Obstacle course races (OCR) are muddy at the best of times, but in winter and spring, things get especially cold and wet. Instead of putting people off, the extra mud only adds an extra dimension. Still, to get full enjoyment from a winter OCR – or trail run – it’s important to stay warm and as dry as possible. Here’s our guide to best gear for wet weather races.
The first point to stress is that it’s important to bring a change of clothes and to store them close to the finish line, so you can get warm and dry as quickly as possible after a race. It’s unusual to find showers at an OCR or trail run, but it can still be a good idea to bring a towel. Once you’ve changed into fresh clothes and dried off, you can put your muddy gear straight into a bin bag or laundry basket.
If you’ve seen photos of obstacle races before, you may have noticed people wearing Buffs. As well as offering protection from the wind and rain, buffs are also pretty versatile and can be worn in different ways. For training in the winter months, a tight-fitting polyester beanie is going to be a good investment; and it will also be more effective than a woolen one in wet weather.
Jerseys & Tops
Cotton T-shirts aren’t going to be much use for winter obstacle races. It’s just too absorbent for a wet race, and will just get heavier and colder as you go round the course. You’ll need a technical t-shirt or vest that wicks moisture away from the skin’s surface and the right base layer may help to keep you cool if it turns out warm or warm if it comes in cold. If you pack more than one in your bag, you’ll be able to leave it late before deciding on what to wear. For example, if it’s a relatively warm day, you may decide to leave the base layer in the car.
Tights & Socks
If you’re doing a winter trail run, you may prefer to stick with a decent pair of running shorts. But if you’ve entered a winter OCR you’re going to need a bit of extra protection. For example, a good pair of compression socks can help prevent injury by improving blood flow and preventing the build-up of lactic acid. Calf guards work well with compression socks – providing extra support and reducing fatigue during and after the race. Running tights will do more or less the same thing, while also providing a bit of protection when you’re crawling through and climbing over obstacles. Again, look for fast-drying fabrics that won’t hold too much water.
Gloves and accessories
There are a couple of different accessories that can help you in an obstacle race. Not everyone likes to run with gloves, but they can give you more grip for climbing obstacles and protect your hands. Short finger gloves are better for dexterity and can make a big difference in carrying obstacles. You’ll need a pair that is pretty robust and that won’t retain too much water. Finally, for a further bit of protection, you can try arm guards, which save you getting any scratches and grazes when you’re climbing and crawling.