check race websites for volunteer information and jobs to earn free credit.


That’s either a timing chip in my hand, or a baggie of Heisenberg’s “Blue Sky…” Race packet stuffing: happiness in every bag!

3) Enlist Family and Friends

Want to take point #2 farther? Not everyone digs the masochistic playground that is OCR, but they might support your adventures. Consider partnering with family and friends to join your volunteering schedule which will earn race credits they can later defer to you.

This is an easy way to gorge on credits, however be warned: the OCR bug is contagious. Curiosity might get the better of your conscripted labor, and like my wife, may just sign up for a race themselves!

You had one job, Heather! One job!

You had one job, Heather! One job!

4) Tis the Season for Race Savings

Obstacle Course Racing may be fun, but it’s also a business, and like many businesses they search for marketing tools to attract customers. One common tactic is holiday sales. With a little research and patience, one can easily discover steep discounts on their favorite venues near special dates, such as Labor Day or July 4th. Consider joining emailing lists for special offers and even swag. Many venues such as Spartan Race and BattleFrog Series also have “street teams” which offer discounts and incentives for recruiting others to attend races.

5) Training in Every Clime and Place

With OCR training, the world is your gym, and so while there are benefits to gym training, one can experience an equally if not more effective workout using your own home, back yard, or local park–all without paying for a membership!

Swimming pools offer limitless low-impact training opportunities.

Turn a beach trip into a pull-up session!

Turn a beach trip into a pull-up session!

High school stadium for hill training.

High school stadium for hill training.

My wife, Heather, shows us that playgrounds are really just OCR gyms!

My wife, Heather, shows us that playgrounds are really just OCR gyms!


6) Join the Movement!

In many ways, OCR is an individual sport. Many people in our lives don’t understand us, and so we can feel like small islands in a vast sea of the mundane. We carry logs, throw stones and spears, replaced our entire wardrobe with race t-shirts (we earned those, dammit!), and otherwise live like savages, but fear not, for we are actually a tribe–a legion of mud, obstacle, and trail lovers, all who offer support and advice to their brethren. Some folks even connect prior to race events and save on accommodations by sharing hotel rooms!

Many of these wayward warriors find community on social media groups, and share a wealth of knowledge, experience, tips, and yes, even opportunities to save on OCR. At any given moment, someone is offering a discount code they can’t use, a sale on shoes or gear that arrived a size too small, inexpensive ways to construct a backyard OCR training course, or secret information on course builds and offers. Look for these groups of like-minded OCR enthusiasts and discover the rewards of the tribe.

This is only a sampling of the creative ways to save on OCR. Know a few tips and secrets of your own? Share them in the comment section below!


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